Blu-Ray Vs Digital Downloads In Australia

When HD DVD gave up the ghost a couple of years ago, many pundits claimed that it was merely a battle won for Blu-ray, and that they'd need to man up to face the war with digital downloads. Now in 2010, it's time to take a look at just how well that war is going, and who exactly is winning it here in Australia.

There are currently over 1200 movies available to purchase on Blu-ray here in Australia. They all offer 1080p video content, although some titles do look better than others. Pricing isn't set, but you can grab older flicks for as little as $10, although new releases can often sell for up to $50.

In terms of digital downloads, there are surprisingly few legal options for downloading high definition content in Australia. In fact, there are only two: the Zune video marketplace on the Xbox 360, and iTunes using the Apple TV. However, both of these options only allow users to rent HD movies, not purchase them to own.

While it's difficult to get exact figures for HD movies through these services, a quick browse shows that there at least a couple of hundred HD movies available through the Apple TV, while the Zune marketplace has a good proportion of their 330 odd titles available in HD.

But that's it. On the PC, you can download your choice of thousands of SD quality movies from iTunes, or BigPond Movies. If you've got a TiVo, you can download SD films to watch on your TV. Fotel lets you rent HD movies using their iQ2 box, but it's not really a download service as much as a silent recording of a secret broadcast.

Then of course there's Bittorrent. There's a pretty substantial library of HD films available to anyone willing to risk a letter from their ISP.

Which leaves the war where exactly? Well, when you look at availability in Australia, Blu-ray owns the HD video market, even though it still has nowhere near the success of DVD (although Avatar could certainly change that). And even though we have our download caps and limited broadband speeds, the simple fact that there are only two legal options for downloading HD content in Australia is atrocious.