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Disney+ might kill Blu-rays forever with streaming bonus features

We still have a month to go before Disney+ launches in North America, but the streaming service has already debuted in the Netherlands. That sneak peek has yielded some details about what we might see when Disney+ becomes available in the U.S., including one particularly intriguing element: Bonus features.

One thing that’s frequently sacrificed in the transition from disc-based video to streaming has been the collections of deleted scenes, gag reels, filmmaker commentary, and other extra content packaged with DVDs and Blu-rays. Streaming audiences have been able to view the theatrical cuts of films, but outside of the occasional director’s cut or extended editions of certain films, the extra content included on discs has generally been missing from the streaming marketplace.

That could change with Disney+, according to early reviews of the service coming out of the Netherlands.

Bonus play

In a post on Reddit’s Marvel Studios forum, user iamhereforthememe posted screenshots and video of the Disney+ interface in the Netherlands. In addition to the service’s very Netflix-like dashboard, the photos also feature a look at some of the extra content tied to Marvel’s superhero team-up blockbuster Avengers: Infinity War — content that includes deleted scenes and other features typically available on DVD and Blu-ray releases.

Asked whether Disney+ offers this extra content for Star Wars movies, in addition to the Marvel films, the thread’s creator replied: “Yeah for every movie on there extras are available.”

If the Netherlands model for Disney+ does indeed make its way to the U.S., it could be a game-changer for the streaming service — and the streaming marketplace as a whole.

Disc depression

While industry leaders Netflix and Amazon Prime Video have dabbled in offering bonus features associated with their content — Amazon’s X-Ray feature, for example, offers some extra behind-the-scenes content, on-screen trivia and analysis, and other elements — access to the cinematic treasure chest of deleted scenes, gag reels, and commentary tracks associated with most films has been a disc-only perk, in most cases.

If all of these extra features do indeed become available on Disney+, it could give the service a unique advantage over its streaming competitors and suddenly make their libraries feel lacking in comparison. It could also set an interesting precedent for streaming services, and put another nail in the coffin for DVD and Blu-ray releases.

Earlier this year, the Motion Picture Association of America released a report indicating that disc-based video sales had dropped by nearly 50 percent over the last five years. While internet access and regional stability play a big part in the continuing appeal of disc-based video, the collector market and movie fandom are also key in keeping physical movie releases viable.

If Disney+ and other streaming services begin offering the same bonus features formerly reserved for special DVD or Blu-ray editions of films, the only thing that will make those versions special is likely to be their packaging. And although there’s plenty of appeal when it comes to cleverly designed, bookshelf-appropriate movie packages, a scenario in which that’s the only perk of owning a film on disc would likely hasten the format’s demise.

Waiting game

At this point, there’s no official word on whether the special features available for films on Disney+ in the Netherlands will make the transition to the U.S. version of the service.

Given the complicated regional licensing issues that govern movie distribution — and streaming distribution in particular — we’re not likely to have any confirmation of what Disney+ will offer locally until Disney releases a preview of the service in the U.S. or it officially launches in full on November 12. Given Disney’s vested interest in seeing its own DVD and Blu-ray products succeed, it’s reasonable to expect that the disc-based editions of its films will offer something unique for fans, even if it’s just creative packaging.

Until then, however, Disney+ subscribers should probably feel good about the company’s plans for its streaming service, which appears intent on delivering a comprehensive journey into the studio’s vault.

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