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Panelists at HDTV Conference Say Digital Not to Blame For Flat DVD Sales

16 Sep, 2008 By: Chris Tribbey

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — Discussing the results of an NPD Group study, studio and hardware representatives agreed with NPD experts that just because DVD sales are flat, digital delivery options aren’t to blame.

“Societal changes are gradual,” said Paul Erickson, director of DVD and HD market research for DisplaySearch during the HDTV 2008 Conference Sept. 16. “Physical disc isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.”

He received no arguments from his fellow panelists.

“We buried DVD long before it was time,” said Danny Kaye, SVP of business development for 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. “That’s not to say that these emerging technologies won’t grow rapidly. The point is everything will work together … they will coexist.”

That’s why, unlike the music industry, Hollywood is bowing to consumer demand, he and Lori MacPherson, North American GM for Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, agreed. Instead of fighting what consumers living in a digital world want, the studios are including digital copies of films on Blu-ray Disc and DVD.

“Even now they’re starting to coexist, more than we thought they would,” MacPherson said. “Consumers want to download it and own a physical copy.”

She said that Disney’s first version of digital copy, included on the Nightmare Before Christmas Blu-ray release, had more digital copy downloads than all the pay-for-download options available combined.

“When you talk to any consumer, there are different movies in different formats that they want to use in different ways,” she said.

Russ Crupnick, VP and senior industry analyst for The NPD Group, shared his firm’s industry Blu-ray grades, with consumer satisfaction, hardware payoff for consumers and content availability all earning high marks. Consumer awareness got a grade of “incomplete,” while hardware pricing earned a grade of D.

“Frankly,” Crupnick said, “Blu-ray continues to be a premium product.”

With fourth quarter prices for name-brand Blu-ray players forecasted in the $300 range — and possibly down another $100 a year from now — Andy Parsons, SVP of advanced product development for Pioneer Electronics, and chair of the Blu-ray Disc Association’s promotions committee, leapt to Blu-ray’s defense.

“There’s continuously a pressure to bring prices down,” he said. “… What people overlook is that you have to have a market for it first.”

As for possibly Blu-ray’s biggest competitor, the upconverting DVD player, Crupnick shared statistics from the firm’s study that showed only 11% believed the quality of upconverters was just as good as Blu-ray.

“They realize they’re getting an inferior product,” he said.

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