DVDs vs VOD: Increasing Returns or Red Queens?

These days you can watch movies in a variety of formats; you can access them through Netflix, buy the DVD or Blu-Ray, or download from your cable provider. As a PhD student in Educational Technology, I have recently become fascinated by the short stories of Philip K. Dick. Many of his stories have been made into popular movies such as Minority Report, Total Recall, Blade Runner, Next, Paycheck, and A Scanner Darkly. I recently re-watched Minority Report with fresh eyes and the technologies were fascinating!

I could have downloaded the movie from Netflix but I ended up purchasing a DVD copy, which I just happened to find at my local Wal-Mart. The store was having a sale and the movie was $5 so I picked it up along with a few others. It was the last copy of Minority Report so I thought best to grab it now and add it to my collection.

The fact that I could choose between a DVD option or video-on-demand option got me thinking about the forces in emerging technologies. Two of the six forces are Red Queens and Increasing Returns. Dr. Thornburg (2009) defines Red Queens as a competition between two technologies and in the process the others get left behind (Thornburg, 2009). The force of Increasing Returns is defined by Dr. Thornburg as two technologies which hit the market at the same time and just by chance one of the technologies becomes a “hit” driving the other technology to extinction (Thornburg, 2009). It should be noted that it is not always the best or most superior technology that survives. An example of this, provided by Dr. Thornburg is that of the battle between Betamax (Sony) and VHS (Panasonic). The Betamax version was by far the superior option but VHS was adopted by the public (Thornburg, 2009).

Currently, the battle between DVDs and video-on-demand (VOD) would be an example of Red Queens. This is because both still exist. You can go to Walmart, BestBuy, and Future Shop to purchase DVDs, whether it’s a movie or one of your favourite TV shows or you can purchase a VOD service such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Hulu. Neither of these technologies have driven the other to extinction (i.e., Increasing Returns) yet but that may come in due time. I can see DVDs becoming obsolete due to their limitations in image quality and the popularity of being able to download movies and TV shows from the comfort of your living/family room.

I still purchase DVDs but they are not movies; they are the seasons of my favourite TV shows, which are not available on Netflix. As Netflix continues to add to their menu, I can see myself not buying as many DVDs as I used to; it will be nice to have all my favourite movies and shows on my Cloud or saved on my televison where I can access them at any time I wish.

In terms of McLuhan’s tetrad:

a) Video on Demand reversed DVDs

b) DVDs will be made obsolete by VOD

c) VOD rekindles “Home Movie Nights”

d) Blu-Ray will make DVDs obsolete

e) DVD rekindles the VHS, which was used to watch movies

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6 thoughts on “DVDs vs VOD: Increasing Returns or Red Queens?

  1. Yes Shelly,

    As Dr. Thornburg mentioned, Panasonic’s VHS drove Sony’s Betamax into extinction, all because at the time, Panasonic had better media connection with film distributors than Sony (Laureate, 2009). This reminds me of issues surrounding the QWERTY keyboard and the Dvorak keyboard. The Dvorak keyboard was created during 1932 to find a keyboard arrangement that was more efficient than the QWERTY keyboard (because the QWERTY layout was designed to slow down typists and resulted in ailments such as carpal tunnel syndrome). Interestingly, although the Dvorak keyboard had obvious advantages over the QWERTY keyboard, its diffusion was unsuccessful! The main barrier that arose in the Dvorak keyboard diffusion process is simply stakeholders’ vested interest in the design. Rogers (2003) mentioned that manufacturers, sales outlets, typing teachers and typist themselves all have vested interest surrounding the shaping of the QWERTY keyboard layout. My wrist hurts from typing and thinking about this on my QWERTY keyboard 🙂
    Amazon prime is relatively new on the scene. Knowing how powerful Amazon is when it comes to cloud computing do you think that Amazon prime might becoming a fierce competitor to Netflix and probably win the battle? This has me thinking about Kindle versus the Nook. Would you consider these eBook readers to be Red Queens? Do you think the Kindle might drive the Nook out of extinction?
    References

    Laureate Education, Inc. (2009). Emerging and future technology: Increasing returns. Baltimore, MD: Author.
    Rogers, E. M. (2003). Diffusion of innovations (5th ed.). New York, NY: Free Press. [Kindle touch version]. Retrieved from Amazon.com.

  2. Hi
    So many movies are available that one has to make choices. Time factor will decide if one get on demand or purchases DVDs. I also like to collect favorite TV shows. MASH is one of my favorite. I do have complete series of MASH. Do you think that we are being overwhelmed with so many choices that at certain point we shall stop or limit to what we are watching and take up hobbies that are more interactive rather than just entertaining? Will this force the entertainment industry to develop technologies that will keep our interests?

    George Rusin

  3. Hi
    Hi Increasing Returns or Red Queens

    So many movies are available that one has to make choices. Time factor will decide if one get on demand or purchases DVDs. I also like to collect favorite TV shows. MASH is one of my favourite.

    Do you think that we are being overwhelmed with so many choices that at certain point we shall stop or limit to what we are watching and take up hobbies that are more interactive rather than just entertaining?

    Will this force the entertainment industry to develop technologies that will keep our interests?

    George Rusin

  4. Shelly,
    I enjoyed reading your post. I share your sentiment concerning VOD obsoleting the DVD. Because the DVD is still used by many for reasons like you have shared, I don’t think they will be leaving us within the next several years. How long would you guess it will be before DVD are no longer used?

    Thanks for your thoughts,

    Stacey

  5. You do such a good job writing these blogs! You write as if a story is unfolding. I am happy that I no longer need to go to the local movie rental place to look at the movies on the walls in order to choose one for viewing and make sure I have it back the following night. Video on demand has changed the way in which we view entertainment. With such a drastic change could we be looking at a Disruptive technology? Why or why not?

  6. I had been thinking of RedQueens as being similar technologies with similar function. For example, I saw RedBox and Blockbuster kiosks as RedQueens for DVD distribution as they seem to have disrupted Netflix as a DVD distribution. Netflix then moved primarily to streaming. Do you think streaming will eventually obsolete DVD services?

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