Ready to Get Rid of Your DVD Collection? The Cloud Is the Answer

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Entertainment executives are envisioning a transition coming in the near future, in which consumers convert all of their DVDs to digital files that are stored in a virtual “cloud”—and that can be viewed on any device you want. What are you going to do with all that extra shelf space now occupied by DVDs?

Consumers just aren’t buying DVDs like they used to. DVD sales have fallen by nearly 20%, and data from the Digital Entertainment Group shows that spending on digital content was up 50% last year. Everyone expects to see a time when DVDs and most physical media disappear, replaced by purely digital content, and every day it seems like that scenario is closer to becoming a reality.

After all, few people bother with CDs nowadays. Could the same thing happen to DVDs? The question probably should be: When will the same thing happen to DVDs?

On Wednesday, reports the Los Angeles Times, at a technology, telecom, and media conference in San Francisco, Kevin Tsujihara, the president of Warner Bros.’ Home Entertainment Group, spoke at length about the company’s new “disc-to-digital” initiative:

“‘Disc-to-digital’ is the solution to unlock the value of existing libraries,” Tsujihara said. “We’re leading industry efforts to launch services so consumers can convert libraries easily, safely and at reasonable prices.”

(MORE: Are Consumers Over Buying DVDs?)

The idea is to speed along consumers’ transition from watching movies and other programming on DVDs to watching almost exclusively on digital files held in cloud storage. A multi-prong approach will encourage consumers to make the switch, starting with stores that’ll quickly convert DVDs to digital, in the same way that stores have been offering services to save old VHS tapes as discs for years. Later, the thinking goes, it’ll be standard for copies of purchased DVDs and Blu-ray discs to automatically be uploaded to the owner’s cloud.

Naturally, with each step in the transition from disc to digital, there will be an opportunity for retailers and entertainment companies to make money. This has been the case every time a switch in viewing format has occurred, from VHS to DVD to Blu-ray and beyond.

In theory, consumers would welcome a format that is less bulky, more convenient and easily accessible, and perhaps most importantly, not prone to becoming outdated as technology advances. Is such a scenario possible? Can you actually “future proof” your entertainment collection?

(MORE: Your Head Is in the Cloud)

That’s the idea with UltraViolet, the technology that provides a digital version with each physical version of a disc. (The UltraViolet movement is being led by Time Warner, though other studios are on board, to varying extents.) Later this year, Samsung Smart Blu-ray players will hit the market. The players work with Flixster, an app that lets you stream movies and other content from the cloud with UltraViolet. Insert an eligible disc into the Samsung player, click on the “Disc to Digital” icon, and you’ll be able to add the movie to your Flixster account—for a yet-to-be-determined “nominal amount.” Adding the movie in a hi-def version will be possible, for an extra fee.

Here’s a Flixster executive’s pitch for the service:

“Disc to Digital is a revolutionary way for consumers to ‘future proof’ their DVD library,” said Steve Polsky, president of Flixster. “They will no longer need to worry if a DVD is misplaced or if it’s scratched. Through UltraViolet, consumers have an exciting new way to collect, access and enjoy digital entertainment. They can take their movie and TV collection with them and watch it when and where they want.”

(MORE: Mass Media Cloud Storage: All the Same Mistakes?)

How such services are embraced by consumers will be determined by how truly convenient and easy it is to use, how much they trust that their collections won’t simply disappear up in the cloud, how much faith people put in the idea that it’s actually possible to “future proof” one’s collection, and, of course, how much any of this costs.

It sure would be nice to not have to worry about DVDs getting scratched, though.

Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.