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Monday Mouse Watch: Beyond the Blu-ray Horizon

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Monday Mouse Watch: Beyond the Blu-ray Horizon

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Talk about your Heigh Ho / Oh No moments.

On the heels of reports that the 70th anniversary edition of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" had topped national sales charts (supposedly because of high consumer demand for this Disney classic in Hi-Def) came Bob Iger’s comments at an entertainment law conference this past Saturday. Where Disney’s CEO said – in essence – that the Company has not sold nearly “ … as many (Blu-ray titles) as we would have liked.”

According to what Company insiders have told me, the problems can be traced back to two key demographics:

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  • 25-to-39 year-olds. Many of who have already amassed a DVD library of over 80 titles. More importantly, these consumers remember how they felt compelled to replace VHS versions of films that they already owned for the supposedly superior DVD copies of these same titles. Which is why these folks are now showing some real sales resistance when it comes to Blu-ray. To be blunt, they’re not anxious to repeat the VHS-to-DVD cycle. Especially in this economy.

  • 13-to-24 year-olds. 80% of who now consider the computer to be their primary entertainment source. When members of this demographic are looking to kill some time, they don’t throw a disc in the family DVD player. Instead, they go play a video game and/or update their Facebook status.

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment has tried to address both of these issues by bundling many of its more recent Blu-ray titles (i.e. including a DVD version of this film for the 25-to-39 year-olds while also tossing in a digital download of that same title for the 13-to-24 year-olds). Then – to make these new releases seem that much more appealing to the Internet generation – WDSHE added BD Live to these Blu-ray discs. Which allows viewers to interact with their friends online while they were watching these Hi-Def films.

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But given the obvious impact that Netflix & Redbox have had on DVD & Blu-ray sell-through rates, in spite of all of the energy & innovation that Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment has thrown at this situation, the erosion of traditional electronic media shows no sign of slowing. Which means Iger is now scanning the horizon. In particular looking for new ways to engage that 13-to-24 year-old demographic. Who are far more comfortable with the idea of downloading their next entertainment option via computer.

And when it comes to capturing this demographic, one idea that keeps getting floated in-house is a subscription service. Which would allow The Company to sell premium content online and then give its fans unprecedented access to the Disney vault.

As one Mouse House insider recently explained it to me:

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“We currently have hundreds of thousands of hours of material that we’re never ever going to put out on DVD or Blu-ray because its appeal is far too narrow. Only the truly diehard Disney fan would ever want to see stuff like this.

But if we were ever able to set up an encryption system that would  allow us to safely stream this material online, we’re talking about a goldmine. Think about all the stuff we could make available for downloading.”

Mind you, it’s Disney’s concerns about encryption (More importantly, that their entire film library could wind up being pirated if they don’t have all of the necessary safeguards in place before launching this new business initiative) that has – to date – prevented this project from moving forward.

Brer Bear figurine
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But given that Iger – earlier this year when he spoke at a Deutsche Bank-sponsored conference in Palm Beach, FL. – was quoted as saying that “ … we’re trying to find ways to make (the popularity of online video) work for us. Not fight it. From our perspective, the computer is a very, very important place to entertain people” … It’s really only a matter of time ‘til Disney’s online subscription service project finally moves forward.

So what Disney-related material would you folks like to see be made available for online viewing? Other than – of course – the obvious (i.e. “Song of the South”)?

Your thoughts?

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  • This post was mentioned on Twitter by tvflte: RP-Jim Hill: Monday Mouse Watch: Beyond the Blu-ray Horizon: As DVD sales levels continue to fall an.. http://bit.ly/3qeEr0

  • The company has another large problem.  It's fairly clear that Disney embraced Blu-Ray as a means of re-selling their entire film catalogue once again.  But for my generation, it's the third time we've been down this path.  Maybe the fourth, if you count laserdiscs.  But regardless, I've seen both the Blu-Ray version of Snow White and the DVD version.  For older hand-drawn films, I don't think the hi-def experience adds much.  And if you factor in that these DVDs sell primarily to families with young kids--and not to animation buffs--why would Jill Soccer Mom shell out another $30 bucks to buy at Blu-Ray for her kids to mishandle if she already owns the DVD.  Or if she can buy a used copy of the DVD on Amazon for a few bucks?  But back to my main point, hi-def is a nice feature especially for recent films, but for animated older films from the 1930s and 1940s, the picture quality really ain't that much better on Blu-Ray.

  • What they need to realize is that by not making the content available, they're encouraging pirating.  We can already download pirated versions of Song of the South, so how is an official copy supposed to be any different?

    Pirating of songs went down as the popularity of sales of downloadable songs became the norm.  The same will go for movies.

    englishboy:   You may need to adjust your TV -- there is a clear difference in quality on the older animated films released so far over the DVD counterparts.  When I had got the Pinocchio Blu-Ray, had one person that was so amazed by the picture quality that he asked if it was a new movie (he wasn't kidding -- apparently, he was unfamiliar with the movie)!

  • Are you sure you aren't looking at the adjusted color values which appear on both the transfer to the new DVD and the new Blu-Ray?  The cleaned up print is very impressive.  But as for extra clarity in definition, I don't really see a great deal.

  • At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I'd live to see Disney release some of the old TV shows, particularly the specials featuring the theme parks, if they ever get their act together and launch a subscription service.

    There's tons of material in the vaults, and thanks to Rich Ross and Anne Sweeney, I guarantee we'll never see any of it on any of the Disney cable channels. And as Jim's source said, BVHE's not going to release it on DVD; the only way they'd ever do that is as part of a Treasures series wave, and judging by the meager offerings this wave and the fact that they're offering a box set of the Treasures DVDs for D23 members, I don't think Treasures is much longer for this world. So let us get our hands on it already, guys!

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