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‘Avatar’ a Wasted Opportunity?

13 May, 2010 By: John Latchem

Wow. James Cameron’s surprising box office bonanza Avatar has sold 20 million discs, 6.2 million of those being the Blu-ray version to set a record for the format.

Let me put it another way. Avatar has sold 20 million DVDs, with 6.2 million consumers wisely choosing to spend a couple extra bucks to get the set that includes an extra disc with a Blu-ray copy.

See the difference?

The huge sales (three straight weeks at No. 1 and unlikely to change for a fourth) indicate such strong demand that I think had the only version available been the Blu-ray/DVD combo pack it still would have sold exceptionally well. Plus, it would have forced consumers to confront their lack of knowledge of Blu-ray Disc.

OK, maybe that’s utopian thinking on my part, since in my experience most consumers seem rather rube-ish about technical issues. Just look at some of the negative PR Disney took by putting a Snow White Blu-ray in a DVD-style case last year.

BUT, you don’t let 13 million people off the hook by letting them buy the lower-quality DVD version of a movie that really needs to be seen in HD. (I am not going to get into the bigger flaw with the Avatar release strategy, namely a complete lack of a bonus disc or any extras in the initial release).

The marketing strategy for Blu-ray has been to push it as a premium product, with a combo pack offering a bonus disc of the DVD. I say reverse that logic, and get those stuck in standard-def to think of combo packs as DVDs that also contain a Blu-ray Disc (Fox and MGM have started to do this with some of their catalog titles). I think if more studios adopted a strategy of only releasing combo packs for new movies, the late-adopters to Blu-ray would still get their DVD, plus start building a pile of Blu-ray Discs that may just spark their curiosity about the format enough to finally splurge on the $120 for a decent but low-end BD player.

The faster consumers get on board with Blu-ray, the better things will be for packaged media in the long run.

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