Blu-ray at 10: The Flexibility Factor18 Oct, 2015 By: Home Media Magazine, Blu-ray Disc Association
When Blu-ray Disc was launched nearly a decade ago, the format was hailed as “future proof” by studio executives as well as consumer electronics manufacturers. It could, and would, grow with technology.
That prediction has come true. On the software side, the Blu-ray Disc will be the primary entry point for consumers wishing to make the jump to Ultra HD. Due to its enormous data capacity, the Blu-ray Disc format can store high-definition video in the highest-possible quality and, in the very near future, will be able to make the same boast in regard to Ultra HD. And on the hardware side, Blu-ray Disc players have consistently proved themselves to be a doorway to the future, providing consumers with quick and easy access to a host of new viewing options.
“At Philips, we’ve always seen the Blu-ray Disc player as an ideal gateway for consumers to enjoy a range of content,” said Marty Gordon, the company’s VP of corporate alliances. “Connected Blu-ray Disc players provide consumers with a single device that enables them to access not only the various disc formats (Blu-ray, DVD, CD), but also the ever-growing number of streaming options for both video and music.”
Indeed, Blu-ray Disc players don’t just play Blu-ray Discs, but also allow users to stream Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu, among other choices. Most players offer Wi-Fi connectivity for streaming Internet content, automatic notification of firmware updates, internal decoding of lossless audio formats, social media apps, and more. As noted on the Blu-ray.com website, “BD players have evolved over the last few years into a versatile home theater component capable of filling many entertainment roles.”
No less respected an authority than Consumer Reports recently recommended consumers choose Blu-ray Disc players over all other streaming media players, for five key reasons. First and foremost: “They offer streaming options galore. Many of the latest Blu-ray players offer the same video services as dedicated streaming devices. Netflix, Hulu Plus, Vudu, Amazon Instant Video, CinemaNow, YouTube and a slew of others are pretty common. You’ll also find many models with apps for Facebook, Twitter and Flickr as well as music services such as Pandora and Rhapsody. A growing number of players have built-in Web browsers, too, along with access to the manufacturer’s app store.” Blu-ray Disc players, according to Consumer Reports, are also “versatile and easy to use”; “offer great connectivity options”; are priced low and thus give consumers “the most bang for the buck”; and have one additional advantage other streaming media players don’t: They play Blu-ray Discs, which according to Consumer Reports continue “to have the best HD picture quality and sound you can get at home.”
Indeed, while Blu-ray Disc players get high marks for the variety of entertainment options they allow users to bring into the home, let’s not discount the actual disc. For starters, there’s an inherent simplicity to the five-inch physical disc — you can plop it into the player and watch a movie, with no need for an Internet connection, no password to remember, no buffering or bandwidth capacity issues to worry about.
Moreover, Blu-ray Discs are primed for the impulse buyer — pick one up on the way out of Walmart or Target — which feeds right into the customer mandate of keeping it easy to obtain (and, of course, simple to use).
In recent years the industry has also seen the rise of the combo pack, which allows customers to get a movie in all sorts of different configurations, for viewing wherever, whenever and however they please.
The combo pack, of course, comes with a Blu-ray Disc for the best viewing experience on the family home theater set-up; a standard DVD, for viewing in the car or on a computer; and, in recent years, various digital options.
Much has been written about UltraViolet and Disney Movies Anywhere, the two cloud-based “digital storage lockers” that allow consumers to watch their purchased content, at any time, on any device. Blu-ray Disc remains by far the most popular way for consumers to gain access to UltraViolet; recent studio estimates are that upwards of 80% of UltraViolet subscribers gain access to the cloud through a physical disc purchase.
“Blu-ray gives movie enthusiasts a great way to own content, particularly with the combo packs, which offer consumers the highest-quality HD version of the film on Blu-ray, along with a DVD and a digital version,” noted Telly Kim, executive director of new technology marketing at Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. “This convenience and flexibility allows for a buy once, play anywhere experience while building an extraordinary physical and digital movie collection.”
“When we were developing Blu-ray Disc, we wanted to create a format that had flexibility and extendability … something that could adapt as consumer needs and entertainment technologies continue to evolve,” said Victor Matsuda, chairman of the BDA Global Promotions Committee. “From the evolution of the home devices, to giving consumers the ability to enjoy films on mobile devices, and now, to the newly-released UHD Blu-ray format, we’ve done exactly that.”
Blu-ray Discs typically come loaded with special features, often highlighted by extensive making-of documentaries and hours of behind-the-scenes footage. On top of that, the Blu-ray Disc is able to tap into the Internet, through a connected player, for additional bonus content.
And when it comes to variety — something often overlooked in discussions on streaming — Blu-ray Disc takes the cake, with some 40,000 titles available on disc. Netflix, by comparison, has about 14,000 titles worldwide in all its regions and only about 7,500 in the United States.