Many films and TV series are so bad as to be unwatchable. But a new kind of DVD has a curious twist: It’s intentionally unwatchable. Flexplay, a Manhattan company, has developed chemically treated, limited-play DVDs that may change the way you rent videos.
The discs are created using an oxygen-activated chemical, and are shipped in vacuum-sealed packages. Once the disc is exposed to air, the chemical starts working; 48 hours later, it turns black, and the DVD player can’t read it anymore.
Studios have already begun using the discs, since, with such a short life span, they’re less likely to land in the hands of piracy rings. HBO sent reviewers copies of its new comedy Entourage with a warning label explaining that in 48 hours the disc would commit hara-kiri.
But Flexplay founder Yannis Bakos says the disc wasn’t created as an anti-piracy tool. (It can, of course, be copied while it’s still viewable.) Flexplay’s original idea was to challenge Blockbuster by offering disposable rentals. With help from Flexplay, Disney recently rolled out an “ez-D” demo service at 7-Elevens: Buy a movie for $5.99 and throw it out (or recycle it) when it dies. If it’s successful, the impact could be huge: Your rental economy will self-destruct in 48 hours.