DVD content is a lot better than VHS content. The sound and video are higher quality, they can contain interesting extras, and you can easily skip around. But they scratch easily, and once a scratch gets bad enough it’s impossible to play the area of the DVD that’s scratched. I can work around that problem for my personal DVDs by being careful with them. Rental DVDs, on the other hand, often are already scratched so badly that they won’t play the entire movie without problems. I suspect that the movie rental industry is still stuck in a VHS mindset, because everywhere I’ve rented from has this problem.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Instead of renting out the same disc over and over again, getting more and more scratched with each rental, it would be simple to burn a new DVD every 10 rentals. Blank DVDs cost $0.40 each. DVD burners cost $40. Slap four of them in a $500 computer, for a total cost of $660. Let’s say that setup can burn 4 DVDs in 15 minutes. In the best case, every DVD in circulation needs to be burned again once every 10 days. That means you can have 1280 DVDs in your collection. (This assumes that you’re just burning DVDs 8 hours a day. Most stores are open longer than that, and it shouldn’t be a large burden on the clerk to have to pop in new DVDs every 15 minutes.) Pessimistically, you’ll have to replace the computer and burners every 2 years. That cost is $0.26 per DVD per year in your collection. Since we’re assuming your DVDs are rented out every day, that’s just a cost of much less than a penny per rental. Since you burn a new DVD every 10 rentals, that adds 4 cents to the cost of your rental. As it is I probably complain about 1 out of 20 times I rent a DVD for a refund of my $2.70. That’s a cost of $0.13 per rental. Far greater than what I’m proposing here.
There are 2 obstacles to implementing this scheme. First, a burned DVD is not a true DVD. It will not play in all DVD video players. Give the consumer a choice at rental time whether they want the non-scratched burned one, or a scratched original. Maybe make some money on the side selling a DVD player guaranteed to work with the movies you rent. The other problem is that the movie industry will probably throw a fit if you propose this. Their current game seems to be absolute control over their content, and having a video store make copies (even if the source is properly secured or destroyed) does not fit with that. I have no answer to that besides telling them to lighten up.
Meanwhile, I’m still considering buying a VHS player so that I can rent a movie with the guarantee that I’ll actually be able to watch the whole thing.