Friday, September 16, 2011

DVD rentals die a quick, unexpected death in some neighborhoods

So the neighborhood video store is now a thing of the past.  But not quite in the way that everybody expected.

There never were a lot of services in my immediate neighborhood, but when my family moved in we were pleased to see a Blockbuster just down the street.  Very handy for picking up the weekend entertainment for the larger family - being the only couple with a theater room, we were the de facto nominees every weekend.

About three years ago, the Blockbuster closed.  Pity, we said, it seems the grocery store next door is moving in to the space.  We ended up going to Rogers Video, only a few more minutes away, for the most part.  Occasionally a trip to the next closest Blockbuster was in order, but for the most part it worked fine.

Oddly enough, the grocery never moved in.  Eventually we realized that particular Blockbuster location was an early casualty of the shrinking DVD rental business.

Then BAM! - all gone.  Blockbuster is bankrupt, and all the stores are closing.  Rogers is also closing their local store - God only knows why, as it's the only one for miles around.  Not to mention it also seems to do a decent business in cell phones and accessories.

I even looked at VHQ, but it was purchased by some failed US video company, and seems to have been sold to Zip some years ago.  There was a VHQ not too too far from here, and close to the McDonalds where I get my weekly coffee fix, but it's not listed anymore, and calls to their number remain unanswered.

So - what the hell are we supposed to do?

Shaw VOD?  Nice, although I do not like not having a physical disc.  They do advertise VOD availability the same day as the DVD release, which is a plus.  Also - at least in theory - there is never a problem with availability.

However, I've never had need for a cable box in the theater room - a fact that caused Shaw employees some significant dismay during my last job interview with them.  So now I have to invest $100 into more equipment, for no other reason than I can't get media for my existing high-quality, region-free upconverting players that have never once let me down.  Seems stupid.

Netflix?  Face it, getting the latest releases from them on physical disc is impossible.  And all reports say their streaming selection stinks. 

(Months ago I recommended "Parndorum" to my brother, but when we looked it up on his PS3 it was not actually available.  For shame, Netflix, for artificially enhancing your catalog listings with unavailable titles - that's called dishonesty.)

Even if I can get the latest via streaming, you're still paying the subscription fee plus another $160-$200 for Netflix-compatible streaming hardware.  And no, I don't have a PS3, Xbox 360 or Wii - I don't have time for that kind of crap - so I don't have the stuff lying around. 

The least expensive option is a Samsung BD-D5490 from Costco for $156.  That gets me a Blu-Ray player that I don't want in order to get Netflix, which I don't want either.

Not to mention the teeny-weeny problems of "bandwidth shaping" and download caps imposed by ISPs like Shaw and Telus.  I'm on Shaw, and never had a problem, but watching HD movies over the net will certainly eat your bandwidth in a big damn hurry.  As one blogger observed, even getting sick a few days and catching up on some flicks could put you over your bandwidth cap for the month! 

Add the potential unreliability of the internet connection and NO, thanks.  My experience with non-HD streaming video from "major" players has been poor, to say the least.  I prefer my media local, uninterruptible, and unlimited, of a quality and format >I< dictate.  That's how I set up my personal theater room and I'll be damned if I'm going to let that go for the dubious advantages of streaming video.

Zip?  I had Zip ages ago, and it worked for what I wanted - older films.  The wait times for the latest releases are so long, they're no longer "latest releases" by the time you get them - if you get them at all, that is. 

I had 50-100 titles listed on my want list, and I rarely if ever got the ones I would have preferred to get.  Eventually I cancelled because I was running out of old stuff to watch again, never having gotten some of the better titles that I listed.

Their streaming service is not ready for prime time, despite promises of a "spring" launch.  (I guess they meant Spring 2012?)  And oops, there's the bandwidth elephant lumbering around again.  Pass.

Amazon Prime?  USA only, so up yours, Canada.

Walmart?   Ditto!

Youtube?  HA!  Yeah, right.  You can't be serious.

So I guess I'm stuck with VOD - at least it's "cable TV" and not an "internet" service, meaning it doesn't count against my bandwidth, and it shouldn't be relying on the internet bandwidth for functionality.  Here's hoping the damn thing doesn't stutter, glitch, or break up when we try to use it.

I guess I'll have to pick up the DVDs when they hit the bargain bins - in a year, or so.  Fortunately, Movie Collector lets me carry my collection around on my Android, so at least I won't be buying movies twice - or missing out on some good bargains.

The other option is to just go to the next nearest store, about 15 minutes away.  Which, in all honesty, we'll probably do for a while.  VOD rubs me the wrong way.

90 million DVD players out there, plus a perhaps equal number of DVD-ROMs and in-vehicle units, plus who knows how many Blu-Ray and console units - and nowhere to rent media.  Go figure.  How long before someone realizes there's still a market?

No comments:

Post a Comment