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How Low Can They Go? Under $200

28 Oct, 2008 By: Stephanie Prange

Many have been waiting for Blu-ray Disc players to hit the magical under-$200 price. Most didn’t expect it to come so soon, but Best Buy is selling its proprietary Insignia brand Blu-ray player for $199 with a $30 in-store discount.

Granted it’s a Profile 1.1 player that doesn’t offer Web-connected BD Live capabilities. Still, at less than $200, it may prompt mainstream consumers to take the leap into high-definition disc, even in a difficult economy — and that’s a much-needed boost for the format.

Blu-ray software is burgeoning at the same time, with studios releasing most of the recent big hits and such high-profile theatrical catalog titles as The Godfather on Blu-ray in time for Q4. The number of Blu-ray titles released year-to-date is up about 100% from last year, according to Ralph Tribbey of The DVD Release Report.

Changes are happening at retail as well. During a recent visit to Costco, I saw about a sixth of inventory dedicated to Blu-ray Discs, with an under-$300 Samsung Blu-ray player prominently displayed in the front aisle.

It would seem all of the stars are aligning for a great Blu-ray fourth quarter, even in these hard times. Indications are entertainment will fare well despite the downturn. The NPD Group recently found that consumers rank home entertainment in the top 10 items they plan to purchase as a gift, with DVD ranked No. 3, electronics at No. 5 and video games at No. 6. With the impending February switch to digital TV, some may pick up a flat-screen TV this holiday season as electronics retailers lower prices. What better sweetener than a Blu-ray player thrown in as well?

While low-priced hardware may seem disastrous to consumer electronics manufacturers, it may prove just the kind of impetus consumers need to move into the Blu future. When things pick up again, they’ll likely buy the higher-priced hardware to take advantage of all BD Live has to offer.

 The consumer is becoming more price sensitive, and even a top-quality product such as Blu-ray must satisfy that need.

When I talk to people about Blu-ray, invariably they mention its high price as an impediment to buying. If the format is to have a long and successful run, suppliers and retailers will have to overcome that hurdle.

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