I've Got Friday on My Mind15 Nov, 2010 By: Thomas K. Arnold
I can't even count the number of high-ranking studio executives who over the last few weeks have told me that they won't really have a good handle on how DVD and Blu-ray Disc sales are faring this holiday season until after Black Friday.
The Friday after Thanksgiving, of course, marks the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season. It's a day when retailers stumble all over themselves trying to lure consumers into their stores through steep price breaks and other incentives, in the hopes that once they get a taste of the amazing bargains each retailer has to offer, they'll come back again and again and again.
In the world of home entertainment, Walmart, Best Buy and Target are on the front lines of Black Friday DVD and Blu-ray Disc sales. Costco, Sam's Club and Fry's are not far behind.
Each year, word of what awaits consumers at these and other retailers seems to leak out earlier and earlier. This year, word is that Walmart will sell wireless Blu-ray Disc players for as low as $69. That's a big development for our industry, since one of Blu-ray Disc's killer apps, as far as studio marketers are concerned, is BD-Live, which relies on Internet connectivity to deliver new and updated extras. The problem is, most Blu-ray players currently in homes aren't wireless, which means there's a fat chance that player will ever be connected to the Internet.
Walmart also is reportedly going to offer up to 60 Blu-ray Disc titles for $5 each. To me, that's an even bigger boon for our business, since one of our biggest challenges right now is to get consumers to rebuy their movie libraries. I've spoken to lots of people who are hooked on Blu-ray, and they'd like to eventually replace all their favorite DVD catalog titles with high-definition discs. The problem is, they can't afford to do so.
Just last week, I received a letter from a gentleman who said he's "been working on switching my whole DVD collection (some 500+ DVDs counting TV show seasons)." He bemoans the fact that so many films have not yet been released on Blu-ray Disc but is "really glad the studios are starting to get off their butts" and releasing more catalog titles on Blu-ray Disc. Referencing a recent column I wrote on catalog titles on Blu-ray Disc, he had this to say: "You mentioned that they will need to unearth some more extras to hook us but in truth I never watch any of the extras on a DVD and I'm sure many people would be happy to forgo the 'extras' to get the movies quicker and possibly cheaper. The reason I've converted to Blu from DVD is the superior picture quality over DVD and the fact that Blu-ray Discs are more durable. No more scratches making the movie freeze or skip! Watching movies on Blu-ray is a lot closer to the 'true' movie experience since the HD format looks near enough to the quality of the movie as seen in the theaters that I never feel the need to go out to see a movie unless it's one I want to experience on the larger screen. The only extra worth increasing cost over is the addition of the digital copy, since most people now want an easy way of playing their movies on wide variety of portable players without the need to 'rip' the disc."
So I think I speak for many studio executives when I say Black Friday can't come soon enough. Sure, it's unlikely retailers nor studios will make much money from Blu-ray Disc sales on Nov. 26. But if they can get consumers hooked on the Blu-ray Disc experience--and price, as well as title availability, seem to be the key here--I honestly can't think of a wiser investment.