Is Blu-Ray Failing or a Success Story?

I can remember years ago when I went to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and there were the high-def wars: some vendors were loudly proclaiming the merits of HD-DVD, while others were pushing the competing technology of Blu-Ray. Both looked beautiful on screen and both were a major jump from the resolution and capabilities of a standard DVD player. I was impressed.

blu ray logoI wasn’t, however, impressed enough to buy either HD player when they first came on the scene, and it took me a few years to upgrade from my Sony tube to a full-bore 1080p hi-def television (another Sony, as it happens). When I did, I also bought a top-of-the-line Panasonic Blu-Ray player, figuring that if I’m going to take the plunge, I might as well go all out.
Then I noticed how expensive Blu-Ray disks were when compared to traditional DVD disks. A standard DVD runs about $14-$16, while a typical Blu-Ray is closer to $25 or even higher. That’s a lot of money for a movie on a little piece of plastic.
Further, there’s a feature of all high-def players that is well worth highlighting: upsampling. What this means is that if you put in a standard DVD movie to an HD player that’s hooked up via the hi-def media interface (HDMI) cable to an HD-capable television, it looks tons better than the old RCA or cable interface did on an older TV.
For me it was a delight: all of my old movies, even black and white ones from the 40s and 50s, suddenly took on new life, were vivid and crisp, and looked terrific. So why buy the expensive Blu-Ray disk when the far less expensive DVDs look great too?


This is one of the reasons that I believe the adoption rate of Blu-Ray has been fairly slow, actually. Lots of people who are buying newer, better televisions are finding that the picture looks “good enough” as is, and if they upgrade even just how they connect their DVD player to their TV, the picture improves (HDMI is visibly better than component, RCA or cable).

And yet, has it been slow to adopt?  According to the Consumer Electronics Association [by way of Engadget], three years after the release of DVDs, only a bit more than 4% of US households had a DVD player, and less than 2% of people had adopted the CD technology for music three years after that was released. By contrast, 8% of households now have a Blu-Ray player.
The wrinkle here, however, is that a lot of computers are now sold with Blu-Ray disk readers and I have to wonder if those are counted. I live in a fairly affluent community and few of my neighbors have a Blu-Ray player, so if we went to a more blue collar area, I’d really be surprised if almost 10% of them have the expensive player and are paying up to a 100% premium for Blu-Ray releases.
Do people really opt for Blu-Ray? Sometimes: Watchmen had a staggering 36% of its sales in Blu-Ray format, and The Dark Knight has had about 25% of its sales in the hi-def format. Generally, though, DVD releases in both formats don’t see the Blu-Ray format anywhere near that high.
I like Blu-Ray movies and while I don’t generally buy too many films anyway, I certainly prefer a Blu-Ray disk to a standard DVD disk. But so what?  The more important person is not me, the film critic who dedicates a chunk of his time to the movie industry and cinema, but you, dear reader, who watches and enjoys films: do you own a Blu-Ray player and what percentage of films that you buy are in standard versus Blu-Ray format?

10 thoughts on “Is Blu-Ray Failing or a Success Story?

  1. Karen

    I won’t buy a Blu-Ray player until it gets to the point where that’s the only way I can buy movies. Yes, the resolution is a lot nicer, but this isn’t like making the switch from VHS to DVD where you’re completely altering the format. This is switching to a more expensive player and more expensive discs just for better picture quality. Right now, I don’t care much about that. I’m still more interested in story over style.

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  2. Ed

    We also upgraded to a blu-ray player when we bought our new plasma television. However we don’t buy any dvd’s. We pay $1 extra a movie to have NetFlix upgrade us to blu-ray from standard format.

    Is it worth it? It’s very hard to tell because we’re so used to hi-def. i’d say the difference is pretty nominal except when you watch a disc like Planet Earth.

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  3. blade

    blu ray isn’t really worth it the pic quality is almost identical to normal dvd on a hdmi cable. the only difference is blu ray looks clear all the time even if your close to the tv AND on fast moving scenes it doesn’t go blurry on dvd it does slightly. my sony blu ray players barely gets used for blu-ray i’m thinking of getting rid of it and just getting a dvd player with hdmi output. blu-ray has failed as a popular media format.

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  4. geof

    You wont see the full benefits of bluray unless you are watching on a really big screen or better still projecting the image using a HD projector.

    In this instance there is a huge difference compared to DVD.

    For most people they wont even notice the difference on a 50″ TV.

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  5. Sandra

    I personally think that we’re moving away from “discs” and moving into the internet era where we are just downloading movies straight from Netflix to our TV.

    Reply
  6. Linda Sorensen

    We bought one of the newest BluRay players when they came out three years ago. We just bought a new one that connects directly to WiFi (NetFlix) which is very cool. (So, now we have two BluRay players.) We don’t buy a DVD unless it’s BluRay now. But, in comparison to the amount of movies we have in standard def, the percentage is very low. (We own about 20 BluRay’s) Then, compare that to the number of VHS’s we still have (and my 4-year-old watches almost daily) our percentage is VERY low. The difference is, because the cost is so high for the disc’s we are very particular about the BluRay’s we buy. Plus, we love NetFlix where we can watch pretty much whatever we want for a very reasonable cost – even for BluRay’s. But, we really enjoy watching the high quality that BluRay offers.

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  7. Ace

    I purchsed the PlayStation 3 as y Blu-ray player since it was rated as the top performer for Picture quality.
    And also enjoys the capability of Divx and playing games off and on when I feel like so.
    While this article is old today you can purchase a Blu-Ray movie at the same prices discounted DVD’s were back in 08 and 09.
    I have bought new BR movies from Walmart from $10-$15 and If I were to spend $20 I could get a double feature 2- BR movies.
    With HD television prices plummeting almost anyone can own one and there are now Blu-Ray players that can be bought for $99 This is not outrageous and many thought the BR prices would stay high for quite a few years this was un-true and being proven wrong all the time.
    I found a 47″ LCD 1080p TV at Walmart for $459 and this is out of reach for the average Blue collar worker…I think not.
    HD is here to stay and Blu-ray is just fine.

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  8. Jacques Clouseau

    This is not exactly the same as when we converted from vhs to dvd.

    When we were making that switch, we had vhs copies of films that were wearing out anyway. So it made sense to just buy a dvd and not have to worry about it wearing out. And the more of our vhs tapes wore out, the more we replaced on dvd. (I’m still gradually replacing my vhs tapes with dvd as they wear out.)

    This is not the case with blu ray. People are not going to buy their whole dvd collection over.

    Add to that that with blu ray, you not only need a new tv, but you have to pay A LOT more for the same film. And the quality of the product is not that much better anyway.

    Add to that that many computers won’t play blu ray.

    Add to that that many people are finding blu ray is more trouble than it’s worth.

    DVDs are good enough. And now people are into downloading and streaming. Sorry blu ray. The boat left, and you missed it.

    Reply

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