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Retailers Up Blu-ray Presence

28 Apr, 2008 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Following a marketing lull at the conclusion of the format war, retailers Best Buy Co. Inc. and Circuit City Stores Inc. this week ramped up promotional efforts for Blu-ray players and movies.

Richmond, Va.-based Circuit City is offering a free Blu-ray title with the in-store purchase of two $29.99 BD titles. It also sells Sony's 1080p BD player for $400.

Spokesperson Jackie Foreman said the promotion was to help consumers invest “with confidence” in next-generation titles.

“We think [Blu-ray] will be a milestone in home entertainment,” Foreman said.

Best Buy is running a clearance sale on Samsung's 1080p BD player for $500, after deducting the $100 mail-in rebate. It also carries the Sony 1080p player for $400.

The Minneapolis-based No. 1 Blu-ray retailer, which claims more than 500 BD movies, including online selections, is offering a $10 gift card with the purchase of two BD titles from the following group of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment releases: Casino Royale, Superbad, Resident Evil: Extinction, Surf's Up, Spider-Man 3 and Open Season.

Best Buy spokesperson Brian Lucas said the retailer is doing “whatever it can” to educate people about Blu-ray, including informing them the format war with HD DVD is over.

Lucas said he wasn't sure what the latest “temperature reading” among potential Blu-ray consumers was, but he denied that scant mention of the format in recent weekly newspaper circulars reflected consumer indifference in stores.

“Some of the [gap in BD marketing] was making sure we had enough Blu-ray titles in stock,” Lucas said diplomatically. “We had to demand-plan correctly and have items in stock. We run promotions every week and they focus on different categories.”

Ralph Tribbey, editor of The DVD Release Report, an industry tip sheet, contends consumer and studio response to Blu-ray has been moribund.

He said studios should triple the pace of Blu-ray releases, which he said currently stands at 88 titles over the past 13 weeks.

“They need to make this a format that goes beyond just being a niche,” Tribbey said. “One or two titles per [studio] each month is similar to the Laserdisc release pattern. There has to be a broader selection to help kick this into gear.”

He said it was curious so early into the format to see retailers trying to drive consumer awareness through price promotions instead of picture quality and related features. He said the conversion from DVD to Blu-ray does not offer the same quantum benefit to consumers as did moving from VHS to DVD.

“Consumers are asking, ‘What is the benefit?’ Tribbey said. “There's no wow factor.”

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