Regardless of how optimal or advanced the tech vessel becomes, studios (as well as, content producers and purveyors) still dictate the flow and order of release. Though many library systems are still experiencing high numbers for DVD circulation (or at a peak), many others are experiencing a gradual decline in circulation – nearly in tandem with their rise in digital/streaming video stats. The factors that contribute to this ebb and flow are subjective and unique to each community though – up for some, down for others – and naturally tied to what alternative media access methods may be available to compliment/cause one media’s decline (and another’s rise). For example, a community more heavily hit with financial hardship (and the resultant cutting of cable or home internet connections) may still circulate DVDs better. While another, offering a DVD/Blu-Ray collection-complimentary streaming service such as hoopla may reflect more of a decline in physical format with an in-balance rise in digital circ. All this is well and good, and certainly your library system will have to measure the rates of your percentage increases/decreases in consideration of socio-cultural-economic factors and appropriate your own algorithm of sorts, but the rub with all this is, no matter how advanced, capable, and available the distribution service or vessel, it all comes down to how available, and just how premium, the content is.
Studios control the pace of content release (with distribution release “windows”), and inasmuch, indirectly “control” a portion of the access method or vessel’s (tablet, smart phone, app) appeal – the container is only as valuable as its content. And like publishing houses, studios are concerned with, obviously, keeping their product (content) at a premium and guarding against oversaturation or devaluation.. Thus, we have the windows controlled releases. An interesting case-in-point example of how this works is – what is commonly known as – the “Disney Vault.” By not making their films available, after an initial limited release, for many years (10-25-50-etc.) Disney (Buena Vista) effectively creates another opening-weekend-type buzz and blockbuster response when it rereleases a title (for a very limited time) before again returning it to the vault and closing the lid for years to come. Annoyance aside, they have instilled in their content a perpetual “ripeness” and demand – and as such, insure its content cache status as premium. For studios that only are able to capitalize once off of a film’s theatrical effect, Disney can theoretically replicate this result with its rereleases.
As access methodology continues to evolve, it behooves librarians as content access providers to understand the motivations of studios, as content producers and purveyors (as much as we do with publishers), so that we can make informed decisions about how we manage our physical collections or acquire our digital ones. But now – as we are starting to see more digital content provider options become availed to libraries – we need to begin to understand how studios have been defining and assigning value to their content (even if it’s to question “why we can’t get the latest or greatest content”). For many librarians, the learning curve involved in understanding the “how” and “why” of video production and how releases work will be much greater than with “getting to know” the (formerly) Big Six publishing houses, but our desire to “become part of the conversation” should be no less as vital.