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A New Decade -- In 3D

6 Jan, 2010 By: Thomas K. Arnold

Just rolled into town late last night from our annual winter road trip — my wife's from Alabama (she grew up not far from Warner Home Video president Ron Sanders!) and each year between Christmas and New Year's she flies home while I take the three boys on a cross-country road trip. As usual I've kept my eyes and ears open about anything pertaining to our business, and here are a few observations:

1) Virtually every minivan or SUV had a DVD player going. I could see it clearly through the back window as I drove through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

2) Even in the rural South, Blu-ray appears to be catching on. I went to a regional chain called HH Gregg, sort of a mini-Best Buy, to buy a new router for Diana's sister and her family. Two people were ahead of me at the checkout counter on New Year's Eve, and both had a Blu-ray player in their carts.

3) I bought my nieces a Blu-ray player for Christmas. As soon as it arrived my 20-year-old niece Margaret sent me a text message: "Blu-ray player = best Christmas gift EVER!!!"

4) Aunt Tanya's neighbors, the Slawinskis, are big on direct satellite delivery of movies and other programming into their home. And yet they get most of their movies by mail from Netflix. "It's just simpler," the dad, John, told me.

So much for my road stories. On the last day of my trip, I was reading USA Today in my Hampton Inn hotel room in Las Cruces, New Mexico, when I saw the story about ESPN launching a 3D network June 11 with a three-dimensional broadcast of a World Cup soccer match (to see the story, click here). Does anyone out there realize how big this is for our business? You have to start with the proposition that the future of our packaged media business depends on Blu-ray, and that 3D is being widely hailed as the format's killer app — amid hopes that 3D in the home will be as big and as lucrative as 3D has been in the movie theater.

The fact that ESPN is committing so much time and money toward 3D is a tremendous vote of confidence, even just in the proverbial arena of public opinion. If I am Joe Consumer and I read about Blu-ray bringing 3D movies into the home on specially equipped TVs, I'd be thinking "Cool, maybe I'll get one if it takes off." But the ESPN announcement changes all that. Now, Joe must be thinking, "Wow — 3D is really happening, and I can't wait for the fall so I can enjoy football games in 3D with my friends."

If Joe was on the fence, the ESPN announcement just pushed him over. College football games in 3D? Come on! And once you start seeing a critical mass of 3D TVs in U.S. households, 3D movies on Blu-ray Disc are the logical next step, particularly since our business is all lined up and waiting to take the plunge.

Right now the biggest problem in getting the masses to switch from standard DVD to Blu-ray Disc is the perception that the difference isn't all that much. Throw 3D into the equation and that excuse no longer holds water.

Pardon the pun, but it's a whole other dimension.

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