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Blu-ray Has a Hard Act to Follow

28 Apr, 2008 By: Billy Gil

Now that the format war is over, all eyes have turned to Blu-ray Disc as the savior of a waning DVD business.

First of all, let's talk about the waning DVD business. It's not the fault of the format or even the fault of the content on DVD that the business is waning. It is predictable. Most of the great content, past and present, that could be released on DVD has been released. The great growth curve of the last decade was in part built on the movies of the past. Catalog boosted DVD sales, not current releases. It was the DVD release of much-anticipated titles such as the original “Star Wars” trilogy, the “Godfather” films and the “Indiana Jones” films that goosed DVD sales. Those films are now out on DVD. The only hope for growth in that market now is new releases (a much smaller pot) and repackaged releases, which have a much smaller appeal than first-time catalog releases of beloved films.

Another big driver for DVD was the TV DVD business, which held sales aloft for some time, but ultimately ran out as a driver as well, when those who wanted past seasons of TV shows already had them and didn't need to buy them again. TV DVD now too is a business of new releases, for the most part. The catalog has run its course.

Now all hopes are pinned on Blu-ray Disc to create the same kind of frenzy that DVD did almost a decade ago.

Certainly, Blu-ray has its pluses — it's got a great picture, increased extras, better menus — but like a sibling trying to live up to an award-winning older brother or sister, Blu-ray may not be met with the same circumstances.

The older sibling, DVD, may continue to appeal. Newfangled competitors, such as electronic delivery, may offer more competition than they did during DVD's heyday.

For my part, I think Blu-ray Disc has done a pretty good job of maintaining the business in the first quarter. Whatever DVD lost, Blu-ray made up in sales, according to Nielsen data.

Most analysts are betting against Blu-ray keeping the business level or growing over last year, but I recall the same thing was said of DVD in its early days. Many thought the tiny little disc couldn't possibly revive the video industry, which was waning. DVD's success came as a surprise, and Blu-ray Disc may surprise us as well. Don't count it out just yet.

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