Why you shouldn’t throw out those DVDs and Blu-Rays

Don't count on streaming.
stack of blu ray discs on a reflective table
Good luck prying 'Lord of the Rings' from my hands. DepositPhotos

You might think physical media is obsolete. It’s possible to watch basically anything on streaming sites at this point. Best Buy is ending DVD and Blu-ray sales and so is Target. Many people no longer have Blu-ray or DVD players plugged into their TVs, assuming they even watch things on a TV at all. It’s understandable, given all this, that you might be eyeing your shelf full of physical media and wonder whether it’s time to throw it all out. 

That’s a mistake. There are all kinds of reasons you should keep your physical copies of TV shows and movies around. 

Content disappears from streaming services

A few years ago Warner Bros. started removing its own shows from Max, called HBO Max at the time. Among these shows was Westworld, a prestige HBO series that subscribers understandably thought would stick around on the service. Until that point no major streaming service had removed its own content—Netflix, for example, removed plenty of shows made by other companies but never one of its own originals. Warner Bros. broke this unspoken compact with Westworld. Today the only place to watch the sci-fi drama online is on TubiTV, but you can’t watch episodes whenever you want—it’s basically an online TV station that plays all the episodes in order. Warner Bros. isn’t alone here: Disney pulled several of its own shows from Disney+ last year, including a brand new TV show based on the movie Willow

Which is all to say that you can’t count on streaming services to offer all the shows you love in perpetuity. You know what you can count on? A physical disc. A TV show or movie you have on Blu-ray or DVD will keep working for you until the disc physically breaks down, and even longer if you back them up. If you want to make sure you can keep watching a TV show or movie you need to buy a physical copy. 

No internet? No problem.

Streaming services, for the most part, only work if you have an internet connection. Physical media keeps working, as highlighted by a piece in The Guardian about a Florida power outage in 2018 that made one family’s DVD and Blu-ray collection extremely valuable: 

Word got around. The family’s library of physical films and books became a kind of currency. Neighbors offered bottled water or jars of peanut butter for access. The 1989 Tom Hanks comedy The ’Burbs was an inexplicably valuable commodity, as were movies that could captivate restless and anxious children.

The internet goes down sometimes, for all kinds of reasons—natural disasters, yes, but also good old fashioned outages. Having some physical media around means you’ll still have something to watch. 

It might be cheaper

Some people like to binge watch the same show, again and again. Peacock, for example, owes at least some of its existence to dedicated fans of The Office, who from what I can tell, just kind of always have the show on in the background. That might be worth it to you, but here’s the thing, though: I found the complete run of the series on Amazon on DVD for $50, a total that could pay for just over four months of an ad-free Peacock subscription. You could probably get the series for even less if you’re willing to look for a used copy, meaning there’s no excuse to pay for Peacock just for one show. Buy the discs and you can binge watch as many times as you want, all without any ongoing subscription fees. 

You can lend them out

I love ebooks but tend to buy a physical copy of anything I truly love. Part of this is that I like seeing the books on my shelf, granted, but another big part of the appeal is that I can lend physical books out to friends. Physical copies of movies and TV shows work the same way: You can lend them to whoever you like, even as streaming services are going out of their way to stop you from sharing passwords. 

Of course, it’s not just on you to lend out discs: your local library probably does too, giving you access to all kinds of shows for free. In some places this is going even further: Little DVD libraries are popping up as a way to share discs with your neighbors. If you can physically hold something there’s no restrictions on lending it out, and that’s a real kind of freedom that streaming services can’t—or, at least won’t—give you. 

Special features

One last thing. DVDs and Blu-rays come with all kinds of special features, from behind-the-scenes footage to deleted scenes. Streaming services don’t offer these features—the best you can do is search for them on YouTube when you’re done watching. This only matters if you care about such things, granted, but it’s a big reason you’ll never get me to part with my special edition set of Lord of the Rings