Get used to streaming, discs are dead for video after Blu-ray

1191273 autosave v1 2 blu ray discs

Recent news from Sony and Panasonic about a new type of disc designed to hold up to 1 terabyte of data has the Internet buzzing about its implications. Could this be the piece of the puzzle we need to bring home 4K movies in the future? Do we need to trash our just-acquired Blu-ray players and drop more cash for next-generation boxes that spin next-generation discs? Will there be a new “format war?”

No, no, and no. The Blu-ray as we know it is the end of the road for the video disc. From here on out, the next innovations in home movie delivery will all surround streaming or digital downloads, and the announcement of these new discs only reinforces that.

Here’s why.

First, the disc announcement of so-called Archival Discs made absolutely no mention of using them for video. In fact, partners Sony and Panasonic went out of their way to distance themselves from the possibility. “The development is specifically for professional archiving,” a Panasonic spokesman told PCAdvisor. “We are not currently considering optical discs for household consumer use.” In other words, you won’t be able to buy Archival Disc players for your PC, much less for your TV.

Sony FMPX1 4K  Media PlayerSecond, Blu-ray can already handle 4K – we don’t need a new type of disc. The 4K movie titles Sony delivers to its FMPX1 media players are now are roughly 40GB each – well under Blu-ray’s current 50GB limit. If Sony wanted to, it could manage to squeeze a 4K movie onto a Blu-ray disc for playback, though it could be argued that many of the benefits 4K brings to displays would be compromised in the process.  Still, storage space doesn’t appear to be the challenge. Nor do we need the latest H.265 encoding standard; Sony’s FMPX1 box uses a special flavor of AVC/H.264 developed by a company named EyeIO, a codec which could be employed in a Blu-ray player if Sony felt so inclined .

So if Blu-ray can handle 4K, what’s the holdup? Although no major consumer electronics manufacturer has gone so far as to vocally swear off the idea, they are clearly making a concerted push toward digital downloads and streaming media instead.

For instance, at CES 2014, we spoke with Sony’s Vice President of Merchandising & Operations, Brian Siegel, about the notion of 4K movies on Blu-ray or some other disc-based format. Siegel stopped short of coming right out and saying it had no plans to release a 4K Blu-ray player, but he did make a big deal out of discussing Sony’s partnership with YouTube, its cooperation with Netflix, and its plans for a broader 4K distribution model, all of which are based entirely on 4K media streaming and downloads. Consider, too, that when Sony – the pioneer of Blu-ray – introduced its first 4K televisions, it responded to cries for 4K content delivery by developing a 4K media player that played back digital files, not discs.

When we look back on the Blu-ray in 20 years, we’ll look at it as the final champion of physical media.

Of course, we can count on the Blu-ray disc being around for a while – it’s only just begun to grab a foothold, and lots of people still like discs. With the possible exception of Millennials, most people still like holding the things they buy in their hands. And with the Internet already choked up with HD-quality streamed movies and TV shows from services like Netflix, Internet bandwidth, infrastructure and general availability have a long way to go before widespread 4K distribution is possible.

With those barriers still standing, it still makes sense to keep the Blu-ray disc around, even if it might not enjoy the same long-lasting popularity the DVD has. But there’s no question about what’s next, and it isn’t Archival Discs – it’s streaming. When we look back on the Blu-ray in 20 years, we’ll look at it as the final champion of physical media and the last reminder of a generation that spun discs, not hard drives, for their movie and music entertainment.


These are the best video games you shouldn't leave 2018 without

Developers showed up with a number of amazing games this year. Each capitalized on something unique but there's always one that outdoes them all. Here are our picks for the best video games of 2018 and game of the year.
Home Theater

Netflix vs. Hulu vs. Amazon Prime: Battle of the streaming giants

Trying to figure out which subscription streaming service to use while sticking to a frugal entertainment budget? Check out our updated comparison of the big three: Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, and Hulu.

These are the best action cameras money can buy

Action cameras are great tools for capturing videos of your everyday activities, whether it's a birthday party or the steepest slope you've ever descended on your snowboard. These are the best money can buy.

From DSLRs to mirrorless, these are the best cameras you can buy right now

From entry-level models to full-frame flagships, many cameras take great photos and video. The best digital cameras, however, push the industry forward with innovative sensors and improved usability, among other things. Here are our…
Home Theater

Phiaton’s active lifestyle headphones do noise canceling on a budget

Looking for a set of active noise-canceling earbuds that can keep up with your active lifestyle, without breaking the bank? Phiaton's new Curve BT 120 NC could be just the ticket.
Home Theater

5 sonic stocking stuffers to improve your loved ones’ listening life

Looking for some simple and affordable gifts to get the music nerd in your family? Here are five great gift ideas that will improve their listening life -- and won't cost you an arm and a leg to give them.
Home Theater

Set your ears free with the best completely wireless earbuds

If you can't stand the tangle of cords, or you're just excited about completely wireless earbuds, you're going to need some help separating the wheat from the chaff. Our list serves up the best true wireless earbuds around.
Home Theater

From the Roku Ultra to the Fire TV Cube, these are the best streaming devices

There are more options for media streamers than ever, so it’s more difficult to pick the best option. But that’s why we're here. Our curated list of the best streaming devices will get you online in no time.
Home Theater

Block the outside world, tune into your own with the best in-ear headphones

Over-the-ear headphones offer top-flight sound, but they're not so easy to take along with you. If you're looking to upgrade your portable sound, check out our favorite in-ear headphones -- there's a model for every user and every budget.
Home Theater

These awesome A/V receivers will swarm you with surround sound at any budget

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to shopping for a receiver, so we assembled our favorites for 2018, at multiple price points and all loaded with features, from Dolby Atmos to 4K HDR, and much more.
Movies & TV

Celebrate the 25th anniversary of ‘The X-Files’ with the show’s 10 best episodes

The X-Files premiered 25 years ago, so here are the 10 best episodes of the award-winning sci-fi series. From alien-abduction drama to hilarious satires, these are the best episodes from all 11 seasons of the hit series.
Movies & TV

Can't get enough lightsaber action? Here's how to get your Star Wars fix online

Few of us want to deal with DVDs or Blu-ray discs anymore. Unfortunately, the Star Wars movies are few and far between when it comes to streaming. If you want to watch Star Wars online, check out our guide on where to find the films online.
Home Theater

Streaming services blast past networks for the most scripted TV shows in 2018

For the first time in history, streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon, produced more original scripted series than broadcast or cable channels, setting a new record for the number of TV shows on the air.
Home Theater

How to master your equalizer settings for the perfect sound

You may know what an EQ is, but do you know how to adjust equalizer settings for the best possible sound? We go through the basics of the modern EQ and lay out some guidelines for how to achieve tip-top sound from your system.