DVD and Blu-ray discs have been in decline for some time, and it looks like Disney is about to hammer another nail into the coffin of disc-based physical media. The mouse house has announced that in Australia, it will no longer be releasing its TV shows and movies on physical media. The last disc-based release in Australia will be Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3. The future isn't discs, but Disney Plus.
This may only be for Australia just now but it has huge implications, as it's part of Disney's strategy of moving to digital-first releases. And Disney, of course, is one of the biggest media firms on the planet with a portfolio that includes not just Disney, Marvel and Pixar but the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises, all of 20th Century Fox's content, National Geographic and a whole lot more.
Why is Disney going all-digital?
You'd think with the best 8K TVs doing amazing things the last thing we'd want is an end to Blu-ray. But disc-based media is nosediving in popularity even as the best TVs make Blu-rays look even better: while 4K Blu-ray accounted for 13.4% of all video discs sold in the US in the second quarter of 2022, those discs are a growing share of a declining market. In 2022, US DVD and Blu-ray sales were down 20% compared to 2021. Disc rentals are plummeting too.
While disc revenues are declining dramatically, streaming revenues are soaring. According to the Digital Entertainment Group, while DVD and Blu-ray dropped by 20% streaming subscription revenues grew 17.3%. That's a total of $30.3 billion, compared to $1.58 billion for discs.
Australia isn't the first territory where Disney has dropped the discs. It doesn't sell them in Latin America and in some Asian markets either, and it's said openly that the reason is declining sales. That decline is happening in the US and in Europe too, and it seems very likely that what we're currently seeing in Australia is the shape of things to come in those markets too. With DEG reporting that streaming accounted for nearly 83% of all home entertainment dollars in the US last year, the question isn't whether Disney will drop the discs. It's when.