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The Tide May Be Turning for Blu-ray

10 Jun, 2008 By: Stephanie Prange

After a steady drumbeat from the consumer press on the failings of Blu-ray Disc, the news was decidedly upbeat in recent weeks.

Wal-Mart finally joined the Blu-ray bandwagon in earnest, bringing its low-price power to the market. Then, after launching a $298 player (albeit a lower-profile one), the retailer announced that from June 8 through June 14 it will include a $100 gift card with the purchase of any Blu-ray player in its stores. That means a less-than-$200 Blu-ray player for the lucky shopper who takes advantage of the sale. The promotion, which coincides with the completion of a major renovation of the Wal-Mart's consumer electronics department in 1,200 stores nationwide, also includes select Blu-ray movies for $15 while supplies last.

Meanwhile, it seems consumers aren't as dismissive of the Blu-ray format as previously thought.

A new NPD Group consumer study said 45% of HDTV owners claim to be familiar with next-generation packaged-media Blu-ray, up from 35% in June 2007. The study also said 6% of consumers surveyed intend to purchase a Blu-ray player.

“With HDTV now in approximately 40 million U.S. households, that percentage translates to a pool of almost 4 million potential BD player buyers,” said Russ Crupnick, entertainment industry analyst for NPD (see story, cover).

“The door is open for studios to feed the consumer's appetite for Blu-ray content, and we expect sales to increase, as prices for hardware and software moderate in the coming months,” Crupnick said.

I'll leave it to our publisher Thomas K. Arnold to say “I told you so” in his next column, as he has been critical of the treatment of Blu-ray in the media, but I can note that Blu-ray software sales look ready to pop as well. The slate hasn't been great in the past few months, but the revenue has been climbing in recent weeks, albeit in fits and starts.

I think once consumers see Blu-ray Disc, they'll be hooked, just as seeing high-definition television programming makes one realize how blurry and inferior non-high-definition programming is.

Blu-ray is a step forward, and I think consumers will soon come to realize it.

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