Return of the Self-Destructing DVD?
Edited by chromatic
A few years after the ill-fated DivX player failed, media companies are again flirting with the idea of limited-use DVDs. This time, the pitch includes environmental concerns and convenience. Will it fly? The Editors List is still dubious.
Okay, while looking in my grocery store this morning for an
emergency stash of post-workout Gatorade, I stumbled across the latest Hollywood
"innovation," this time from Disney:
Self-destructing DVDs, euphemistically called EZ-Ds.
And five minutes after looking at these, I realized that I'd been banging my
head against the kiosk for . . . about five minutes.
Unlike the ill-fated DivX players that were marketed by Circuit City a few
years ago, these discs don't require any sort of Big Brother database to keep
watch on what you're watching and when you watch it.
Instead, after you break the vacuum-packed seal, you have 48 hours to
wait . . . then view the DVD before the compound coating reacts with oxygen, turns the
bottom opaque, and prevents the 625nm laser beam inside your DVD player from
penetrating the spiraling pits of data that form your MPEG2 movies.
So, then you throw it away, right? WRONG! Disney wants you to recycle it
by sending it back, which you get to pay for in postage.
The price for this convenience is $6.99 plus tax. The DVD comes with some
unintentionally funny statements on it as well, like "Freshness guaranteed for
48 hours." Geeze, how tacky. Why don't they just put a Budweiser born-on date on
the package? Or "Protect Our Environment." Huh? Why create so much more potential trash?
Not to break into Torkington-isms here :-), but "WHAT THE F#@%?" I
frequently wonder what Disney marketeers are thinking.
The same movie that I saw in my grocery store is available for 2-day rental
for $3.99 at Blockbuster across the street. Granted, it's not a first-run
movie. First-run movies are available for $3.49 per night.
If I have to abort on a first-run movie for some reason (West Nile Virus, author with embolism, relatives drop by, etc.), I can cut my losses by
returning the movie after one night and only paying $3.49, instead of
I have enough DVDs that randomly self-destruct due to scratches, laser
rotting, cheap quality substrate material between the layers, etc. I can
usually get them replaced within 30 days if need be.
Many first-run DVDs are available for purchase at introductory discounts.
For example, I picked up The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers at a local
consumer store for $13.99, and I can watch it forever and ever and ever.
Maybe if the cost of these comes down to $3.99, I'll be interested. But
someone over there in Burbank is smoking some serious fairy dust if they think
I'll be paying $7.00 for a DVD that blows up 48 hours later when there are so
many other better alternatives.
So, I'm curious: Has anyone picked up one of these yet? Is this a
Well, I heard a good one on my digital rights management panel
at Seybold yesterday from a Warner Bros. lawyer. He conceded that when VCRs
came out, the folks at Disney asked, "But how will we make sure that only one
person watches the movie at a time?" Talk about clueless and in a rut. They
were really stuck on preserving the per-customer revenue that they get in movie
I don't disagree with the point about high pricing from
However, I thought the point of this technology was for use by video rental
places and mail order video companies like Netflix. No returns needed, no late fees paid,
and the video store will never be out of a copy of the latest hits because it
will have fresh shipments mailed on a regular basis.
Hmmm . . . well, I guess the question then becomes, how many of
the self-destructing DVDs can you manufacture/purchase before you exceed the
manufacturing cost of a regular DVD? I can't imagine that EZ-Ds would cost Flexplay much
less than a regular DVD to manufacture, because they include
everything a regular DVD-9 (dual-layer, single-sided DVD) does, and a
chemical layer that reacts with oxygen.
A regular DVD can be reused many times over, so the attraction for Netflix
comes in the money saved from shipping the DVD back. However, if they're
pushing you to recycle it, does that mean that Netflix will still want you to
send it back? Or to a third-party recycling company? If so, do they pay for
that or do you?
The Guardian newspaper in the U.K. just ran an article called How
do disposable DVDs work? It mentions plans for an incentive scheme to encourage people not to throw
the discs away, I guess like returning glass bottles to a store for a refund. No plans to actually sell them in the U.K. though.
The New York Times recently ran a story about these. Here's an
Speaking at a Sanford C. Bernstein conference last month in
New York, Mr. Eisner indicated that he expected the EZ-D test to be
"I think it probably won't work," he said. "I think it's going to boomerang
on us, but it's a test."
As much as I hate to say it, I agree with Michael Eisner. I
see little attraction to this, and the last thing I want to do if I go on
vacation to Yellowstone is watch a movie I could just as easily watch at
home. It probably won't work.
On the one hand, kids do tend to want to see the same Disney
movie over and over again as many times as they can in 48 hours.
On the other, have you ever tried to get through a movie with kids (whether
they're watching it or not) in a 48 hour period?
As a quick followup, I did notice that EZ-Ds are no longer for
sale in my local grocery store. They seem to have disappeared after only a
week. Walgreens has them now.
I did see a TV commercial for EZ-Ds last night. It had one of those
completely unjustifiable, four-second lead-in lines similar to what you would
expect from car and truck dealers, like: "By 2020, man will be on Mars, and
Mars has some rough terrain. That's why you need a Ford F-150 Supercab with
optional towing capacity. . . ."
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I wonder if the chemical reaction is reversable