Blu-ray’s New Format War: The Old School DVD

By  |  Wednesday, April 20, 2011 at 6:40 pm

Win the battle, lose the war. The saying might as well apply to Sony’s Blu-ray high definition disc format (I’ve used it before on this topic), which continues to struggle for relevancy. Even with player prices now as low as $70 through Walmart, consumers are still taking their good old time in adopting the format.

Strategy Analytics researcher Peter King told that even through Sony won the format war against Toshiba and HD DVD more than three years ago, only now has the format been able to equally split the 20 million disc players sold evenly with standard DVD.

It now seems clear that the format war mortally wounded the format, as consumers held off purchases while the two sides duked it out. And Blu-ray’s slow start may also be due to the fact that consumers still don’t see any value in upgrading their players.

Yes Blu-ray offers definite clarity advantages and backwards compatibility. But as King notes, most likely don’t realize this and incorrectly assume that moving to Blu-ray would require upgrading their collection. They may also not spot the difference between an upconverted DVD and a Blu-ray disc.

Could it be that as has critics have repeatedly said, time is running out for Blu-ray? Ever faster Internet connections and a boom in streaming media (with high-definition now coming into vogue) may spell doom for optical discs.

Seventy-seven percent of consumers still watch movies on disc according to NPD, so there still is some hope. I’m more than certain that the percentage is on its way down, so Blu-ray’s window of opportunity is closing, regardless.



19 Comments For This Post

  1. IcyFog Says:

    I will stay with DVDs or stream. I will not convert to Blu-ray.
    Though as somebody noted to me newer releases are not being released in DVD-only cases. More and more are being bundled with the Blu-ray version.
    Seemed reasonable, although I don't know if it's correct or not.

  2. Paul Says:

    I see the deluxe versions bundled with the Blu-ray version which to me seems like a waste for people like me who don’t own a Blu-Ray player and don’t plan on upgrading anytime soon since their TV doesn’t take full advantage of the spec. Why should I be forced to buy a disc that I will not use for years if ever? I have several operational DVD players and regular players are still available really cheap. I have a PS2, an X-box, and a DVD player. A Blu-Ray disc does me nothing unless I plan on getting the pricy discs and I plan on upgrading my entire entertainment center – something I have no plans on doing anytime soon.

  3. Bill Sheppard Says:

    The referenced article flies in the face of most of the data. For most of the first five years of the format Blu-ray adoption has led DVD adoption in its first five years. If you only consider homes with HD, Blu-ray adoption is far higher (homes without HD would be unlikely candidates for Blu-ray) than DVD in the same relative timeframe. Further, recent data shows Blu-ray is the fastest growing media format, growing far faster than streaming. The article sounds like yet another Fox News attention-grabbing headline without the factual data to back it up.

  4. phil Says:

    If you love film then get a Blu-ray. I cannot begin to tell you how inspiring it is to watch "The Red Shoes", "Fiddler on The Roof", "The Sound of Music", and countless others, new and old on this format. I have a 65" Panasonic plasma and nothing else will do in the dark after what I have witnessed on Blu. Believe me, for film buffs, its not about the money, its seeing our films in the best shape possible. DVD is good, I own plenty of them that have not been upgraded to Blu, but they are a poor second choice after seeing the color and detail available now with blu-ray discs. Criterion discs are the best, both dvd and blu, but their blu-rays are simply awesome, and the added bonus commentaries and special features. Look, make your choice. But if its about the money, I feel for you. I plan to buy as many optical blu-ray discs as I can get my hands on before the terror of streaming takes over.

  5. Ed Oswald Says:

    I've seen the Sound of Music on Blu-ray — very impressive. But put that same remaster on a upconverting DVD player on an HDTV.. and it will likely look quite good on its own.

  6. Rob Says:

    We upgraded the TV in our family room only this year to HD. Before that, there was no point in buying Blu-ray discs. Now, there is value in doing so, but only if the content warrants the higher cost. For example, a movie filmed before HD will simply not look better on Blu-ray than DVD, unless the film is remastered for Blu-ray’s higher definition. (The original material, filmed with the intention of showing on enormous screens, has excellent resolution if it is well preserved, so remastering is useful.) Add to that the relatively small value the higher definition provides unless one has a really large screen, like phil’s 65″ Panny, and there’s even less reason to invest in Blu-rays. Finally, add the higher cost of the discs and players, and you find more than enough reasons for people to adopt Blu-ray slowly, especially when the world’s economies are generally struggling.

    The real problem, as with 3D TV, is that technology companies and pundits assume that people will immediately jump on each new fad and spend great amounts of money on a regular basis for the pleasure, only to discover that things never work quite as well as the hype. (Those that invested too early may have gotten HD DVD instead of Blu-ray, for example. Those that got Blu-ray machines too early discover too many discs that won’t play. Those that got HDTVs before HDMI find fewer compatible components now. The list goes on.) Thus, most consumers move slowly on technologies that don’t give immediate, clear, overwhelming benefits. (Sports fans love HD, for example, so are willing to get big, HDTVs, for the thrill of the game, not so much to have a cool TV.)

    “Slow” adoption is merely the real world encroaching on technology vendors’ and pundits’ fantasy world.

  7. MJPollard Says:

    The plain truth is that for most people, DVD is “good enough.” They see no practical reason to upgrade their hardware or to pay the price premium for Blu releases (the gap is narrowing but it’s still there). CDs were a clear improvement over LPs and cassettes; likewise with DVDs over VHS tapes. But consumers, by and large, found no practical reason to move to better CD audio formats such as SACD because CDs were “good enough”; the SACD didn’t offer the same improvements (size, clarity, convenience) over CDs the way that CDs did over LPs. It’s not surprising that this pattern is repeating itself with Blu versus DVD, because aside from the picture quality and some other whiz-bang technical improvements, there really isn’t a similar leap in practicality and convenience the way that DVDs were over VHS.

  8. Clam Says:

    Most households I know have 25" or smaller TV set and no multi-point surround sound system, which makes Blu-Ray's advantage seem less significant. I mean, I've seen it myself, watching the Blu-Ray version of Inglorious Basterds on a 21 incher with only stereo audio output wasn't particularly any more exciting than the DVD version.

  9. Paul Says:

    Speaking for me personally, I have a 35 inch HD set, but there is only one HDMI port and that is being used by my XBOX (which was a gift BTW) and the rest are limited to component. I have no surround sound and my TV caps at 720p (the TV was given to me as well by my parents). The only real advantage Blue Ray would be is a slightly better picture (which I never would notice much anyway) and I could probably replicate with an up-converting dvd player.

    Blue Ray is like SACD – yes it may be better quality, but that isn't enough to abandon something that already works good enough.

  10. Madison Says:

    I see no reason to get a Blu-Ray player when we already have a perfectly good DVD player. Like MJPollard said, DVD is good enough for us.

  11. Daniel D'Laine Says:

    Yep! Totally agree!! DVD's at my local shop; £2 – BluRays at my local shop; £15.99 (cheapest) – I know which I'm picking. Alternatively, DVD's 'off the net' :0) 10 – 20 mins. BluRays 'off the net' – still 2 hours! And for the kids… they still like VHS vids with their old cartoons on!

  12. Rain Day Says:

    Let's see, why do people (in general) refuse to buy content on Blu ray? Could it be that in spite of the advertised "higher quality", potential customers don't want to deal the additional nonsense attached to Blu Ray players? The concept of "Self-Protecting Digital Content" for example: "Blu-ray equipment is encouraged to implement High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP). Given certain flags in the media streams, a Blu-ray Disc can enforce its reproduction in a lower resolution whenever a full HDCP-compliant link is not established all the way from the Blu-ray drive to the rendering devices (i.e. display and speakers)."

    Not to mention the vastly annoying continuation of Region coding.

    So maybe potential Blu Ray customers don't see the value of buying yet another proprietary, DRM-encumbered, bit of hardware, just to have to do it again in a few years? Why bother?

    As someone pointed out earlier, moving from VCR to DVD was a definite benefit, as far as quality went, with an added space-savings of storing DVDs compared to storage space needed for a VCR collection. But even that is changing now. Today, the space-savings is in digital files and portable hard drives.

    These days customers want to be able to take their entertainment with them. Convenience and standard formats that can be used on a variety of players, are what people want, even to the point of sacrificing quality for convenience and freedom.

  13. Tim Draper Says:

    Blu-ray players have become affordable enough, but please don't blame lack of consumer awareness of Blu-ray's benefits for the failure to get out of the launch phase yet.

    The true problem is (IMANSHO) that Blu-ray movies are far more expensive than their DVD versions, typically $10-15 and sometimes more.

    Until this "Blu-ray tax" goes away or is minimized, Blu-ray will continue to smolder (I was going to say languish but it's not doing all that horribly, just not very well.)

  14. Brandon Backlin Says:

    To experience Blu-Rays to their fullest you must have both a surround-sound system and an HD TV. So, you have to spend roughly $800 (and that's bargain-basement stuff, probably 720p TV) before spending at least another $70 on the player, and at least $10 per disc for the first Blu-Ray releases. You can knock off about $200 if you don't care about surround sound. The DVD player, on the other hand, can be plugged in to a 20-year-old television and you hardly notice a difference (it looks worse on huge digital TVs, but that's it).

  15. dholyer Says:

    I do have a 722k HD Dish Tuner that I view on my Toshiba that up-converts the 1080i HDMI into 1080p and the 722k also outputs 480i for my DVD recorder to burn to standard DVD disks. The Toshiba and it's up-convert makes the pictures almost identical, you only notice a difference in still frame. The same is true with the BD & DVD versions of movies. Going at 60fps is even a human optical nerve overflow in data, so your brain in most cases would not see a change anyways. You can see a difference but only after you have trained your brain to notice. So for Mr. Average Joe Blow there is no real difference to the brain. The only one that can see a change needs to have trained their brain to spot this minor abnormality. But unless you are looking for any problems it is not needed to search for them.

  16. ebpp Says:

    streaming is definitely a threat to bluray…i want to watch the movie now instead of waiting for it to come in the mail

  17. Karenin Huntington Says:

    SONY seemed to lack a bit of common sense here. The jump from VHS to DVD was inevitable. We were inspired by SEVERAL reasons. We didn't have to worry about the film wearing out; we could play it on our computers; and the quality was MUCH better. (To name a few)

    SONY failed to see that a better quality was ONLY A PIECE OF IT. (Forget the fact that the blu ray quality is not that much better than DVD.) Who wants to (1) buy a whole new system? (2) Who wants to buy a whole new TV? (3) Who wants to pay twice as much for the film? (4) And lose the convenience of taking the disc to a friend's house or playing it on your computer? AND ALL FOR A SLIGHTLY BETTER PICTURE?

    Besides, people may be onto the corrupt nature of SONY. When PS 3 first came out, it was backwards compatible. And when people continued to buy PS 2 games, SONY had the indecency to stop making PS 3 backwards compatible. SONY is in a panic because even people who have Blu Ray players are still buying DVD. HELLO!!! Is there a pattern here? I take my hat off to Microsoft and Apple for refusing to play into SONY's corrupt game.

  18. ken1969 Says:

    Being something of a movie buff myself I did buy Blu-Ray, and was impressed by the improved quality, and yet my wife, and many of my friends and family who I showed off to were completely unable to notice any difference and remain utterly unimpressed.
    After a while, I actually began to find the additional level of detail in movies an actual distraction from the main action. It's fine in the big CGI action movies, but for smaller movies I think it actually detracts from my enjoyment by making everything too stark.
    In addition, there's the fact that on average it takes about 5-10 times longer for a Blu-Ray disk to spin up – partly because of hardware issues, but also just because the menu systems are now locked so you are forced to watch interminable trailers where before on DVD you could opt to just skip past them.
    Then there was the issue with occasional incompatible disks – a particular movie would come out, and I would either rent it or buy it, and then find it just would not play on my player. In order to overcome this I was required to frequently update my firmware. On my Blu-Ray player this process involved downloading various files and burning part of the download to a disk via my PC but also putting other files onto a USB stick and putting those in the player. This is not something my mum would ever figure out, but talking to most of my friends who are not technical it seems pretty clear it would flummox them as well.
    As others have said, of course there is also the inconvenience of not being able to take Blu-Ray disks with me on vacation to watch – many hotels I go to now have a DVD player so I can just bring my own movies, but as a back up I generally bring my laptop and a TV out cable – I'm not about to upgrade my laptop to run Blu-Ray just to watch an occasional movie.
    The bottom line for me was the extra cost and the hassle in no way justified the additional quality gains in a few major blockbusters, so in the end I abandoned Blu Ray, sold my player and the few movies I'd bought and went back to DVD. My upscaling DVD player does a perfectly good job and I don't feel like I'm missing anything.
    As a result I now strongly advise anyone who asks against investing in Blu Ray – it's a technology that is too late and provides no added value. With broadband speeds increasing and hard disk storage prices always dropping it's now inevitable that digital downloads will replace video media.
    It's already happening at an ever accelerating pace for music – with downloads set to overtake CD sales for the first time in 2012.
    100MB broadband is now becoming affordable, and for £90 you can buy an external 3TB disk capable of holding around 100 full resolution Blu-Ray quality movies. Why would you want to have 100 Blu-Ray boxes that you can only play on your player at home when you could carry around a single external USB drive and a low cost media player that allows you to watch anywhere?
    No question, downloads will definitely kill Blu Ray even if DVD hangs on for the technically challenged.

  19. Dont Buy It Says:

    In case you guys were wondering what Cinavia is, it is an inaudible watermark that is deeply integrated in the audio, and cannot be removed without DESTROYING the audio. Look for the Cinavia logo in the back of the disc you buy-it is about an eighth of an inch in diameter and it is purple in color, and has the logo like the moon in one of its crescent phases. A similar thing was done to DVD-A -audio) format. Verance corporation invented this watermark, originally called Verance. Downloads may kill the format but maybe these idiotic copy protection schemes will kill it first.