Why iTunes makes Blu-ray useless

Don Reisinger thinks iTunes will kill Blu-ray sooner than some are willing to bet. But will the availability of HD shows be enough?

Don Reisinger
CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
3 min read

Apple announced today that it has not only become the world's most popular TV programming store, thanks to 200 million unit sales of TV shows, but that all four of the major networks--CBS, Fox, ABC, and NBC--are offering high-definition content on the iTunes store.

"We've got an incredible fall 2008 TV lineup with over 70 prime time comedies and dramas, including many of the most popular shows on TV in stunning HD," said Eddy Cue, Apple's vice president of Internet services. "With over 200 million episodes sold, iTunes customers have proven they love watching television on their computer, iPod, iPhone and TV with Apple TV."

If Apple is the world's leading store for buying TV shows and the world's largest music retailer, how can Blu-ray and it's measly 8 percent market share, expect to compete with Apple's freight train as it starts to pick up steam in the movie space?

I contacted Apple for its latest movie sales figures, but the company didn't provide any. Because of that, I'm forced to consider the fact that as of this past January, it had sold 7 million films on iTunes after 15 months of availability. Consider the fact that Blu-ray hit the 7 million-units-sold mark after 18 months, and it's quite obvious that people are ready and willing to download films instead of buying an expensive player and media to go with it.

Granted, the movies Apple has sold are standard definition and of the 2,500 films currently offered on iTunes, the 600 HD films can only be rented, but does that even matter?

When we consider the cost of ownership between Apple's integration and Blu-ray's, I simply don't see how it would make sense on any level to choose the latter. Not only are Blu-ray players more expensive than an Apple TV, it'll run you about $30 just to have one HD movie in most cases. And if you want to rent Blu-ray films from Blockbuster, it'll be $5.99 and you'll be forced to leave the house. The way I see it, the only logical way to get Blu-ray films into the house is through Netflix and even that company has raised its rates by $1 to make up for the additional cost of providing Blu-ray movies.

iTunes may just be a store, which may make it difficult for some to compare it to Blu-ray, but I don't think that's the case. Sure, it may be a store first, but when it comes to choosing and watching movies, it's no different than a Blu-ray player: you choose your movie with a remote, click play after buying or renting it, and watch the film on your HDTV with the help of your Apple TV. Oh, and by the way, that HD film you just rented costs just $4.99.

The only obstacle standing in the way of Blu-ray dying at the hands of iTunes is the fact that you can't buy HD movies on the service. But let's face it--if Apple went out of its way to tell us today that it's offering HD TV shows on iTunes now, don't you think that HD movies are right around the corner? I give it weeks, not months.

Blu-ray's decline will result from the popularity of the DVD too, but when we finally find a more suitable alternative to discs, it will be iTunes that will come out on top. Apple haters may not like to hear it, but at this point, I don't see any other downloading or streaming service that has the customer base to compete with Apple. And in turn, I simply don't see how Blu-ray can compete with a service that provides people with what they want: HD content directly in their homes.

iTunes is growing at a rapid rate and it's no longer just a music store. And as more consumers find that they can have HD content in their homes with little or no effort, iTunes will claim another victim.

Check out Don's Digital Home podcast, Twitter feed, and FriendFeed.