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Cornell Student Articles on Topical Affairs

The Death of the DVD and the Future of Home Entertainment

There has been a lot of thought given lately to how home entertainment and media companies are navigating the ‘streaming apocalypse’ that is fully upon is. That’s right, streaming apocalypse. The act of having data  — usually audio and video, but increasingly other kinds as well — transmitted as a continuous flow to one’s device, allowing recipients to watch or listen almost immediately. In other words, while owning the full box set of Seinfeld may have been a common ambition, say, 10 if not five years ago, owning a box set today is all but redundant. I mean, why would anyone leave the house, track down a film or television series at one of the few remaining stores that actually sell DVDs in the world, and spend comparatively excessive amounts of money on it only keep it where it will gather dust, when one could simply download the entire season with the click of a button instead? Ahhhh, the perks of living in the 21st century.

We need to face it. The DVD is dead. DVD sales have dropped more than 86% in 13 years, a clear sign that streaming is the future. Since 2011, the world’s biggest streaming platforms, Netflix, Hulu and HBO have grown by 1,231%, making sales amounting to $12.9 billion. At its peak (which was in 2005) DVD sales reached $16.3 billion. We are about to surpass that, after just eight years of streaming – and with only a few of those years with streaming being mainstream.

The future is already upon us in many ways. No longer is it difficult to find a cable television and internet service provider that doesn’t require a contract. Four-year-olds know how to access Netflix via their TV remote or iPad. Hearing Alexa chime out facts, requests or greetings willy-nilly no longer petrifies us. Underwater audio systems are – though impressive – no longer unimaginable in the realm of cool home entertainment. So, what on earth will the next ten years look like?

Perhaps a little like this…

At the moment, we are seeing various devices all designed to make entertainment more accessible than ever. The problem is, these devices are rarely interconnected. You might have Amazon’s Alexa, or Apple’s HomePod, or Google Home, but these don’t necessarily interact with devices made by another brand – which can be downright frustrating when all you want to do is play a song or video clip from a device that isn’t flouted by the same company. The Caavo, however, aims to bridge this gap.  The $400 “remote of the future” markets itself as a machine that will simultaneously operate all the gadgets plugged into your television and home entertainment system, as well as open the correct episode and hit play with a single voice command. Is this the future of home entertainment? Let’s hope so.

Another problem consumers often face is that they may have a craving or desire to watch one film or series, but they are not necessarily willing to pay a subscription fee to one particular streaming platform to watch that film or series. Ideally, into the future we will see some kind of ‘meta platform’ that offers viewers the chance to pick and choose the shows they want, regardless of the provider. People are calling it an open future’ for home television.  People don’t want to be locked into one platform and restricted to when it chooses to air or release a new series or film. They want a platform that unifies the offerings of every individual platform – the Google of streaming services, if you will. I’m not sure how this will look in reality, as people will cease to commit to individual platforms if the value of signing up to one unified platform is worth it, but I suppose we won’t know until we get to this point.

Moving on to things that sport fans will care deeply about.

Live entertainment is set to get a 5G boost with the next phase of augmented/virtual reality. What this means, is that the next time Messi scores, viewers will feel they are there at the stadium alongside him. Imagine something that feels like consensual hallucination. With headsets powered by 5G and with quicker download times than ever before, the actual act of going to a live game will soon be redundant. THAT is what VR will bring to sports television. Already this past year, the BBC collaborated with the World Cup to provide a VR World Cup experience, giving viewers the freedom to choose their own camera angles and point at players to learn information about them. The way we watch sports is changing in a big way, and very soon, simply being able to view the game will not be enough. Soon, viewers will demand feeling and hearing the game at a superior quality to that they would experience by attending the match in person.

This is just the beginning. The future of home entertainment services is seriously cool, seriously science-fiction-y, and… seriously… is upon us already.

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