Shelf space

Streaming shows The Mandalorian, Loki, and Wandavision are getting a physical release

Shelf space
Image: Andrew Liptak

Back in May, Disney announced that it was pulling a handful of its streaming shows from its catalog, following the likes of HBO Max and others as they worked to downsize the amount of debt they were carrying around. There have been a bunch of shows that I had on my to-watch list that have since been pulled. I was able to finish up Willow in time, but I missed the last episode of Star Trek Prodigy's first season, the entirety of Westworld Season 4, and the entirety of AMC's Pantheon and Moonhaven.

For years, we've become accustomed to streaming services serving as these de facto endless shelves of on-demand content. Sure, Netflix would have stuff come and go, but that was sort of expected, given that it was just licensing those shows. The abrupt removal of original programming designed as an enticement to sign up for the services was a harsh wakeup call that that was no longer the case, and it reminded us of the value of physical media. I've written about this a bit before: I've got a closet full of DVD and Blu Ray discs that serves as an excellent catalog of shows and movies that I have at my fingertips, including some that I've never come across on a streaming service, like Dragonslayer, Evolution, Forbidden Planet, Titan A.E., and others.

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But as we've seen the rise of this new category of original streaming programming, I've got gaps in that collection: I haven't been able to find copies of shows like The Mandalorian or Andor (not that my collection of Star Wars films is complete: I don't have the prequels, Rise of Skywalker, Rebels, most of Clone Wars, and some others), and if I ever stop subscribing to Disney+, I'll lose access to them.

That appears as though it won't be the case: according to The Wrap (h/t to Max Covill of It's the Pictures), Disney is going to be releasing physical editions of the first seasons of its Marvel shows Loki and Wandavision, as well as The Mandalorian's first two seasons. They'll be out September 26th, November 28th, and December 12th, respectively, with preorders starting next week.

I'm happy to see it: I'll certainly be picking up The Mandalorian, and I hope that others, like Andor, will follow down the road. In doing so, the company has followed the likes of Paramount, which has consistently been releasing physical home releases of its streaming Star Trek shows for a couple of years now: I've picked up a handful over time, and right after Prodigy was yanked, I snagged the Blu Ray, and I've made a mental note to grab Strange New Worlds season 1 when I see it next.

This feels like an important development in this particular phase of the streaming wars. With the shows that have been yanked for business purposes, we're all of a sudden deprived of access to these works: stories that crews and actors worked incredibly hard to produce. With the click of a bunch of buttons, they're now gone until they're returned to public (or subscriber) access. Having a physical copy of the show or film helps keep it circulating, either in private hands, or within libraries or archives. I saw plenty of tweets from creators saying that when those shows went, they also lost access to them: they were never provided with a physical copy of the project they worked on.

Removal doesn't just affect streaming subscribers: it's a problem in the gaming world as well: back in March, Nintendo closed down its WiiU and 3DS stores, eliminating access to hundreds of games that were only available through those outlets. Game archivists spent thousands of dollars to snap up copies before they were gone forever.

It's a depressed state of affairs, given the impact that streaming has had on the home video market. There are a lot of reasons for that! I don't dip into my closet o' movies all that often when I'm looking for something to watch, even though it's just a couple of steps away from our TV. It's far easier to scroll through the menus on any of the streaming services we subscribe to.

Physical media is also one of those additional expenses, and there's more of a direct like of access for the smaller-budget indie games and movies with streaming. Hopefully, the removal of a bunch of these shows has reinforced the need for there to be at least some business rationale for keeping home releases around, if anything, for the security that they provide by taking a little space on a shelf: you'll have it on hand when you can't find it online.