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At HD-3, Myths Dispelled About Blu-ray Disc

11 Nov, 2008 By: Chris Tribbey

CENTURY CITY, Calif. — Reality vs. perception about Blu-ray Disc dominated discussion Nov. 11 at HD-3, the third annual high-definition conference.

The perception is that Blu-ray will be only a niche format, panelists said, while the reality is in its first two years, it’s doing better than DVD during its first two years. The perception, they said, is that digital downloading spells death for packaged media.

But reality can be found by following the money, they said. If downloadable high-definition is the future, nothing at the present time comes close to what Blu-ray offers.

“… While DVD sales, by all accounts, have held up remarkably well, get ready for Blu-ray to again be in the crosshairs, by a confederate of journalists and analysts who have one thing in common: They don’t know our business,” said Thomas Arnold, publisher of conference organizer Home Media Magazine.

A Pali Research report shows Wal-Mart moving CDs out to make room for more Blu-ray Discs. Blu-ray standalone-player prices are dropping below that magic price of $200 — one Best Buy employee predicted a $129 player for the holidays — and a massive, $25 million Blu-ray ad campaign is just underway. Studio representatives said they expected as many as 12 million new Blu-ray players — a majority likely being the PlayStation 3 — moving into American homes this holiday season.

If the state of Blu-ray in Japan is any indication, the format has nowhere to go but up: A report from Japanese Electronics and Information Technology Industries shows Blu-ray accounting for 31% of all home entertainment recorder and player sales.

And then there’s the promising results of a Blu-ray report from The NPD Group: Nine out of 10 American households now know what Blu-ray is, and 58% of people who said they were in the market for a Blu-ray player are buying one because of their HDTVs.

Studios at the conference shared where they see Blu-ray going, hardware manufacturers discussed the future of the players, software developers shared a glimpse of what’s next for BD Live, retailers hinted at their Blu-ray plans for Back Friday, and consumers old and young, heavy movie collectors and light, shared their thoughts about the future of high-definition.

Studios have done plenty of experimenting with Blu-ray, including digital copies, adding extra BD Live features, and even including a standard DVD in the same package. But the great experiment is still whether or not consumers will adopt Blu-ray over DVD, replacing their old collection for high-definition. And they agreed it will be the consumers who decide what direction Blu-ray takes.

“There’s just a lot we can do,” said Rich Marty, VP of business development for Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. “We can really reinvent the category.”

Danny Kaye, EVP of global research and technology strategy for 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, said the titles his studio is releasing on Blu-ray — mostly action and new theatrical releases — are geared right at the early Blu-ray adopter. Yet Chris Saito, VP of marketing for Paramount Home Entertainment, said his studio is seeing traction with family films, though he conceded that the main demographic remains 25- to 49-year-old males.

Lori MacPherson, North American GM for Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, said the 1,000-DVD collector is a “prime candidate” for converting to Blu-ray, even though cheaper upconverting DVD players may seduce them

“Keep in mind that we are competing with upconverters for $80,” Saito said. “[But] it doesn’t matter if something’s cheap, if it’s not attractive to you.”

MacPherson agreed, saying, “It’s the difference between costume jewelry and a diamond.”

Studio representatives agreed that Blu-ray is just one of many distribution channels for their products — Kaye noted that iTunes movie rentals and purchases are hitting 50,000 a day — but only Blu-ray is capable today of delivering true 1080p picture and the best 7.1 audio codecs available. And, he added, Blu-ray is the only format that’s going to be capable of delivering 3-D movies close to the way they appeared in theaters.

“You should never lose sight of the fact it never happens overnight,” Kaye said of the hopeful consumer transition from DVD to Blu-ray.

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