Blu-ray’s Last Chance to Shine

By  |  Thursday, December 24, 2009 at 11:45 am

I think Sony’s finally gotten the picture: either drop your prices, or forget about Blu-ray ever catching on. Data from NPD is showing that player sales in 2009 stand to increase 54 percent over last year, thanks in part to an effort to bring player costs down to near the $100 price point ($79 at Walmart Black Friday) for the holiday shopping season. Consumers now can reliably find a player for under $200, something that was somewhat difficult this time last year.

Player costs have dropped at about the same rate as DVDs did, falling from a high of $800 at launch in 2006 to an average cost of $221 on Black Friday according to research firm Envisioneering Group. Chief among the reasons for the drop appear to be a marked drop in component costs, allowing prices to fall.

However, the deep discounts on Black Friday seem to be significantly more than what happened with DVDs, and probably has a lot to do with a realization that time is running out for Blu-ray.

Let’s face it: the format probably has one more Christmas season — two at most — before streaming media becomes a serious competitor in delivering high-definition to the home. Already, companies are moving along with their plans (take Apple’s rumored television service for example), and I feel I can say with some confidence that by Christmas 2011 there is going to be quite a solid fooprint for ultra-fast broadband, i.e. fiber optic to the home and the like.

Streaming HD is the next logical big thing — the overhead costs are far lower than producing discs and the players that play them: all that is missing is the capable broadband connection. It’s coming, however, and should be here sooner than we think. The window is closing for Blu-ray and its closing fast. It may have won the battle against HD DVD, but in all likelihood its going to lose the war.

One positive that may keep Blu-ray around longer? Internet integration. Most of the players coming out these days offer more and more net-enabled functionality, such as the ability to use Netflix and so forth. This is essential as the shift to streaming media continues. But it may already be too late, and the format’s fate sealed. Whether or not this was Sony’s fault is something that will certainly be debated in the years to come.


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14 Comments For This Post

  1. Bryan Says:

    I don’t think that the quality of streaming will be comparable to that of blu-ray too soon. Blu-ray supports video bit rates at aroud 50 mbps, that is considerably high compared to what most streaming hd is, which i believe is aroud 6 mbps for a high quality stream. and even if the video bitrates increase there will have to be a standard way to easily view that content on your television and home theater equipment. electronic ccompanies will have to realease forms of set top boxes capable of recieving the media similar to what newer blu-ray players are offering. and it will probably take several years for the price of these devices to drob to the $100 level that consumers want. and on top of the expense of these devices people will have to subscribe to high quality internet services, so the cost of going all streaming will be greater than that of blu-ray.

    but the fact is that most consumers do not notice or care about the difference in quality. so it is highly likely that the video market will be split between blu-ray and digital download services and even dvds. one thing that i think will also have an impact on the market is that a lot of people are not comfortable with new digital marketplaces and still prefer to shop for there movies at retail stores, a lot of these people are the ones who prefer dvd over blu-ray still, because it is cheaper and they are satisfied with the quality.

    overall i think it will be interesting to see how the market changes over the next few years. curently i still prefer a physical medium like blu-ray, but i am looking forward to newer options. i think that people who truly care about getting the best quality available will still prefer blu-ray for quite a while.

  2. IcyFog Says:

    I agree with Steve Jobs – Blu-ray is a DRM bag of hurt. I can tell a picture quality difference between a Blu-ray disc and DVD, but to me it’s not worth the investment. I don’t want to upgrade my DVD collection, and I don’t want to invest in another player. Even though Blu-ray discs typically have some cool bonus features, they are still not worth the extra money. Also, if I want a better picture quality which is what really matters, I can buy an upsampling DVD player, which I’ve read is near Blu-ray quality.

  3. Bouke Timbermont Says:

    I hated blu-ray from the start: I hated the vulnerability and sloth of DVDs for years, and hoped it would be replaced by a cartridge-like medium (think SD-card like ROM-chips): solid state and the reader wouldn’t be bound to the capacity of the medium.

    But no, then came Blu-ray: requiring a new player, new DRM-enabled video-cards and monitors (for your PC) and Cables and TVs (for the living room). On top of that: the discs and players are expensive as hell!

    I agree with the above post: Blu-Ray may technologically be great tecth, it a bundle of hurt to consumers.

  4. L1A Says:

    I love my bluray =)
    Online HD is a scam, it has the resolution to qualify it as HD, but carries less data than DVD

  5. Bryan Says:

    DRM on digital downloads will have more problems than the DRM on blu-ray. Most DRMs on digital downloads restrict you to one device, and if you get a new computer of even reinstall the operating system you could loose everything.

    also i have never had problems with DRM on blu-ray it is pretty much nonexistant.

    and you have to remember steve jobs would rather watch a movie on an iphone than a tv in his living room, i dont think picture quality means much to him.

  6. IcyFog Says:

    Jobs and Apple got rid of DRM for songs on iTunes. They’ll do the same for movies and other content.

  7. Bryan Says:

    I did not hear about them removing DRM, but that is good to hear because currently it was a pain for digital downloads. Do you know if there is any form of copy protection, or are they just using itunes to keep track of licensing.

  8. IcyFog Says:

    I don’t know the answers to those questions. I would think it’s just licensing though, based on what I found at the link below.

  9. Tech Says:

    The cost of buying titles on blu ray need to be bought down together with the players. No one wants to pay triple the price of a DVD for the same movie.

  10. gargravarr Says:

    Two things:

    Why are people so eager to get rid of discs? It has been well pointed out that the quality of downloads is nowhere near Blu-ray AND you get your file on a properly mastered disc.

    Secondly, you guys in America should remember that that the download limits which apply in the US can only be dreamed of in most other places. I remember people complaining when Comcast imposed a 250gig limit. Send it on down here to Australia. I bet no-one will complain. Downloading everything is just not feasible here, especially in HD.

  11. Juan David Says:

    I like physical media, and i like my movies in HD. I don’t think streaming will be mainstream in the near future, at least not outside USA. I live in South America, we have broadband connections, but i don’t think they are good enough for HD sreaming, (and most sites dont broadcast outisde USA anyway).
    So i love blu ray, its HD, i have my discs and i can watch them on my PS3 without any hassle, as for the DRM i don’t really use them in my PC so its not an issue, and generally downloaded data is much worse in that department.
    Let’s not forget people still buy vinil records, its a niche market of course, but if that’s still around i don’t see blu rays going away so soon, i at least will keep buying them.

  12. cajundog Says:

    Fiber optic to the home by 2011??? Dream on. Majority of the public being able to be set up for HD streaming vs put a disk in a player…. more dreaming. Blu Ray will be around for quit some time!

  13. kurkosdr Says:

    I agree with user L1A

    Online HD is a bit of scam. Sure, it’s in the same resolution as Bluray, but the video has to be heavily compressed in order to be streamed over the net.
    Most people don’t notice it, since the Mpeg 4 avc/H.264 format used on HD vids doesn’t have the artifacts of the Mpeg 2 format (the format used on DVD).
    But the reduction in terms of quality is there. And it’s visible. That’s why online HD videos look like DVDs with just a little bit more detail in some areas. They do not look like Bluray for sure.

    If the content providers decide to increase the bitrate, it will increase network load. The ISPs won’t tolerate it, the public who doesn’t like the nation’s network infrastructure to be brought to it’s knees so Joe Q Public can watch superbowl won’t tolerate it.

    Also, there is one thing. Just because I like downloading free MKV vids in HD from isohunt, it doesn’t mean I am going to pay for them. As a paying customer, I want a properly mastered disc with extras and everything.

    And there is the other thing: Now, pirates have to rip the content from the disc and carefully re-encode it in lower bitrate and resolution before they put in on torrent. But if Hollywood decides to sell HD videos online, those videos are going to be a sweet cake for the pirates. No re-encoding needed, just copy and paste on piratebay! (DRM will be cracked eventually) Hollywood doesn’t like that. So, if online HD ever materializes, it will be wasted mostly on top gear and the like (BBC doesn’t mind getting ripped).

  14. CATS Says:

    DVDs are great value, especially the ones loaded with extras.

    Blu-Rays have a nice picture and sound, but ONLY if you have a proper setup. It’s hilarious how Blu-Ray fanboys rave about the format while they watch their movies on a laptop or at most, on a small 32″ LCD TV, with two speakers.

    Only those with at least a 42+” Plasma screen, GOOD blu-ray player (like the PS3), GOOD Amplifier with 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound have the right to proclaim the benefits of Blu-Ray, because only they have made the proper investment the format requires. Everything else is sub-par and douchey. Blu-ray fanboys without the proper setup are like those idiots who spend thousands on their cheap-ass family cars with spoilers, air dams and rims, nothing of which will ever change the fact that the car will NOT EVER BE A TRUE SPORTS CAR.

    The fact of the matter is, not many people can afford the setup that Blu-ray requires to be well appreciated. Also, the vast majority of people only care to WATCH THE MOVIE. For this majority, DVD quality is fine, and streaming will more than cover their needs (especially if they are not movie collectors). People can also just download everything if they only want to watch the movies, it is exactly the same as taping movies off of TV: the quality isn’t that great but it’s good enough to watch the movie.

    So, in conclusion, Blu-ray is a niche product for avid movie fans who enjoy nice original collections and tangible media. That’s it. Now all we need to do is wait and see if this 3.2% of the entire market is enough to sustain Blu-ray production in the coming years.

    Long live DVD, the champion of Quality at a great price!