Warner Brothers will end its distribution of DVDs in South Korea as of December 31 of this year, according to a Bloomberg report. The final DVD title to be released in that country will be the “The Dark Knight” on November 11.
The proximate cause of the move is the rampant piracy from illegal downloading. But there’s an interesting sidelight to the story that may be a harbinger of the future of home movie distribution: As Warner ends its media-based distribution in Korea it is ramping up online distribution, with plans to release movies through video-on-demand two weeks before the official DVD release.
Additional coverage in the New York Times underscores that is the first phase of what is likely to be a global pattern:
While South Korea may be in the vanguard of both piracy and broadband use, both trends are on the rise through the world, Warner executives said. Digital movie distribution is increasing in the United States and increasing faster in many parts of Europe. And now the studio is looking to create more options for selling movies than the relatively rigid distribution schedule they have used. Indeed, it is exploring various hybrids, such as allowing someone to watch a movie instantly on the Internet and then receiving a physical disc in the mail.
Expect this trend to accelerate, particularly if Blu-ray sales don’t begin to increase soon. According to another report in the New York Times, DVD sales are slowing and, although Blu-ray sales are inching upward, Warner projects that the industry will miss its original target for Blu-ray sales by 25 percent or more this year.