A new report emerged on social media yesterday, claiming that Warner Bros. Home Entertainment intended to phase physical media out, beginning in earnest in 2022. The comments, from animation historian Jerry Beck, singled out Warner’s print-on-demand service, Warner Archive, but went one step further and suggested that changes are coming to Warner’s home entertainment options line-wide. Beck’s comments specifically addressed Looney Tunes and other animation projects, which he frequently collaborates with the studio on, but suggested a larger change at the corporate level, which seems to be how most of the people reading the comments on Twitter are taking it.
While Beck is not a representative of WarnerMedia, fans are taking his word pretty seriously, since he has close ties to the Warner Archive site, where collections like a recent anthology of Tex Avery cartoons featured collaboratiosn with Beck. A source who spoke with ComicBook about the claims conceded that while the marketplace is always changing, but said that Beck’s claims are overly pessimistic, and that there are no plans in place at present that would spell an end to DVD and Blu-ray releases.
Here’s Beck’s comments for context, presented as two separate statements, since that’s how they appeared in the original tweet:
“As of now, there are no plans to commemorate Daffy or Tweety’s anniversaries next year — or ever. The company is slowly transitioning away form physical media. There are NO plans for any classic cartoons on DVD or Blu-ray that I know of (except for one project we are in the middle of which may come out later this year…or not). Anything is possible…we’ll just have to wait and see.”
“It includes both Warner Archive and regular Warner Home Video [sic]. You’ll still see some new releases from both during the rest of 2021 — but those were planned out last year. Next year (2022) is when this year’s changes will be felt. Yes, the Tex Avery sets sold well enough for the low overhead Archive Collection division. But in the big picture, it’s peanuts…and the focus over there is now on streaming (HBO Max).”
Warner Home Entertainment stopped using the “Home Video” name in 2016.
The shift toward digital is very real, of course, but there is still a large market for DVD and Blu-ray, especially in parts of the world where high speed internet is not as realiable or as universally used. Warner’s animation divisions sell hundreds of thousands of DVDs a year to Walmart alone, who regularly features Scooby-Doo, Looney Tunes, DC animation, and The Flintstones as part of their static home entertainment display in stores across the coutnry.