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When streaming video is better than Blu-ray

Blu-ray movies will soon be getting two back-to-back, unskippable, piracy warnings, giving movie-watchers even less of a reason to bother with a disc.

Amazon Instant video streaming on the PS3.
Buying a movie on Amazon Instant, iTunes, or Vudu can be a much less frustrating experience than watching a Blu-ray.
Matthew Moskovciak/CNET

Last week, I was reminded that cable-cutting can beat cable when it comes to a commercial-free TV-watching experience. Yesterday, an excellent story from Ars Technica reminded me why streaming often feels much more satisfying than watching Blu-ray.

The U.S. government yesterday rolled out not one but two copyright notices, one to "warn" and one to "educate." Six major movie studios will begin using the new notices this week. [...] Will the two screens be shown back to back? Will each screen last for 10 seconds each? Will each screen be unskippable? Yes, yes, and yes.

It's hard to imagine Blu-ray movies taking longer to load, but that's exactly what it sounds like is going to happen. Slow disc-loading times have been one of Blu-ray's biggest annoyances since the format's inception, and it's still a problem. According to my 2012 Blu-ray player testing, movies with complicated, animated menus still take over a minute to start playing the actual movie on the speediest players -- and that's with impatiently mashing the "chapter forward" button to skip preview. It's only going to get worse with these new warnings.

That's not so say streaming video is without delays. On many boxes, you'll need to load the streaming-video app (Amazon Instant, Netflix, etc.) and then the video needs to buffer. But it's still generally faster to get a movie playing and you're not subject to patronizing warnings about content you paid for.

Blu-ray is an incredible movie format in terms of the image quality it offers (although streaming video is catching up, especially Vudu and iTunes), but the movie-watching experience is much more frustrating than it needs to be, especially considering the price of the discs. I tend to stream more movies than I watch on Blu-ray these days, and adding more warnings is only going to accelerate that trend.