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Blu-ray Pricing Is a Point of Contention

4 May, 2008 By: Thomas K. Arnold

Will we see another race to the bottom? One reason studios preferred Blu-ray Disc over HD DVD is that there was more opportunity to justify a higher price tag. Blu-ray, after all, was hailed as a revolutionary new technology, while HD DVD, even after it went from using a red laser to a blue laser, was seen chiefly as a souped-up DVD.

But now that Blu-ray Disc has prevailed, studio insistence that Blu-ray Disc prices be kept significantly higher than DVD prices appears to be waning. On the one hand you have studios such as Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, which typically charges a premium of about $15 over the standard-DVD version; on the other you have 20th Century Fox, which recently released Juno on a Blu-ray Disc at a list price just $5 more than the DVD.

The discrepancy comes at a time when retailers are reporting that some of their customers are reluctant to shell out significantly more money for a Blu-ray Disc — particularly on the catalog end, where DVD prices are routinely less than $10. Blu-ray Disc releases of library titles typically come to market at prices twice as high, if not more, than the DVD, and some retailers fear if that practice continues, format growth will be stymied.

I've long held that DVDs are a great value for the dollar, even before the proliferation of Wal-Mart's notorious dump bins sent the actual street price of catalog DVDs to the $5 level.

Blu-ray Disc takes the DVD experience to a whole new level, with a picture six times clearer (at least, when viewed on a high-definition TV set) and special features that make DVD extras look tired and boring — particularly when the hot new BD Live technology is utilized.

So why not charge more?

Studios agree Blu-ray Discs should sell for more than DVDs. But how much more? That, dear reader, is the question with which they're all grappling right now.

Lowering the price too soon, too fast, could lead to the same freefall DVD experienced in the late 1990s. As studios continue to search for a middle ground, they just might find themselves making a startling, and disheartening, discovery: Maybe there is none. Perhaps the only options are to either stick by your guns and hope the consumer ultimately realizes the value, or drop your prices and send profits to the dump bin.

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