To be honest, I kinda forgot that Blockbuster even existed. Ever since my local Blockbuster closed in Atlanta over three years ago, I don’t think I’ve ever entered one again. I’ve had little reason to with iTunes rentals, Hulu, VOD, and Netflix all streaming into my house. So while it’s kind of sad to see this staple of my late 90s/early 00s childhood slip away, I must say I really don’t think I’ll miss it. When was the last time someone suggested that you go to Blockbuster and rent something? Usually (at least with my friends and family) we’ll exhaust every other alternative before even thinking about venturing out into the world for our movies (the pasty-faced geeks we are). I’d desperately scan Comcast VOD, Netflix Instant Watch, iTunes, and even postpone a movie watching to when my next Netflix DVD arrives rather than go to Blockbuster. And even then, there were multiple independent video stores in Atlanta that I’d rather give my money than the corporate not-so-giant-anymore of Blockbuster. Face it, the video store has been dead in our minds for years. Now it’s just dead on paper.
Of course, physical media was what Blockbuster traded in (with a fledging VOD system as well that as far as I know never took off), so the question is what happens to physical discs? Netflix will still continue to offer mail-to-order discs for a long time I imagine. After all, Studios still limit what you can watch through digital downloads and streaming services, so the vast majority of classic and popular films are still mostly available on discs. Plus, we all still have DVD players somewhere in our homes. But the DVD is an old, soon-to-be outmoded format as we look towards the future of Blu-Ray. Blu-Ray as of now has the absolute best quality for HD video, capable of transferring at higher bit rates (hence pushing more data i.e pixels) than any HD video streaming service. If you want the best quality of video for home theaters or your high end HDTV, Blu-Ray is the ONLY game in town. I truly think that physical media is safe for now, and it doesn’t need Blockbuster to prosper. The rental model for discs is over now anyway. Think about it: you rent movies to try them out, to see if you like them or want to watch them again after the theater. You own the movies that you love and want to keep forever. So there can be a difference between renting movies from iTunes or streaming them from Netflix at reduced quality, and then purchasing the movies that you want to have forever at the highest quality.
There are those who disagree though. A lot of people have moved over to completely non-physical video lifestyles. Either they use have developed personalized libraries of movies and tv shows on media servers to stream to their HDTVs and others use novel streaming/storage devices like Roku, AppleTV, SlingBox, or an Xbox 360 for all their media needs. Now quality may suffer somewhat, since not all of these services offer HD content and almost none offer full 1080p HD, but it does completely liberate one from the need for taking care of and storing discs. My personal fear is what happens when networks go down, I mean constant internet access is only a theoretical ideal. In the real world networks drop out all the time, and bandwidth can be hogged – further reducing quality. Of course, on the flip side physical discs need to be stored properly to avoid cracks and scratches etc.
Anyway, as Blockbuster goes bankrupt, the question of physical media’s future arises again. For now we’re okay. But the future of video and movies will live on the internet, once the bandwidth and quality is ready to replace Blu-Rays.