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Studios Wise to Focus on Turning the Masses Blu

9 Dec, 2009 By: Thomas K. Arnold

I hate cliches with a passion, but in this case there's simply no better way to say it than this: The studios are finally putting the cart behind the horse instead of the other way around.

For much of this past year, I questioned the wisdom of increasingly inventive BD-Live options when 1) Blu-ray Disc still had not gone mainstream and 2) the vast majority of people who had Blu-ray Disc did not have it hooked up to the Internet. Exclusive content and climate-changing menus were all well and good, but--and here's another cliche I feel compelled to use--it seemed the studios were throwing a lavish, over-the-top party and no one was coming.

But in recent months, there's been a discernible change in the studio mindset, and it is one I heartily applaud. The new way of thinking is to save the thrills and frills for later, when everyone has Blu-ray Disc, and instead focus on getting Blu-ray Disc hardware and software into the hands of everyone and his brother.

The way to do that is simple: Focus on one compelling, easily understood message centered around Blu-ray's superior picture and sound quality ("Your high-definition TV needs a high-definition disc")--and then work like hell to get the masses to bite.

To do that, we need to make the transition from standard DVD to Blu-ray Disc as simple and easy as humanly possible--and everything I've seen coming out of Hollywood lately seems to be a step in the right direction.

Pricing parity is certainly one big step. Particularly in this economic environment, you can't expect people to pay $30 for a movie, especially when they can get the same film on DVD for $15. The proverbial "sweet spot" appears to be under $20 for new releases and less than $10 for catalog, and that's what we're already seeing. For those who still cry "devaluation," keep in mind that if Blu-ray doesn't catch on, and catch on quick, we might not have any product to devalue.

The other big step is to offer consumers convenience by adopting some sort of "a disc for all seasons" approach. Recognize that even if someone owns a Blu-ray Disc player, it is not a given that he's going to buy the Blu-ray Disc version over the standard DVD, since that same person probably has a DVD player in his car and in his bedroom and a DVD drive in his laptop. For the time being, at least, we need to offer consumers both, which is why I think the Disney-pioneered "combo pack" and Universal's flipper disc concepts are so smart.

Once we get Blu-ray firmly entrenched into the mainstream, we can always go back and jazz up the extras. We can produce BD-Live features that scratch your back and make the morning coffee, for all I care. But first we need to take care of the basics. And I'm relieved to see that's precisely what the studios appear to be doing.

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