(Almost) 4K reasons why Ultra HD Blu-ray needs to succeed

why Ultra HD Blu-ray needs to succeed

With the growing popularity of streaming services like Netflix and Spotify, many have taken the stance that there's no place for physical media in our future.

"Why bother taking up shelf space when you can instantly stream content to your devices at any given time?" they say. "Why pay for a single movie when the same amount gets you access to entire libraries of stuff?"

The problem is, there are still plenty of hurdles that would make a digital-only future intolerable for non-pirating movie fans.

As we move into the era of 4K, with UHD televisions and monitors more readily available and affordable than ever, and services like Netflix starting to offer a selection of movies and television shows to stream in 4K, there's a question about how content delivery is going to keep up with the technology.

Though many believe that 4K Blu-ray is already dead in the water, I think there's also a compelling counter-argument to that sentiment. Whether the world likes it or not, here's why physical media will be sticking around for a while to come.

Movies are not like music

Though it's easy to look at the success of music streaming services like Spotify and consider Netflix the video equivalent of that, there's quite a lot that separates the two in terms of the experiences they provide.

The biggest differentiating factor involves content selection. With an offering of over 40 million songs, it's highly likely that the average music fan will find most of their favourite songs and albums ready to stream on Spotify, give or take a handful of songs from stubborn artists and other obscure releases.

The same cannot be said about Netflix's video selection, which only scrapes around 0.1% of the barrel of what's available in physical media formats (and only a tiny fraction of that fraction is currently available in 4K resolution).

The US version of Netflix, which has by far the most video content available of any Netflix territory, only has roughly 7,700 shows and movies on offer. That's an absolutely tiny selection in the grand scheme of things, and when you can consider that some territories only have around a sixth of that, it's safe to say that Netflix is quite a while away from offering an all-encompassing Spotify-like streaming experience.

And that ignores the fact that the video streamer isn't actually pursuing that experience at all. Netflix's decision to not renew its deal with Epix shows that the company is much more focussed on offering premium, original content around the world rather than being the internet's ultimate video library.

Owning stuff has its perks

While I can't speak for everyone, I imagine most people would rather have the option of watching what they actually want to watch at any given time, and not just the stuff that streaming services currently have a license for.

Say what you will about owning films on physical disc formats, but people with DVDs and Blu-rays on their shelves don't need to worry about watching movies before the license expires.

Regardless of which video streaming service (or services) you sign up for, it's unlikely that you'll be completely covered when it comes to movie selection.

For the most part, streaming services like Netflix benefit people who don't know what they want to watch at any given time, letting users simply browse their libraries so that they can eventually settle on something that looks interesting.

Sure, this kind of thing has its advantages, acting like the modern equivalent of browsing the shelves at your local video store. But serious movie buffs are going to want to keep the classics on hand – after all, there are most certainly going to be evenings where a straight-to-Netflix horror movie with a one-star rating just isn't going to cut it.

Stephen Lambrechts
Senior Journalist, Phones and Entertainment

Stephen primarily covers phones and entertainment for TechRadar's Australian team, and has written professionally across the categories of tech, film, television and gaming in both print and online for over a decade. He's obsessed with smartphones, televisions, consoles and gaming PCs, and has a deep-seated desire to consume all forms of media at the highest quality possible. 

He's also likely to talk a person’s ear off at the mere mention of Android, cats, retro sneaker releases, travelling and physical media, such as vinyl and boutique Blu-ray releases. Right now, he's most excited about QD-OLED technology, The Batman and Hellblade 2: Senua's Saga.