Blu-ray Might Have Won the Battle, But It’s Losing the War

By  |  Thursday, June 18, 2009 at 2:16 pm

blu-ray-logo-thumb-200x200Polling from research firm Harris released on Thursday paints a not so rosy picture for Blu-ray, the winning high definition optical disc format. In fact, more than a year after it “won” over HD DVD, it still trails its now-defunct competitor by several percentage points. That has to have some at Sony a little concerned.

Harris says 7 percent of Americans own a Blu-ray player, up from 4 percent a year ago. Compare this to HD DVD’s performance, which is actually up 5 percent from 2008 to 11 percent. How could a format that doesn’t even exist anymore do better than one that does? Simple answer — price.

Since HD DVDs fall, prices on Blu-ray players have changed little. Similarly, media remains expensive. I chuckle when passing by the Blu-ray section: most films are still retailing for $25-30 in many cases, which seems high given the current state of the economy.

Players are also expensive — generally remaining above $200. There are a few now below that, but most are not. Like many have said, high-def disc just isn’t enough of a change for most to justify the premium.

There’s worse news down the pike. Only 7 percent of respondents say they plan to buy a Blu-ray player in the next year, which is actually down two points from 2008.

I don’t see how Blu-ray ends up winning this battle. With streaming media continuing to become more popular, and the technology behind it improving, the format’s window of opportunity is closing.

Streaming, on-demand media is the future of entertainment. Physical media is not. I wonder how many inside Sony are regretting now not trying to work with HD DVD and avoiding the format war.

Sony may have won against HD DVD, but it seems to be losing with the consumer.



10 Comments For This Post

  1. Dave Barnes Says:

    DVDs of older movies are $5-7 at the checkout end cap at Target.

  2. Benji J K Says:

    The only way would be (and they’ll hopefully, eventually figure this out) to lower prices down to regular dvd prices. Vendors like Netflix and Redbox have brought down dvd prices so low, that I consider anyone still paying $4 for a moving as plain stupid and loaded. Bring bluray down to a $1 and I might consider spending on a bluray player. DVDs are still great enough quality for me.

  3. Evan Says:

    I just got a PS3, and sitting across the room (probably 10-15 away), the difference between Blu-ray and DVD is almost unnoticeable on a 46 inch screen. Color me unimpressed.

  4. Jerry Cheney Says:

    I still believe in Blu-ray and have enjoyed the improved visual and sound clarity. The prices for the players are coming down and with the switch to digital TV more HD sets are out there as a market. The stumbling block is the price disparity which makes Blu-rays $10 more per title than DVDs and for that there are times when there is less additional content on Blu-ray then on DVD. Put more value-added content on disks and bring prices down and more people will make the switch. There are advantages to disks which will keep & add consumers if peope fell “it’s worth it.”

  5. Rockster Says:

    The Harris poll was clearly flawed, look at the responses and the number of people who counted the PS3 as their HD DVD player. Come on, didn’t the fact that the number of HD DVD players nearly doubled when most retailers stopped selling them 8 months ago, and the ones that still sell them do so at full retail (Amazon has the A30 at $300) set off some alarm bells? What about the fact there’s been less than 10 new HD DVD movies released in the last 12 months.

    Mr. Oswatt clearly got caught asleep at the switch on this one. Less time chuckling in the aisles, more time checking sources seems to be the order of the day. Perhaps as a follow up piece he could explain why the market for digital movie delivery only grew 50% last year and is still considerably smaller than that for Blu Ray, even if VOD on traditional cable is included?

  6. pond Says:

    I see reports like this all the time. ‘Physical media is doomed.’ I don’t buy it.

    The telco and cableco monopolies will be doing whatever they can to choke video streaming and downloads. the bitrate on those downloaded files will be a tenth of what blu-ray offers. prices will come down on the players.

    finally, tv shows will favor the blu-ray over dvds, simply because a seaon’s worth of episodes can be crammed onto 1 or 2 blu-ray discs.

    Evan’s comment is the most troubling to those favoring blu-ray. If indeed even on a 46″ HDTV a viewer can’t see the difference between high bitrate 1080p and lower-bitrate 480p, then truly blu-ray isn’t going to make it until the CE industry stops making dvd players, and content owners stop releasing on dvd. Neither seems likely so long as the installed dvd base is so huge.

  7. Bill Sheppard Says:

    This survey appears not to have clearly distinguished between upsampled DVD and HD DVD in the questions, which would result in the absurd “findings” claimed here. As Rockster points out HD DVD players are essentially non-existent at retail, and there are no major recent releases. It’s simply not credible to suggest HD DVD has sold more units in the last year than Blu-ray, and Harris should be ashamed for not doing a better job in creating the survey and interpreting the results.

  8. JDoors Says:

    Things would have been very different if Sony had spent millions of dollars on getting a decent product into consumers hands instead of using that money to bribe studios to prematurely select Blu-ray as the standard. Expensive players, slow loading, lack of promised features, expensive content that requires entirely new manufacturing facilities, delicate discs, confusion over formats and needed hardware upgrades, and on and on. What a marketing disaster. Sony loses, studios lose, hardware manufacturers lose, and consumers lose. Good job there, Sony. At least your name will live on in all the business/marketing courses that are sure to describe just what you did wrong.

  9. Marc Says:

    I think people are just fed up with buying the same films over again… DVD is good enough, expectantly with upscaling.

  10. Milt R. Smith Says:

    So Harris found that HD DVD player sales increased more than Blu-Ray player sales in the last 12 months? That would mean HD DVD sold about 4 times as many players in the last year than it did in the whole two years before it died? We know from DIG that about 2.5 million Blu-Ray standalones sold between Feb 2008 and Feb 2009, so who do they think is making all these HD DVD players? Or are they suggesting Toshiba stockpiled about 4 million before pulling the plug. If Blu-Ray take-up is so low, how come movie sales are regularly making up 10-20% of new DVD sales?

    Extrapolate the poll group out to the population of the USA and that’s about 35 million HD DVD owners. Who are they trying to kid?

    The poll allowed confusion between what a HD DVD player is, that much is obvious. There’s something very fishy about that poll, anyone with a brain in their head should see it.

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