Home > Views > Industry Views > The Fourth Quarter Has Arrived

The Fourth Quarter Has Arrived

Oct 8th, 2008
Here comes the Blu-ray push

Loyalty Program

Sony has taken the lead to promote the acceptance of the Blu-ray Disc format. Its electronics division lowered its prices on the newly introduced Profile 2.0 BDP-S350 and BDP-S550 players to $300 and $400 respectively. Orders at Amazon shot up 200% for the BDP-S350, currently offered for $268. And the discontinued Profile 1.0 BDP-S300 is currently being offered by Amazon at only $195. These are very attractive prices indeed.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment announced that it has established a Blu-ray Disc loyalty program to coincide with the BD Live Blu-ray Disc release of You Don’t Mess With The Zohan. It’s a simple bonus point earning offer. You purchase BD Live enabled Sony Blu-ray movies and register your purchases at a special website where you had set up your account.  As you register each of your BD Live enabled BDs, you accumulate points that you can redeem for all kinds of Sony products and prizes.

I took a quick look and found the rate of return to be quite modest, but Sony did just knock a substantial amount off the SRPs of its two Profile 2.0 players. Each purchased BD is worth 100 points; for a free Blu-ray Disc, you’ll need between twenty and thirty-eight such purchases. Electronics and CDs are also available. Want a high definition camcorder? Simply buy eight hundred BD Live enabled BDs. For such a long term rewards program to make sense, I have to assume that Sony expects this program and Blu-ray Disc to last for many years to give participants the opportunity to accumulate sufficient points to take advantage of the rewards. There will also be sweepstakes offered on the site; maybe you’ll get lucky.

Player Sales Predictions

NPD Group predicts that sales of dedicated Blu-ray Disc players will triple in 2008 and double in 2009 as prices drop, more BD titles are released, and the installed base of high definition televisions and displays grows. HDTVs are expected to represent 50% of all televisions shipped in 2008 and 80% sold in 2011. The consumer research firm estimates that 2.38 million Blu-ray Disc players will be sold worldwide this year and 5.31 million in 2009. By 2010, the PS3 game console will no longer dominate the BD player installed base; dedicated players will. On an aggregate level, the five millionth BD player will very likely be sold before the end of the year.

What I find most interesting about the last number is that for the same period in the early life of DVD, only 4.4 million players were sold in Region 1. This would seem to confirm the Blu-Ray Disc Association’s assertion that BD player sales are running ahead of DVD player historical sales.

Shocking Lack Of Consumer Awareness

The industry is going to have to do better to capture the general public’s attention and to establish Blu-ray Disc as the new home media standard. NPD also reported the results of a recent survey in which 39% of high definition consumers say they’ve not heard of Blu-ray Disc.  (28% were slightly familiar, 18% somewhat familiar, and 16% very familiar.) That’s pitiful. I think it’s time for some serious advertising during high definition television broadcasts and cablecasts, perhaps with a split screen showing the dramatic difference between the 1080 and 480 formats.

The Inexpensive Player

Memorex announced a full-featured Blu-ray Disc player to be introduced in November with a $269 SRP. I believe that makes this player the least costly based on suggested retail price. The player is model MVBD-2510 and will support Profile 1.1, which allows viewing Bonus View picture-in-picture supplements. This is a clear compromise between functionality and price point. Discounted, the cost will be even lower, perhaps approaching $200. Not bad for a Profile 1.1 machine.

So, is $200 the magic threshold that will take us to the tipping point? In a recent online survey asking whether a $200 BD player would be inexpensive enough to motivate a sale, the respondents answered:

Yes: 21.8%
I already own a BD player: 35.5%
I think I’ll wait for the price to drop more: 28.0%
I'm not interested regardless of price: 9.0%
Other: 5.7%

I have no idea about the demographics of the respondents, but if 22% of consumers buy a BD player between now and the end of the year, existing sales prediction will become entirely too conservative. That’s true even if one factors in the consumer awareness numbers I described above.

The Bizarre Five Year Comment

Samsung's UK director of consumer electronics Andy Griffiths was quoted as saying, “I think [Blu-ray] has five years left, I certainly wouldn't give it ten.” He made the comment without qualification; he didn’t hint at what he believes will be the dominant deliver vector for HD in five years.

I wasn’t the only one who found his comment to be a bit odd. Sony Senior Vice President Rick Clancy shot back that Blu-ray Disc should last for at least ten years. Considering the infrastructure required to establish a BD-quality Internet-based, on-demand delivery service of motion pictures, I’d estimate that BD will be around for at least fifteen years, perhaps twenty.

Even more bizarre were Griffiths’ comments concerning other manufacturers delivering inferior BD players, “Maybe they need better engineers.” Consider that Samsung gave BD an early black eye by marketing a player with an improperly programmed video chip that softened the image and made Blu-ray Discs look worse than HD DVDs. What an extremely strange comment for him to make.


I’ve written on several occasions that I thought the best approach for true 3D at high definition resolutions in full color should be achieved with the application of shuttered LCD glasses synchronized with IR transmissions to alternating left-right video frames produced by the player. I also suggested that to make the system as compatible as possible with existing displays, 720p should be used for an acceptable 60 frame per second signal source (30 frames per second for each eye). And I previously reported that working committees have been established to consider the available technologies and ultimately to expand the Blu-ray Disc standards to embrace 3D presentations.

Panasonic decided to demonstrate a proof of concept 3D Blu-ray Disc technique at the CEATEC Show in Japan. It is a variation on the concept I suggested, and Panasonic is planning on submitting the technical specifications to the Blu-ray Disc Association for its consideration.

The Panasonic demo requires a display capable of accepting 60 1920x1080 frames per second. The active 3D glasses used in the demo are manufactured by XPAND. A disadvantage is that luminance is reduced to approximately 25% of a conventional 2D high definition presentation. The source was a 50 Gbyte dual-layer Blu-ray Disc with the content compressed with the AVC video CODEC.

The technique takes advantage of Blu-ray Discs ability to display PiP information. Apparently, one eye’s images are stored as full resolution PiP, but the display alternates the frames rather than displaying them as windows in the same frame.

With the motion picture industry ramping up interest in 3D to lure viewers back into the theater, BD is ripe for a 3D expansion in its standards. I, for one, am really looking forward to James Cameron’s Avatar displayed in 3D in my home theater.

Oscar Screeners

A hopeful and healthy sign of the times… I was intrigued to learn that Warner Bros. will be offering Academy members the option of Blu-ray Disc screeners rather than traditional watermarked standard definition DVDs. This may give The Dark Knight’s Heath Ledger an additional advantage; many expect him to be nominated posthumously for his remarkable portrayal of The Joker.

Director Christopher Nolan was reported to have said that the aspect ratio of the screeners will change dynamically. The IMAX sequences will fill the entire 1.78:1 frame, while the other sequences will remain in the 2.40:1 aspect ratio. It will be interesting to discover if the commercial release of The Dark Knight also features such aspect ratio manipulations.

Parting Thoughts

I remain very bullish on Blu-ray. The only factor that may slow what should be an accelerating adoption rate is uncertainty in the economy and the impact the current economic crisis may have on consumer confidence. But despite the dire economic situation, with a more intelligent approach by government with the imposition of regulations to prevent future abuses, I’m confident the economy will bounce back, perhaps as early as mid-2009. BD adoption may be slowed by belt-tightening, but it will not be stopped. BD shall become the preferred vector for film viewed at home.

Comments (0)

Leave a comment

smaller | bigger