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Article by Mohan Babu

Paradigm shift in home entertainment

With the advent of videos and home entertainment, marketing wizards had predicted the downfall of the movie theaters, which didn’t really happen. At the dawn of the 21st century, people in the US still like to go out to the movies, notes Mohan Babu

Every few decades, there is a paradigm shift in consumer electronics and entertainment, one that seems gradual and unobtrusive, but is all consuming. In the mid-seventies, there was a shift from gramophones and LP recorders to audiocassettes, a change that many of us may not recall. In the nineties, we saw audiocassettes being overtaken by CD’s and more recently, by MP3s. DVDs are slowly inching their way, gaining market from videocassettes, especially in the home video rental industry.

Interestingly, with the advent of videos and home entertainment, marketing wizards had predicted the downfall of the movie theatres, which didn’t really happen. At the dawn of the 21st century, people still like to go out to the movies. During the first three to four months after release a movie is screened only on the big screen, after which it is released in HBO (cable) and then to lending libraries. Incidentally, Blockbuster and Hollywood videos are the biggest chains in the US.

The advent of DVD technology is seeing a new paradigm emerge. In a classic case of producer driven technology, video rental companies and manufacturers of DVDs and electronics are driving consumers into using this new technology. The technology is being pushed unobtrusively; more by Blockbuster than by manufacturers of DVDs themselves. Why? Because of the optimisation of retail shelf space that DVDs afford. In the shelf where they stock one or two videos, Blockbuster can store three or four DVDs, instantly doubling the number of titles they can carry without increasing the limited shelf space. Of course dozens of manufacturers pushing the use of DVDs and hyping its clarity and usage has only helped. Slowly and inconspicuously, Blockbuster has been trashing old videos, replacing them with DVDs. Nearly 50 percent of the rental movies now come in DVD format. This, aided with the lower cost of DVD players has prompted consumers to go in for them, at least to second their home entertainment systems. As a matter of fact, Blockbuster has gone as far as providing ‘deals on DVD players, offering free rentals to lure customers into switching.

One of the main reasons for the popularity of DVDs is the software security build into the players, making it hard for pirates to make and distribute copies. Quality of the video output is another big draw — sharper images and audio make it a real pleasure to watch. Thanks to dick capacities between 4.3 GB (DVD-5) and 15.9 GB (DVD-18), a DVD can hold more than two hours of high quality MPEG-2 video with several audio tracks (multi-language) and subtitles. In order to avoid illegal copies, commercial video DVDs come with a region code that define the origin — for example, North America is code 1, Europe is code 2, etc. A European (code 2) DVD player will usually not work with US (code 1) DVDs, as the industry does not want DVDs to be brought to Europe as long as movies are still in the theatres there.

If the mainstream movies are moving towards DVDs, can our Bollywood be far behind? Most Indian shops and online malls now stock a collection of latest Indian flicks in DVD format. Movies just released by Bollywood find their way into DVDs really fast. Most movies also come with sub-titles and indexes of songs — a big draw with NRIs in the UK and US. DVD technology touts hard-to-copy technologies that make it especially attractive to Indian cinema, which already generates much of its revenue from the big screen domestically. In the international market where copying of Indian movies is especially rampant, DVD technologies may help. However, the by-product of this trend is the mushrooming of cottage industry in “conversion” that has sprung up, copying DVDs into videocassettes! Indians in the US now enjoy superior quality prints on DVDs or “DVD copies” on videocassettes, a win-win situation, if there was any. A number of online retailers not only sell Indian movies but also provide DVD rental with convenient return policies to customers in the US. Some give the convenience of prepaid shipping, even providing convenient return envelopes (Yes, those dotcoms are still around!)

Does the advent of DVDs herald the end of VCR/VCP era? No, we are probably not going to see the end of video technology any time soon. This is especially true since DVD technology is not yet affordable for “personal use video” applications like making home movies, clips of weddings and other events that people normally capture on video. DVD technology is good for mass production of secure videos but not very friendly when it comes to copying and creating home videos. Until a technology that is cheap and easy-to-use (for home recording) comes along, videos are going to remain. With the proliferation of CDs and MP3s, interestingly, even audiocassettes haven’t really gone away, not yet at least.





About the Author

  • A Bio and profile of the author, Mohan Babu, can be found at his homepage
  • Mohan has authored a book on Offshoring and Outsourcing (Publisher McGraw Hill, India), a link to which can be found here
  • Mohan has also authored an Online book on "Life in the US," available for free download.
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    For FAQ, Trivia and Information on Life in America, visit the Ask-A-Desi section

    ©Mohan Babu: All Rights Reserved 2005

    Mohan Babu is an international consultant trying to find the ‘sweet spot’ where IT meets business. E-mail: mohan He is also the author of a recent book on "Offshoring IT Services"

    All rights are reserved. Mohan Babu ("Author") hereby grants permission to use, copy and distribute this document for any NON-PROFIT purpose, provided that the article is used in its complete, UNMODIFIED form including both the above Copyright notice and this permission notice. Reproducing this article by any means, including (but not limited to) printing, copying existing prints, or publishing by electronic or other means, implies full agreement to the above non-profit-use clause. Exceptions to the above, such as including the article in a compendium to be sold for profit, are permitted only by EXPLICIT PRIOR WRITTEN CONSENT of Mohan Babu. 

    Disclaimer: This document represents the personal opinions of the Author, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of the Author's employer, nor anyone other than the Author. This Article was originally published in Express Computers


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