Blu-ray buzzkill: the death-spiral

Blu-ray buzzkill: the death-spiral

Summary: Will consumers upgrade to Blu-ray? The CEO & co-founder of fast growing Netflix believes mailed DVDs shall be replaced by web-sent movies.

TOPICS: Mobility, Hardware

Will consumers upgrade to Blu-ray? The CEO & co-founder of fast growing Netflix believes mailed DVDs shall be replaced by web-sent movies. And a recent Harris [no relation, darn it] Poll finds that people today are less likely to buy a Blu-ray player than they were last year.

Now would be a good time to panic Forget the ever-optimistic "market research" reports blowing smoke up the BDA's hind end. And the "hold the course" counsel from Blu-ray marketers.

The Harris Poll numbers are damning. Purchase intentions dropped over 20% - from 9% in '08 to 7% in '09 - while the percentage of "not at all likely" prospects rose to 75% in '09 from 65% in '08.

Buzzkill: the lukewarm Blu-ray base But surely the early adopters who've experienced the joys of Blu-ray - superb picture quality, uncompressed audio and many new features - the people who - like me - have giant HD screens, surround sound systems and large movie collections, surely we love Blu-ray. Right?

Nope. Even the 16% of the polled who have a PS3 or a Blu-ray player aren't fired up.

51% won't wait for Blu-ray if the DVD comes out first. Fully 59% don't buy the most movies on Blu-ray. 65% won't replace their DVDs with Blu-ray.

In short, even the people who own Blu-ray are underwhelmed. Yes, it is better, and the people who like it buy more movies than average, but there isn't the "Wow!" factor that drove widespread adoption of CDs and DVDs.

The Storage Bits take The decline in buying intentions owes something to the worldwide depression recession, but the apathy of BD owners is ominous. If the players get cheap enough more people will buy them, but even that won't drive BD disk sales.

Unless drastic action is taken before this Christmas season, Blu-ray will join all the other failed consumer media formats like SACD, Laser Disk, DVD-Audio and the PSP's UMD. Most new formats fail - Blu-ray's claim to fame is that it will be, without a doubt, the costliest such failure in history.

What can the BDA and the vendors do to turn it around? How about:

  • Recognition that Blu-ray is a feature tweak and price accordingly.
  • Accept that Blu-ray will never earn back the investment.
  • Consumers will pay $50 more for a Blu-ray player that is competitive with the average up-sampling DVD player.
  • Disk price margins can't be higher than DVDs and probably should be less. The question the studios need to ask is: do we want to be selling disks in 5 years? No? Turn distribution over to your very good friends at Comcast, Apple and Time Warner. Ask Procter & Gamble about paying Safeway to stock products.
  • Fire all the market research firms telling you how great it is going to be. They are playing you. Your #1 goal: market share. High volume is your only chance to earn your way out of this mess and keep some control of your distribution.
  • Time is short. Timid incrementalism will kill you.

    Comments welcome, of course.

    Topics: Mobility, Hardware

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    • They're kidding themselves if they think we'll pay more for it.

      They f'd up, plain and simple. Like all consumer electronics tech, be it tv, smartphone, mp3, whatever, the customers expectation is next year we get more features for less money. BluRay quality audio/video should have been the next thing for the same price as previous years dvd players. And there should have only been about $1 difference in the dvd's for new releases. The old releases that are $5.99 should have been $5.99 for the BluRay versions too. I bought a Sony cd/dvd player that had sacd about 7 years ago. This was before I had any mp3s. The only sacd i have 7 years later is the sample one that came with it. I never bought a single sacd and will never buy a BluRay disc or player. And BluRay will be crushed by UHDTV...
      Johnny Vegas
      • What this is . . .

        is a normal, typical, Sony fiasco. Is there a format they've introduced that has become the standard yet? Last time I checked, NO.

        They've set standards in Electronics and sound quality, but every time they try to dabble in a format, it blows up rather spectacularly in their face. Betamax, DAT, etc . . .
        • Cheap Cheap Cheap!

          Sounds like most people are just to darn cheap to pay for quality equipment. All of my equipment is high end Sony for the Living room and Samsung for the bedroom. You get what you pay for. Be cheap and you get junk!
          • How your credit rating

            I hope you keep up paying you bills. Some of us have grown up and realize we do not need the latest shiny toy and the pile of debt that comes with it.
          • New technology always takes time

            Having been involved in audio and video since the late 60's, I have heard this resistance to change and carping about newer technology forever. Some of the more recent chatter was a few years ago on the struggle with Zoom and their lack of hi-def video. Today, with more hi-def channels than I could ever watch on my Dish system, there is still a constant complaint about some channel which hasn't been made available. I remember all the complaints about quad sound, sq, qs, cd4. Anyway, I started with a top load vhs, a front loaded Sony beta, laser disk (and ced), perfect sound forever in cds, sacds, dvds, and now blu ray. Each time my audio sytem improved on the sound on/or video presentation. I just purchased an lcd led and the new Oppo blu ray with incredible audio capabilities. The movies I pay an extra dollar or two from Netflix are incredible, the sound is the finest audiophile pretty much available (I know, downloaded hi rez is even better), and the process goes on. I have purchased in the last two weeks blu rays for $10 from Fryes, and see plenty of things available under $20. I purchased a blu ray Earth Wind and Fire/ Chicago concert disc which is incredible in the video as well as audio. I guess there are always those who complain, but I simply remind folks that they have been out there forever and will always be out there. What Blu Ray has done, in hardware and software, is improve the state of the art in both video and audio to an extent never even perceived. Well done, industry!
          • If you want expensive junk be my guest.

            When cheaper stuff is better, the choice is

            You can get terabyte hard drives for under $50,
            and now even some ISPs in the
            [i][b]U.S.[/b][/i] support DOCSIS 3.0 cable
            (100 mbps at $100 a month)..

            There is just no competition. The time for
            optical media is [u]over[/u].
            • Where exactly

              Can you find 1TB hard drives for under $50?? Please provide a link to this.
            • Try e-bay

              I'd provide a link to a specific auction, but it wouldn't last too long. And the > $50 price includes shipping.
            • There was one on newegg..

              That was from a rebate though :P

              Obviously you don't hunt for rebates or sales or
              anything you won't find them THAT cheap.
            • Where exactly

          • You mean Sony, right?

            Friend of mine bought a "high end" Sony LCD TV a less than three years ago. Had to have it serviced [i]twice[/i]. So far. Luckily, he bought an extended warranty. On most products, they're usually a waste. Not on this one. Obviously, you [i]don't[/i] always get you pay for. I say that having a number of Sony products, including a color TV (12") that's still gets occasional use.

            Fact is, I've bought electronics from a wide number and range of manufacturers. Guess what? Most of them have lasted and have given good use. Not all, but close enough.

            One place where trickle down works is in technology. When Dolby Digital first came out, it was only available at the high end. Now, all but the cheapest receivers have it. Granted, the high end units may still give better performance, but the cheap ones are pretty good. And most products are fairly durable these days.

            And I have yet to see any Blu Ray extras that impress me. I buy or rent a disc for the primary content, not to get fancy PIP effects with the director's commentary. Even the ones on DVDs often aren't worth the time to watch them, but at least they cost at least a third less than the Blu Ray version.

            So go for the best bang for the buck, unless you have money to burn. Not the bottom of the barrel no-name brands (although some of those are decent) and not the top of the line stuff. Yes, Blu Ray looks spectacular on a HDTV, but then an upconverted DVD doesn't look half bad, for a lot less money.
          • The DRM crap is killing them.

            It drives up the cost of everything connected to Blue Ray and makes it very hard to attach a one to machine that isn't customized to make the studioes happy. Then they didn't get their acts together on standerds for a long time if they have now. Blue ray burners more or less don't exist or cost a fortune so that feature was never a selling feature.

            The result is the ship came and the ship is sailing. The studioes should be happy. They succeded. People aren't copying their high def BlueRay disks. Of course most people aren't buying them either.

          • Cheap?

            I am someone who grew up with cassette tapes vs LPs and the VHS vs. Beta Max. I am someone who used to go out and buy the "newest" technology, only to see the technology improve and get CHEAPER. I remember paying $400 for a single speed CD player back in 1987. Not even 5 years later you could buy many CD players for that price. I remember buying a single speed CD recorder for my computer for $450 back in 1998. I remember paying $320 for 8MB of RAM for my computer. How about the people who spent $5,000 or more for plasma TVs when they first came out? I think you see where this going?
            Bottom line is this: Call it "cheap" if you want. It is just plain STUPID to buy new technologies when they first come out, when we all KNOW that within two years the technology will be better, and the price will decrease by at least half! Since we are used to this, it will be hard to get anyone to pay a "premium" for something new coming out.
            • TalkBack 13 of 216:

              correct and right to the point
          • And exactly how . . .

            does your whining about what OTHER people have in their homes have ANYTHING to do with my post?

            I was talking about Sony's inability to define a usable standard, not the quality of other manufacturer's equipment.

            Do you actually read a post before responding?

            • And exactly how

              sony has'nt done anything right as long as i took them a long time with the standards,have they actually settled on 1 standard????
            • Naaahh . . .

              They used to be good on the Hardware side (some of the best pieces of Electronics I've ever owned were made by Sony), but lately I seen a never ending stream of complaints about everything from TV's to Rootkits on CD's (Got nailed by that one myself - I'm still not sure that I've gotten everything off . . .).

              And they've NEVER set a Standard yet (ie, Memstick, DAT, Betamax, the list goes on and on . . .) as far as I can tell.
            • Sony standards

              How about these:

              (1) U-Matic VCR - ubiquitous in commercial video & TV stations

              (2) Betacam (pro version of Betamax) still widely used in ENG

              (3) Hi-8 (8mm videotape) was the camcorder standard pre-digital

              (4) DAT & MiniDisc still widely used in pro audio shops & radio
              (also DDS widely used for many years in computer backup systems)

              (5) ever seen a 3.5" floppy disc?

              Caveats: (a) 1, 2 & 4 are pro formats (so less widespread) but pros are
              much fussier about quality and Sony had the goods
              (b) 4 & 5 were developed in conjunction with HP.
          • value

            Sony stuff is ok, but it is not a good value. You can get better stuff for the same, or lower price. I don't mind paying more if I get more. I won't fall for advertising hype.
          • Cheap Cheap Cheap!

            i bought a $200.00 sony dvd player 3 years ago and it quit working just like all sony products i have ever may have better picture and sound but i won't buy them because they are'nt reliable and they cost way too home theater is made up of Infinity speakers and McIntosh equipment and you want to call that cheap,get a life,sony is high priced crap