The move to mass-market
It's quite interesting to see how things have changed in the DVD world over the three years that the site has been around. Back in the early days when the format was just really appearing in our shops the buyers were the true enthusiasts, or early adopters.
Back then, the advantages of DVD were far more obvious than today now that is a mass-market format - the much improved picture quality, original ratio transfers, the stunning 5.1 channel surround sound and the possibility of plenty of additional material on the discs was the technical selling point while the fact that you could buy DVDs at the same time as you could only rent VHS made it tempting in a much more material way.
The move into the mass-market has both advantages and disadvantages - there are more and more films appearing on DVD now and it's unlikely that any new film release will not get a DVD release a few months down the line. Studios now are getting a reasonable return on their investment - to the point that we're now seeing budget DVD ranges appearing including both new discs and re-releases of some older ones. More money is being made available to restore some of the old classics; the fantastic job done on North by Northwest is just one example.
However there are disadvantages - the vast majority of consumers don't understand, or don't really care about the benefits of original-ratio transfers (note I haven't said widescreen!) and this means that studios are now releasing pan and scan discs alongside widescreen ones. Great, that's more choice, but what happens if Pan & Scan releases start outselling widescreen by a significant margin? The drive to bring down prices means that profit margins may be smaller and therefore the incentive to source truly useful and interesting extra material for a DVD release is reducing.
And, finally of course, as with pretty much every consumer media format in the past, piracy is now rearing its ugly head. Just a look at the DVD newsgroups shows just how much attitudes have changed - it's now almost acceptable for people to buy 'DVD silvers' either from on-line retailers or at one of the many computer shows around the country. It is now at the point where I've seen people closely associated with some websites clearly taking part in the purchase of pirate DVDs. How can this be right?
How many people who bought the high-quality Lord of the Rings DVD silver are now going to buy the official DVD? Yes, I know some of them will, but probably only a tiny percentage of those that have bought the copy are likely to spend their cash on another disc.
DVD silvers are easily obtainable - it takes just a few seconds to find on-line retailers who will quite happily supply you with pretty any new film you want. They even sell films that have been available on DVD for a while - and they wouldn't do this if there wasn't a market. So where does the money that people pump into the pirate scene go? Well it's certainly not to the people who should be receiving it, although I very much doubt the scare stories piracy money funding international drug rings or arms rackets are true...