Flexplay Was A Bizarre DVD Technology That Self-Destructed

Although the days of video rental are undeniably over, at its height it was one of the most popular ways to watch a movie. There were many movies people didn't necessarily want to own, but still wanted to watch, so renting them was the inexpensive choice. However, there was always the issue of having to return the DVD back to the store. People frequently lost or forgot about them, but for the most part, this didn't deter video rental services from continuing, especially once returning DVDs got easier with mail-order rental services — such as in the early days of Netflix or easily accessible Redbox machines. 

One company, though, wondered if cutting out the return process entirely would be a successful idea. In order to do this, they concocted a special DVD that, after a few days, would be completely unplayable and destruct itself. This brand of DVDs became known as Flexplay. 

What were Flexplay DVDs?

Flexplay Technologies was the company behind the Flexplay discs, a unique DVD that was only able to be played for two days. As soon as the DVD came in contact with oxygen, it reacted to the bonding resin inside, beginning the process of turning the DVD from red to black. Once it turns black, the DVD can no longer be read, rendering it useless. This is the idea of a "no-return DVD" where viewers could simply throw it out once they've watched it. 

This, as one might expect, didn't make as much of an impact on the video rental market as Flexplay Technologies may have hoped. They trialed them in 2003 and 2004, partnering with Disney to use some of their titles (via USA Today). This allowed Flexplay to reach well over 2,000 businesses, but eventually many of them began to discontinue selling Flexplay discs due to disinterest, as reported by Wired. Environmentalists also took issue with the brand, citing the massive amounts of waste that Flexplay rentals would cause. 

However, it took a while before the company allowed these strange DVDs to die. Flexplay Technologies attempted to relaunch their DVDs in 2008 with office-supply store Staples (via Museum of Obsolete Media), but this avenue didn't pan out either, as the store pulled the discs from shelves after just a few months.