Blu-ray Is Nearly Dead In The Water

The Australian Home Entertainment Distributors Association (AHEDA) has released its market data for 2014. In a trend that will surprise few Lifehacker readers, physical disc sales continue to dwindle. What's more surprising is that the decline was roughly identical in the Blu-ray (BD) and DVD categories. Could the era of Full HD physical media be almost over?

The AHEDA's latest report card paints a pretty bleak picture for the future of Australia's home entertainment market; at least where physical media is concerned. DVD and Bly-ray disc sales totaled $951,330,000 in 2014. While still a huge number, this is a decline of 10 per cent compared to 2013.

According to AHEDA's data, there was no difference in the rate of decline between DVD and BD sales. In other words, Blu-ray penetration, which currently sits at just 16 per cent, is unlikely to climb much higher if sales continue to follow the same pattern.

Catalogue/old movies saw the biggest decline, with sales down by 16 per cent compared to 2013. New release movies also fared poorly, with a drop of 7 per cent. TV series fared a bit better, with a decline of just 2 per cent.

The report wasn't all doom and gloom though: Digital media continues to grow at a healthy rate. As at the end of October 2014, video on demand (VoD) and electronic sell-through (EST) sales had increased by 11 per cent.

The split between VoD and EST in Australian remains around 50/50 with EST movies showing the strongest growth (26 per cent between January and October, 2014). Digital home entertainment sales are expected to hit a record $163.5 million by the end of this financial year.

The AHEDA also revealed the best-selling Blu-rays and DVDs for 2014. The top seller was Disney's Frozen (surprise, surprise) followed by The Lego Movie, The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug, Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Game Of Thrones Season 3. You can see the full top 20 in the table below:

As you can see, last year's sales chart was completely dominated by children's movies, super hero flicks and Game Of Thrones which appeared not once, but twice. It would seem Australia's (alleged) rampant piracy of that show hasn't stopped us from snapping up the DVDs.

Do you still buy movies and TV shows on physical media? If you've made the switch to digital what services and file formats do you use? Let us know in the comments.

Lifehacker's weekly Streaming column looks at how technology is keeping us entertained.


    Could you define electronic sell through please?

    I understand what VOD (video on demand) is, where you request a title to rent or purchase and it plays on screen

      VOD - generally streaming or renting
      EST - once off payment to "own" a digital copy of the content

      EST generally gives you a direct file download and the permission to do so, rather than streaming. Downloading a movie or music file from iTunes is EST, watching a show on Netflix is VOD.

    If they bundled special features with movies/tv shows, I'd switch to buying digital. Not sure why they're not doing that already to be honest. Physical is great and all but storage is a problem.

    someone should tell turnball

      Someone should learn to at least spell the surname of the guy they're dissing.

    I really hope not, I much prefer to buy DVD's and Blue rays don't ask me why i just like having htem as opposed to digital copies.

      I'm a fan of Blu-ray disc as you. What are you using to play them on computer? Does it support Blu-ray menu and 3D? I'm currently using Macgo Blu-ray Player. Parts of menu are available but no 3D support.

        I don't use them on computer as I have yet to be able to get them working with windows 8.1. Although I must try again as no doubt something has been fixed by now. Also never get 3d as I have to wear glasses and I don't like having something extra on my face.

    You'd find more people would be willing to buy more BluRay media if they weren't $35+ union release. We were told many years ago that physical media would drop in price due to the GST. Now we're paying more than ever before. Even DVD prices are upwards of $30 for a new release movie.

    Once again, the Australia tax is hurting sales.

      Well the dollar is now at an all time 5 year low, i'm gonna guess that is partly to blame.. I was paying around $20 bucks for new release blu-rays and now they're in the $30-$35 range it's an insult.

    Ugh, HD streaming is NOT bluray quality, hell even HD pirating is NOT bluray quality. Want to know why sales are dropping? Stores have one aisle of blurays, if I want to buy something like Drive, a three year old movie, I have to special order it. Why am I going to special order a movie at Australian rip off pricing when I could just import for less?

      Basically. JB's in store selection SUCKS where I am. They have OVER 3,500 movie titles online, and another 900 TV shows on blu-ray.

        I havent been able to find the blu-ray Edge of Tomorrow in any of the Sydney CBD JB's lately; wtfs up with that

          Wow that's shit. It's like i'm after Pi by Darren Aronofsky on Blu-Ray it was finally released at the start of January this year, yet they don't have it in store. I some how think shit like this is why physical media sales suck. The music section at my JB is the same, I like rock/metal and well the selection just sucks, I end up buying it either online from JB, Blockbuster or eBay. Where at least I know I can get it. Stupid really.

      But remember, historically one aisle has been a lot of space for movies. The only reason we're used to entire stores full of movies and TV shows is because it was dirt cheap to throw every movie you own the rights to on a DVD and it didn't really cost a store like JB Hi-Fi that much to carry a huge inventory. Now there's more money tied up in less inventory so they can't afford to get a title like Drive if it's not going to sell well.
      Also making the jump to Blu-Ray doesn't really sell a lot of older titles so there's no point in putting the work into them to justify a Blu-Ray release. So you've got to slash like 70% of the DVD section right off when comparing sizes. So many of the factors that caused DVDs to explode as a market are directly related to the ease and price, and they just aren't there with Blu-Ray being sold as the premium option. I think with Blu-Ray we're seeing things snap back to the more natural state of physical home media. The only difference is we're seeing digital services replace video stores.

      The official maximum resolution of BD is 1920x1080 with a framerate of 30 interlaced or 24 progressive. Unofficially BD can handle 1920x1080 at 60 progressive, but it's hit and miss whether any given player supports it, so most commercial discs don't use it. Compression depends on the format and standard the manufacturer used. Max video bitrate is 40mbps. You can easily find pirate rips that match all these specs.

        Soo what you're saying is, the mastered in 4k claim is bullshit then, if BD can't support any resolution over 1080P?

          4K Bluray is coming. It's a new format on new media that requires new hardware. The hardware isn't expected to arrive until the end of this year. Current Bluray players won't play the new format. PS3/PS4 won't play the new format.

          It is to Bluray what Bluray is to DVD, they basically have only the name in common.

          Last edited 04/02/15 3:02 pm

            So the players stating they can output 4k are a farce as well then...?

              The Bluray Disc Association is the group that developed the format and they haven't begun issuing licences for the 4K Bluray format yet (mid 2015 is the anticipated start date) and media isn't expected to appear until Christmas.

              There are players that upscale to 4K, I haven't seen any that support the official UHD 4K BD standard yet. Panasonic only just demonstrated a prototype device at CES a month ago, billed as the world's first UHD BD player. As far as I know, there are no players on the market yet and not for a few months at least.

              Edit: apologies, I didn't address your 'Mastered in 4K' question. Yes, it's advertising bullshit. The 'Mastered in 4K' label indicates that the source material was mastered at 4K or higher resolution and then downscaled. The discs themselves still only show 1920x1080 resolution.

              Last edited 04/02/15 3:37 pm

                Ah right all makes sense now! Cheers for that!

                  I guess my comment on the 'Mastered in 4K' label was a bit flippant. The 4K mastering process does result in better quality video, just still at 1920x1080. The picture quality is better because a different compression codec and colour profile is used that means the movie takes up more space on the disc (which is why the Mastered in 4K discs don't have extra features) and the 4K master allows for better quality downscaling.

                  If you're a gamer, you've probably seen modern graphics cards can do a similar thing now, rendering at 4K resolution and then downscaling to your monitor resolution. This does give a better image quality despite being the same resolution.

                  So Mastered in 4K isn't a useless process, I just don't like that the name of it could be seen as a little misleading to your average mum-and-dad buyer.

    Until I can get BD quality digital copies and storage that is affordable for them with the bandwidth and data quota, I don't see a point in digital. If my blu-ray copy has, better video, audio, multiple subtitle options, and in some cases a lot of special features and even alternate cuts of the movie, like Clerks for example.

    Last edited 03/02/15 6:21 pm

    I wonder how much impact international sales have? Most people I know buy their blu-rays from the UK because it's significantly cheaper. Could the number of people doing this be significant enough to affect the numbers?

      It would have an effect, but I don't know how much. I get almost all mine from Amazon UK. Whether your average Joe and Jane Doe though I don't know.

    In a trend that will surprise few Lifehacker readers, physical disc sales continue to dwindle. What’s more surprising is that the decline was roughly identical in the Blu-ray (BD) and DVD categories. Could the era of Full HD physical media be almost over?

    I doubt it. I think it's dwindling because everyone is ditching the local stores and buying the same media online as most only have region coding on the box.

    And even then, multi-region BluRay players and region removal software is dirt cheap.

    Even with the dollar falling, some will still shop online out of spite as when the dollar was good the price hardly shifted and now there are plans to up prices because its falling.

    Distributors have had countless chances to take not, they chose to ignore the consumer, so now people are shopping online (for better or for worse) just to spite local distributors who still think they can treat Australian's with contempt without consequence.

    Last edited 03/02/15 7:11 pm

    It has been dead for years. We own tons of BDs, but our player has been sitting in the box for over 3 years - much longer than it was plugged in and being used.

    Network media player and HD streaming movies/TV.. the convenience factor is much, much higher.

      If you have good speakers and screen most other sources, digital, DVD etc are quite lack-lustre.
      BD is impressive even without 4K screens. Audio is another ball game over audio CD quality.
      The lack of title choice is the biggest problem in Australia.

    We used to buy a lot of DVD movies when the kids were under 10 as they would constantly watch the same ones over and over again. As they've grown older they're more interested in YouTube and TV shows so VOD is more suited to their viewing tastes. We never bough blu ray as the extra $10-$15 you pay compared to DVD wasn't worth it (kids don't really care whether it's blu ray or DVD quality), plus we had a DVD player in the care for long journeys. We generally never purchased movies for myself ourselves as we typically watch something only once, and vary rarely do repeat viewing. There's simply so much new content every month that we'd rather be consuming this rather than re-watching something again.

    Renting movies was always a pain in the butt. It took forever for everyone to agree on a title, and then more often than not there were no discs left at the store, and it would take ages again for everyone to agree on something new, and in the end no one ended up happy.

    Around 3 years ago I built a HTPC for approximately $600 and ripped all of the media to digital. It's been fantastic. I no longer need to worry about the discs being scratched or having a big cabinet of discs cluttering up the lounge room. I can browse through all of my media and it starts playing instantly, rather than having to sort through a whole library of discs to find the missing one that's been put back in the wrong box and then sit through unskippable trailers, copyright infringement warnings and menus. I originally ripped the DVDs to maintain 1:1 quality, but have since compressed them down to save space, and haven't really noticed much loss in picture quality. I now never want to handle a disc again, and if it's not available digitally, I'm not interested.

    We have Fetch TV and use it for movie rental (although I think the pricing is still a little steep, and there shouldn't be any surcharge for viewing HD content). The good thing about the Fetch box is that it starts downloading the movie straight away so by the time we're ready to watch it, a lot of it is pre-cached so we don't have the buffering issues that occur with other streaming services. Sure the quality isn't the same as blu ray but it's good enough and the convenience is more than worth it.

    We are now a 100% digital household for our content and I would never go back to physical media again as it lacks the convenience and is too much hassle to use.

    Do you know what this means? We need to develop a physical media format that is four times as encrypted as blu-ray / HDCP / whatever.

    The problem isn't a move to digital media which is often more convenient and cheaper, it's the fact that existing physical media can be easily copied, so the only logical thing to do, is to encrypt it to death, thereby stopping people from using unsafe and potentially life threatening site such as NetFlix or Hulu which have been proven to cause cancer in 200% of partipants.

    TL;DR: The internet is a passing fad and will die out in 2016, so people should buy more physical media because otherwise you're putting people out of jobs. Rupert Murdoch would wither and die if he couldn't afford even the most basic of meals.

    TL;DR TL;DR: I'm joking. Netflix doesn't cause cancer, but it is wholly owned by Hitler, the devil and that one guy in highschool who made fun of you when you got that new haircut.

    Is it fair to say that much of the explanation is that most consumers don't care much about Bluray's image quality advantage? Honestly, when I'm choosing what to watch, the last thing I consider is whether it's Bluray.

    I certainly care about "Bluray's image quality advantage", oh and it's audio advantage too. Uncompressed audio is one of the key features of Blu Ray and yet it is always overlooked. I rip my B'Rays to an ISO image and watch them in Kodi. This may not be strictly kosher as far as current copyright law is concerned,but it will be in time. Vudu's HDX format is OK, and my NBN speeds should play Neflix's House of Cards in 4K. If I had a 4K TV or the inclination to watch it. So who says times are tough?

    P.S. Sorry Rupert, I didn't mention Presto, but in my defence, I also chose to omit any reference to Stan,both of which are total poo by the way.

    I know the reason I have chosen not to buy blu-ray anymore is because of 3 factors:
    1. You can never just buy JUST THE MOVIE. They always make it include Digital Download and the DVD or something like that increasing the price to $30-$40 at release. You always have to wait months to see the just movie edition.
    2. Even the standard price point is too high.
    3. You just wait a couple of days and someone has already pawned it to cash converters and I can get a brand new movie for $5 :P

    Only recently converted to Blu-ray. Wish I'd done so years ago.

    Can barely stand to watch DVD now, let alone pixelated, please-wait loading, VHS-through-washing-machine quality streaming.

    Most back catalogue downloads cost about the same as disc.
    Discs play on new player if old player dies.
    If old gadget with downloaded movies dies, movies gone forever. Please buy again.

    Discs $951 million. Digital $163 million.
    Yeah, real dead.

      This is the reason I buy DVDs. The quality is acceptable, they can be easily converted to a tablet friendly format, any old player just works, there are no restrictions, requirements for internet connectivity or limitations on what AV equipment I can use (looking at you, HDMI).

      Finally, there is no problem with device signature crud that comes with an internet "purchase", being invalidated by something as simple as replacing a hard disk.

    4K is a farce. Just a marketing effort to convince people to replace their perfectly good TVs. The bandwidth available on any media (broadcast, disk or network) does not provide greater definition than at 1920x1080.

    Videogames are a different story due to the rendering capabilities of modern GPUs, but still represent a minority of screen time for most people.

    I'm from USA, and We still sell tons of DVDs and Blu-Rays so it will never die. You can buy movies on Amazon too. We get ours mostly from Walmart.

    UHD has arrived for 4K definition, double that of blu ray. WIll I carth on? Yes, slowly though I would say in 3 years 4K will be the standard. UHD will be the last form of physical media IMHO.

    I love physical media. I wouldn't be without it. All it needs to work is electricity. My enjoyment can only be ended by a power outage. With digital, on the other hand, internet speeds can interfere, connectivity problems can occur, viruses can ef up the device with which I'm watching on, other programs can interfere, and of course, trying to stay focused and not browse can be a bit of a problem, too.
    I don't currently have a service for digital media, and to be honest, I think it will take quite a few years before I revisit that avenue.
    Another reason I dislike digital, is that it doesn't feel real. You can't touch it and feel it and read the cover information. That's probably why I still buy CDs, too.

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