Compact disc

No More CDs: Netflix Split Accelerates The Death Of The Compact Disc

It’s not something you think about most of the time. In fact, it’s almost taken for granted: the days of the compact disc as a viable medium for music are almost over. Oh, I’m not telling you anything you don’t know. You use iTunes, or something like that. You’ve probably purchased music online and know, for better or worse, what music-related torrent files are.

But you haven’t heard everything. For example, this editorial in the October 2011 issue of sound on sound suggests that the disappearance of the CD has everything to do with… Netflix?

(CONTINUED: Why Netflix’s Price Rise Doesn’t Bother Me)

Yes, Netflix. As you know, Netflix recently increased the price of its combined monthly streaming and DVD rental fee from $10 to $16. Consumers, primarily those who had no idea what they were getting (and still getting), in terms of value, panicked. But the writing is on the wall: DVD rentals are on the way out, unlimited streaming (which costs just $8 a month with Netflix) is the way to go.

or like sound on soundDan Daley of explains: “The higher fees for the DVD option reflect the higher cost of manufacturing, shipping and managing the physical media, and now that the two formats are so distinctly delineated, it will likely hasten the death of optical discs, including CDs, as an entertainment distribution format.”

How are the two related? Simple economies of scale. Retail record rentals are in permanent decline, CD sales are half of what they were 10 years ago and now Netflix, which was shipping a million video discs a day, has laid out a plan to basically rein in its optical media shippers. This, according to Daley, “will serve to further depress the optical disc manufacturing base, which has already seen global manufacturing capacity decline precipitously.”

“While consumers angrily lambaste Netflix for the price hike,” he continues, “the economic reasons for this move are clear: streaming a file is much cheaper than making and sending a file. a disc that will eventually wear out from handling and exposure, and cause consumers to ditch discs in favor of files will be very good for long term results.

And as demand for DVDs plummets, so will optical media manufacturing plants. It’s the kind of inverse compound interest that accrues across thresholds – never neat and orderly or precisely predictable in terms of timing, but we’re well past the event horizon here and just waiting for the long rotation of the dead.

In fact, for some, the time has already come. Ford car manufacturer admitted a few months ago that it would completely remove CD players from its vehicle fleet, moving to – what else? – a USB-based audio interface.

CONTINUED: Netflix signs on DreamWorks, but is it enough?

Matt Peckham is a journalist at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @mattpeckham Where on Facebook. You can also continue the discussion on TIMEit’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.