Thursday, May 1, 2008

HD DVD is Gone, But Has This Really Helped Blu-ray?

It has been more than two months since Toshiba officially announced the end of the high-definition DVD format war by halting production of HD DVD players. The Blu-ray camp sighed a big sigh of relief, and poised itself for an increase in sales. But has Blu-ray really benefitted from winning the format war?

According to a recent study by The NPD Group, it hasn't; or at least not yet. Sales of Blu-ray players actually dropped 40% from January to February in the U.S. From February to March, during the time when the "war" had officially been declared over, there was only a 2% increase in sales.

"That standalone Blu-ray players haven't picked up significantly from HD DVD's loss shows that few consumers were dissuaded primarily by the 'format war'," declared Ross Rubin, Director of Industry Analysis, NPD. "When we surveyed consumers late last year, on overwhelming number of them said they weren't investing in a next-generation player because their old DVD player worked well and next-generation players were too expensive. It's clear from retail sales that those consumer sentiments are still holding true."

I've long said that, rather than focusing on becoming the winning format, both camps should have been more focused on convincing the customer that he needs to upgrade to an HD source, period. Either way, price will remain a factor with budget-conscious customer; not just of the Blu-ray hardware devices, but also software, which are often times almost double the price of a "regular" DVD movie. In fact, I think if the price of software were to drop down to become in line with standard DVDs, more people might be willing to fork over the extra dough for the player.

Interestingly, NPD notes that many consumers who are interested in a better viewing experience are quite content with upconverting DVD players. Sales of these such devices grew 5% during the first quarter of 2008 compared to 2007. Meanwhile, regular DVD player sales dropped a whopping 39%.

Nevertheless, it's only a matter of time before consumers finally pick up on high-definition DVD. Many are already enjoying HDTVs and high-definition TV viewing, so high-def DVD is naturally the next step in the equation. It's also important to note that this study only looked at standalone Blu-ray players: devices like the Sony PlayStation 3 gaming console, which includes a built-in Blu-ray player, has been selling like hotcakes!

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