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Kids Going Blu Too

20 Aug, 2010 By: Chris Tribbey

Blu-ray Disc consumers aren’t just audiophiles and videophiles. They’re parents too.

First led by studios that specialized in family entertainment, such as Disney and DreamWorks Animation, more studios are taking a chance with children’s fare on Blu-ray.

“We understand it’s an emerging market trend,” said Kristin Moss, VP of marketing at Lionsgate. “Children’s always tends to lag behind in home entertainment trends, from VHS to DVD and DVD to Blu-ray.”

Content owners are just looking at the data. Recent data from ABI Research has worldwide Blu-ray player shipments more than doubling between 2009 and the end of 2010, with 18% of TV-owning households in North America having a player by the end of the year. In 2011 ABI forecasts more than 62.5 million players being shipped.

A late-2009 study by The Nielsen Co. found that American children ages 2-11 spend 28 hours or more watching TV, and kids 2-5 spend more than 4.5 hours a week watching something on a DVD player. A Kaiser Family Foundation study from January found more than 71% of 8- to 18-year-olds have a TV in their bedroom, and 54% have a DVD or VHS player.

Tons of those households have children, something Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment understood in the early days of the format, packaging Blu-rays, DVDs and digital copies together for Pixar and classic animations. Disney at one point even recruited Dylan and Cole Sprouse from “The Suite Life of Zack & Cody” for a short commercial about Blu-ray, noting its benefits, including how much more scratch-resistant it is compared with DVD.

“We recognized families are experiencing Disney content on multiple platforms and in various places — in the home, in the car and on mobile devices,” said Gabrielle Chamberlin, SVP of product management for Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment. “We’ve had great results with our combo pack strategy and we believe it has played a big part in the adoption of the Blu-ray format among families.”

In 2009 Disney launched its new “Diamond Collection” series of Blu-rays, a collection of some of the studio’s best-known titles, including The Lion King, Bambi, Cinderella and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Earlier this year, Bob Iger, president and CEO of The Walt Disney Co., said 68% of the revenue earned from Snow White’s six-week sellthrough window in 2009 was attributable to Blu-ray, making it the No. 1 high-def title of the year.

“So, clearly there’s been some continued growth of Blu-ray in the marketplace,” Iger said at the time.

It’s not just big-name new and catalog theatrical releases that do well on Blu-ray.

“Nontheatrical family and animation on Blu-ray is absolutely a growth category,” said Amit Desai, VP of family, animation and partner brands marketing for Warner Home Video. “Year-to-date, the category is up 20.8% vs. year-ago, and Warner is proud to be the No. 1 studio in this category with 70% market share.”

He said that in 2010 so far Warner has had four of the top five selling nontheatrical family and animation Blu-ray titles, with Halo Legends, Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, Batman: Under the Red Hood and Star Wars: The Clone Wars — The Complete Season One.

“Growth in the family Blu-ray market is evidence of the fact that Blu-ray has reached the mainstream market and will continue to grow as families replace the several DVD players they have in their house,” Desai said. “Also, BD players are not only found in the living room but are now moving into kids rooms as well.”

Warner, like other studios, has found success packaging DVDs and digital copies with Blu-rays, allowing families to view their favorite titles most everywhere.

“Our overriding goal is to identify content that we know will appeal to Blu-ray consumers,” Desai said. “We started out by releasing action-adventure content on Blu ray, focusing on fanboy franchises such as DC Comics, ‘Lord of the Rings,’ ‘Halo’ and ‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars.’”

Warner has even dug into the catalog to find family titles suitable for Blu-ray, including several “Peanuts” titles (It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, Sept. 7, and A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and Peanuts Holiday Collection, Oct. 5).  In the future, look for Blu-rays of “Scooby-Doo” and “Tom and Jerry,” Desai said.

Pointing to research that shows roughly 25 million Blu-ray households, Lionsgate’s Moss said it was the “perfect strategic opportunity” to go after the preschool Blu-ray homes, releasing Thomas & Friends: Misty Island Rescue The Movie as a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack Sept. 7.

“There are parents with preschoolers, and we’re hoping to convert a lot more parents to Blu-ray,” she said. “Titles like this have broad awareness.”

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