Disney has now proved that just because a show debuts on a streaming platform, doesn’t mean it necessarily has to stay there. That’s because the House of Mouse is releasing Steelbooks for WandaVision, Loki season 1, and The Mandalorian seasons 1 and 2 later this year.
Unlike the previous Steelbook edition of WandaVision, which was quickly proven to be a phony product, these four releases will include the shows on discs — 4K UHD discs, to be precise, complete with all the bonus materials you’d expect. Disney-owned Hulu also recently announced that Prey would be getting the same treatment.
All four Steelbooks will apparently be available to pre-order starting August 28, though prices haven’t been revealed. Loki will arrive on September 26, followed by WandaVision on November 28. Mandalorian seasons 1 and 2 will arrive together on December 12, but will no doubt be sold separately.
Streaming to DVD does happen, but not often enough
It’s not uncommon for streaming exclusives to be released to physical formats, be it DVD, Blu-ray or 4K Blu-ray. Even Stranger Things, arguably one of the biggest shows still going on Netflix, has seen its first three seasons released on DVD and Blu-ray.
But the process is far from consistent. There’s never any guarantee that a show will make the jump to disc, and even then you won’t always get everything. Bojack Horseman has six seasons on Netflix, but only two of those seasons ever got an official DVD and Blu-ray release.
One could argue that the fact a show is a streaming original means it’s not going anywhere. If you ever want to watch, you just need to sign up and watch at your leisure. That means streamers have a vested interest in not selling content on a piece-by-piece basis, since they can use it to entice you into an ongoing subscription.
The problem is that, these days, there is no longer a guarantee that a streaming-exclusive show will stick around for you to watch after its initial run. Disney Plus, Paramount Plus, Max, and others have all pulled original content over the past several months. Netflix faced a ton of backlash after the announcement that Arrested Development, whose fourth and fifth seasons were exclusive to the platform, was set to be removed. (This decision was later reversed.)
Streaming subscribers have become used to losing and gaining content on a regular basis, but in the past, all that content was physically available in other places. For shows and movies made specifically for one platform or another, that’s not the case.
The Willow TV show is one great example, having been canceled and pulled from Disney Plus within a few months of its finale. The disappearance of the original movie Crater after just 48 days also drew criticism. Those shows haven’t been sold off to other platforms, as was the case with the likes of HBO's Westworld, and the lack of a home video option means they are now impossible to watch legally.
Disney apparently still sees value on home media
It’s interesting to see Disney Plus release three of its biggest shows to Blu-ray, seeing as how it recently suspended all DVD and Blu-ray sales in Australia. Back in 2020, it was also reported that the company would reduce the number of 4K Blu-ray releases, in favor of adding those movies to Disney Plus.
Seeing as how streaming has become the dominant way we watch content, and sales of all physical media have been in decline for years, you can understand why a company might want to push for a digital-only system — especially when there are streaming subscriptions to be sold.
Then again, there are still people out there who buy physical media, including me. Those of us that do know full well that digital content isn’t permanent and can be pulled without warning, and that physical discs offer considerably better quality than their streaming counterparts — especially in 4K.
And some people just like owning stuff and putting it on a shelf to look at. I consider myself to fall in all three camps, but the latter is why I have a habit of buying Steelbooks when they catch my eye. Disney has now realized that money can be made from people like me, selling shiny editions of TV shows I could already watch using my Disney Plus account.
The masses may not be buying Blu-rays and Steelbooks, but there’s still a niche market for selling video on discs. And people who are into niche stuff are also more than willing to spend money on it. Just look at the extremes people who buy vinyl records can go to and you’ll see what I mean.
Disney already gets my money for Disney Plus, but now it’s tempting me to spend even more to add to my ever-expanding Blu-ray collection.
I only hope that these four shows don’t get released in a vacuum. There are plenty more shows on Disney Plus that haven’t hit home media yet, and while they don’t all deserve the luxury Steelbook treatment, they do deserve a chance at permanent life in physical home media, lest they end up like Willow once people stop watching them in any great numbers.
Sadly, there is every chance that Disney will only be doing this with its biggest shows — and several years after those shows debut. They'll release physical editions of the titles everyone has seen and that Blu-ray collectors will have a vested interest in purchasing. Because let’s be honest — if Willow did so badly it was pulled from Disney Plus, it's probably not going to captivate people on home media either.
We’re going to have to see how this plays out, but I am hopeful that this means more streaming shows could come to Blu-ray and DVD — and in greater numbers than what we’ve had previously.