Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Nerd Rant: DVD and Blu-Ray Rental Nazis Say, "No Extra Features For YOU!"



Something odd happened to my wife and me the other day. We were watching a DVD movie from Netflix and after we watched the movie, we liked it enough to want to see the extra features that were listed on the DVD's menu--the deleted scenes, the production features, and so on. All of the menu links appeared on the screen, so there was no reason to assume that we could not access these extra features. Yet no matter what feature we selected, a black screen would appear with a message that said that the DVD we rented was for rental purposes ONLY and that we'd actually have to buy the movie we watched to see the extra features.

This is the first time that I've encountered this problem, and I don't think that it's all-encompassing (yet). After all, we later watched another DVD from Netflix and we could access the extras on that disc with no problems whatsoever. Yet to have a rented DVD forbid us from watching the extras and explicitly tell us to buy the movie if we wanted to learn more about it was a bit of a shock after almost a decade of renting DVDs and the extra features that came with them without a single hassle. Read on ...

As a film fan, the extra features on DVDs and Blu-rays have been pure bliss. The extras were one of the welcome attributes that set DVDs and Blu-rays apart from VHS tapes and by extension they also enriched the movie rental experience. Some discs have had too few features while others had too many, and some features have been complete wastes of time. Nevertheless, the features shed a lot of light on movies--how they were made, how they were received by the public and the critical community when they were first released, what was left out of the movie's final cut, etc.--so I'd much rather have them than not.

I can see why Netflix and possibly other DVD/Blu-ray rental companies are getting rid of the extra features on their discs. We're currently in the middle of a major transition in how movies are distributed to the public, so I'm sure that all sorts of business models are being tossed around as to how to make movies both convenient to watch and profitable for Hollywood. DVD and Blu-ray rentals have been on the decline for years now, and this strategy was probably cooked up by some movie company executive as a way to boost sales.

As a means to increase movie sales, I doubt that this strategy will work. I think that the most likely outcomes are that casual viewers will just shrug it off while more curious viewers will find the information they seek for free on the Internet about the movie they just rented; either way, neither group will buy the movie on DVD or Blu-ray. On the other hand, given how many damaged discs are sent back to DVD/Blu-ray rental companies, I can see the financial logic behind sending out basic, no-frills discs--even if the discs still include the user interface menu that lists the extra features as accessible options.

Sadly, I think that the omission of extra features is an inevitable part of the next stage of movie rentals. Movies that can be rented via on-demand download do not have extra features included, and I could see in the future companies charging extra for downloadable rentals that include extra features. If this trend continues, then it will indeed be a sad day for movie lovers who enjoy having the option of learning more about the films they rent, not just the ones they bought for their collections. Oh, well ... it was fun while it lasted, wasn't it?




2 comments:

  1. It is frustrating to be told that the money you hand over from a rental is not as good as the money you hand over when buying. But, just fyi, the deletion of extras is not something Netflix is doing. Rather, certain motion picture studios are pressing "rental" versions for the purpose of making sure that Netflix and Blockbuster only get the "rental" versions. Currently it is mostly just two studios doing this -- 20th Century Fox, and Warner Bros. Oh, and also Disney. But it seems to be a trend.

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  2. Thanks for the update and for clarifying who-is-doing-what, anonymous. I figured that the studios had to be involved somehow, but I didn't know how much Netflix and other rental outlets were a part of this.

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