Technology | Media | Telecommunications

Monday, August 11, 2008

Blu-Ray Anticlimax Saved by the PlayStation

Blu-ray DVD players are not flying off retailer shelves, at least not in the numbers the industry might hope for. Perhaps it's a video solution in search of a problem.

A market study by ABI Research has revealed a widespread consumer reluctance to commit to a Blu-ray player in the near future -- over half of the 1000 respondents of a survey citing other priorities, say they have no plans to purchase one; a further 23 percent are likely to buy, but not until sometime in 2009.

ABI Research principal analyst Steve Wilson says that much of the lukewarm response can be attributed to consumer perceptions about the value proposition that Blu-ray delivers.

Consumers were happy to embrace standard DVD when that format arrived because the improvement in quality over VHS videotapes was dramatic. Standard DVD didn't require the purchase of a new TV either.

In contrast, while half of the respondents to the survey rated Blu-ray's quality as much better than standard DVD, another 40 percent termed it only somewhat better, and most are very satisfied with the performance of their current DVD players.

High Blu-ray player prices and the need for an accompanying high-definition television were also leading barriers to wider adoption, the survey showed. "We expect that player prices will remain above $300 for Tier One models for the remainder of this year," says Wilson. Look for disc bundling to become the buyer's incentive.

There is a bright spot, however -- Sony's Blu-ray-enabled PlayStation 3 game console is rapidly becoming a favorite for hard-core gamers and so the installed base of sockets for Blu-ray discs continues to climb.

"While you might think gamers purchase fewer movie discs that others, we didn't see any significant evidence of that in our results," says Wilson. "PS3 console shipments will go a long way to help bring down manufacturing costs and drive down Blu-ray player prices."