Disney has stopped selling its movies on 48-hour DVDs, but that doesn’t mean the technology is disappearing. Flexplay developed the technology that renders a DVD unreadable after a set period of time. The company has been sold to Atlanta-based Convex Group, which plans to release content in this format.
The EZ-D was marketed to consumers as a way to avoid late fees from movie rental shops. Once opened, the EZ-D can be played unlimited times in 48 hours. Then a chemical compound on the disc combines with oxygen, rendering the DVD opaque and unreadable after two days. Movie fans can throw away the expired disk or pack it off to a special recycling facility to be recycled.
“We believe wholeheartedly in the platform,” said Dawn Whaley, executive vice president of the Convex Group. “I don’t think we would have acquired a company if we didn’t think it would be successful.”
During the holidays, the Convex Group released an independent film, Noel, in the Flexplay format. Copies of the film are still available on Amazon.com for $5 plus shipping. Whaley said the company is talking with retail partners and content providers, and plans to roll out additional titles later in 2005. She declined to be more specific.
Environmentalists criticized Disney for releasing its films on EZ-D, charging that the product would lead to unnecessary waste in landfills. They didn’t buy the argument that movie fans looking for convenience would take the time to send their expired DVDs to a recycling center.
A spokesman for Buena Vista Home Entertainment, the division of Disney that released the films, confirmed that its disposable DVD pilot program is over. He said they are now evaluating what they want to do next.
“It looks like the technology has been set back, at least for now,” said Robin Schneider, executive director of Texas Campaign for the Environment. “This is just a bad idea. I’m glad to see that both the customers and the studio … have not responded very favorably to it.”
Whaley said the Convex Group is aware of the environmental concerns about disposable DVDs and is making an effort to address them. The company refers its customers to GreenDisk, a company that recycles DVDs and CDs.
The Convex Group is also developing a way to include permanent content on a DVD in addition to the short-lived movie. Whaley said the company hopes to include an interactive game tied to the movie, a music video or a trailer that a customer would want to save.
Schneider said the argument to buy an EZ-D to avoid late fees doesn’t really apply anymore, now that one of the largest DVD rental shops, Blockbuster, has nixed its late fees. Netflix, another popular rental service, never charged late fees.
The EZ-Ds didn’t sell particularly well, either. Officials in a number of the stores that carried the EZ-D said the price was too high — about $7 — for a product that self-destructs.
“They just kind of quietly disappeared,” said Tom Mullen, store director for Cub Foods in Peoria, Illinois, one of Disney’s eight test markets around the country. “One day they were gone, and I haven’t heard anything about them since.”