By Ed Oswald | Thursday, December 24, 2009 at 11:45 am
I think Sony’s finally gotten the picture: either drop your prices, or forget about Blu-ray ever catching on. Data from NPD is showing that player sales in 2009 stand to increase 54 percent over last year, thanks in part to an effort to bring player costs down to near the $100 price point ($79 at Walmart Black Friday) for the holiday shopping season. Consumers now can reliably find a player for under $200, something that was somewhat difficult this time last year.
Player costs have dropped at about the same rate as DVDs did, falling from a high of $800 at launch in 2006 to an average cost of $221 on Black Friday according to research firm Envisioneering Group. Chief among the reasons for the drop appear to be a marked drop in component costs, allowing prices to fall.
However, the deep discounts on Black Friday seem to be significantly more than what happened with DVDs, and probably has a lot to do with a realization that time is running out for Blu-ray.
Let’s face it: the format probably has one more Christmas season — two at most — before streaming media becomes a serious competitor in delivering high-definition to the home. Already, companies are moving along with their plans (take Apple’s rumored television service for example), and I feel I can say with some confidence that by Christmas 2011 there is going to be quite a solid fooprint for ultra-fast broadband, i.e. fiber optic to the home and the like.
Streaming HD is the next logical big thing — the overhead costs are far lower than producing discs and the players that play them: all that is missing is the capable broadband connection. It’s coming, however, and should be here sooner than we think. The window is closing for Blu-ray and its closing fast. It may have won the battle against HD DVD, but in all likelihood its going to lose the war.
One positive that may keep Blu-ray around longer? Internet integration. Most of the players coming out these days offer more and more net-enabled functionality, such as the ability to use Netflix and so forth. This is essential as the shift to streaming media continues. But it may already be too late, and the format’s fate sealed. Whether or not this was Sony’s fault is something that will certainly be debated in the years to come.