The format wars are over, Sony may have won but are we just collateral damage?

I stopped buying DVD’s about a year ago and to date haven’t bought any of the next-gen discs. I did get a free copy of Casino Royale on Blu-Ray from Sony which is destined to be the Brother’s in Arms of the platform. So should we be celebrating another decade of optical media? To be honest I find myself just not caring.

Looking at my own media consumption of both film and telly derived a few simple rules/preferences.

  1. I won’t buy anything device specific – It either works on whatever device I want to play it on (or can be transcoded) or forget it. As it is I’ve got 3 copies of Bladerunner / 3 copies of Apocalypse Now and I’m buggered if I’m buying them again on Blu Ray.
  2. I won’t buy anything that expires or has DRM.
  3. I want it when it’s made, not when it’s deemed to be released. I don’t believe in the artificial geographic segmentation of content.
  4. I will happily pay not to have advertising.
  5. I would rather everything could be accessed via one application (Currently using front row on my mini plugged into a big screen telly).
  6. If at all possible avoid optical media.

With that in mind I decided to have a look at my communications / media spending. In a typical month I would buy CD’s, DVD’s, games, pay for broadband, Sky, mobile. It amounts to about £300, which puts me in the ‘good’ consumer category.

So if I was to start again and apply my cash to the rules what is there out there which fits the bill?

From a TV perspective there are so many competing platforms none of which are really more than technology demo’s at this point. When I’m on the other side of the fence i.e. consulting, then the only sane choice right now is to put your content wherever you can and hope there is a clearish winner in the long run.
From a consumer standpoint it’s confusing, frustrating and pretty limited.

The iPlayer is going in the right direction but having to watch something within a week completely destroys the ‘long tail’. There are many series I would want to ‘bank’ and watch once the series is over. Joost would be great if the quality didn’t currently suck and there was some decent content. iTunes simply isn’t an option for me (See rule 2).

For films I’ve checked out all the various new rental options. Unfortunately the way I watch films is pretty random access and going back to the blockbuster model doesn’t work. Neither iTunes or Xbox have the range or requirements yet for a decent film geek. In the Xbox case I would love to have been a fly on the wall when they were picking the first releases. ‘Well we’re talking to geeks – they like The Matrix, they like Sci-Fi, lets give ‘em a bunch of films they no doubt have already seen a million times’.

Reality is – there isn’t one service out there that I’d spend my cash on beyond what I’m doing today. We are in transition.

The even harsher reality is that there is simply no way at the moment to be a film/telly geek without breaking the law in some way.

So Congratulations to Sony. Blu-Ray solves nothing for me, I’ll continue to avoid and hope that the day will come when that perfect (no doubt subscription) service comes along and I’ll be happy again.