This isn’t really something in the future. Subscribers to the iTunes Store have been able to buy current TV episodes and movies from the iTunes Store for sometime now (although not South Africans who do not have a version of the iTunes Store open for business here). And the iTunes Store isn’t the only online video store. Amazon sells video downloads through its Amazon Unbox store and this is really only just the start.
Now none of this really means all that much to us South Africans for the time being. These services work best where there is better bandwidth available (Telkom’s 4MB ADSL service is more or less in the ballpark, anything less and you may as well go for a drive down the road) and where your service is not capped. To add to this, we are generally quite a bit behind the United States and Europe when it comes to when we adopt new technologies and services (Angus Robinson believes there is generally a 6 year lag). Another factor to consider is how willing people will be to give up the DVD (or its successors) for a download? There are aesthetics to consider and the convenience of a physical disc which you can just pop into a machine (any machine – many of the online video download services limit when and where you can play their media) and press play.
Assuming South Africans will jump onto the online video bandwagon sometime around 2013, perhaps then we could declare physical DVD rentals a dying business. That isn’t exactly great news for local Netflix clone, PushPlay, but then again there is still a long way to go before we can start digging the grave. For the time being, let’s sit back and watch how trends evolve in our more developed neighbours and decide whether to join them.