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Monday, September 14, 2009

What's Up With Blu-ray?

Nearly a decade after DVDs gobbled up the VHS market share, consumers once again face a format change. Fortunately, the transition from DVD to Blu-ray won’t be nearly as drastic or as expensive; (Blu-ray Disc players can play both Blu-ray products and DVDs). Still, many consumers might be hesitant to invest in the new players, while others may not understand the differences between DVDs and Blu-ray. Let’s break it down:

Difference Between the Two Formats
Standard DVDs are read with a red laser, allowing each disc to hold between 4.7 and 8.55 gigabytes of video. Blu-rays, on the other hand, are read with a low-frequency blue-violet laser which allows each Blu-ray disc to contain up to six times more storage (25 to 50 gigabytes of video). Consequently, Blu-ray discs contain higher quality pictures than DVDs and offer superior extras and functionality.

Introduced in 2003, Blu-ray faced stiff competition to become the premier next-generation media. However, after winning out over Toshiba’s HD DVD in 2007, Blu-ray started gaining steam in the market. And while the brand struggled with sales through late 2008, Blu-ray has maintained its niche in the movie rental and retail industry with a 16% market share (early 2009 statistics)¹. Furthermore, studios continue to release more and more titles in the Blu-ray format, piquing consumer interest and making Blu-ray a more mainstream format for libraries to consider.

Blu-Ray Disc Association companies (Sony, Apple Inc., Hewlett Packard, Intel Corporation, Samsung, Walt Disney, and 20th Century Fox) continue to make updates and improvements to their products and services. For example, BD-Live enables viewers to upload additional exclusive features for their movies—like looking up a particular actor’s background while the film is playing—all from their Internet-connected Blu-ray Disc player ². Additionally, Apple Inc. offers applications that enable iPhone and iPod Touch users to control interactive content on their Web-connected Blu-ray Disc players³.

Blu-ray titles on average cost $10 more than standard DVDs (early 2009 statistics), and Blu-ray Disc players (priced between $100-200) remain significantly higher than budget DVD players (priced as low as $30). However, every Blu-ray Disc player is backwards compatible with DVDs, meaning DVD titles will play in Blu-ray Disc players. Furthermore, PlayStation 3 video game consoles can play Blu-ray titles, thus enhancing the appeal not only of the video game platform, but of Blu-ray products as well.

At an Entertainment Supply Chain Association conference, Futuresource postulated that by 2012 Blu-ray will consist of roughly 50% of the home video sales market⁴. With consumer demand for improved sound and picture quality intensifying and companies competing to manufacture cost-effective players, Blu-ray seems headed for dominance in the home video marketplace. However, only time will ultimately tell how Blu-ray will fare in the digital age.

Blu-ray Pros
Blu-ray Cons
Higher storage capacity
More expensive than DVDs
Higher quality picture and sound
The Blu-ray format is still evolving
Loads of extras as well as additional special features through BD-Live
Blu-ray players require regular software updates via an internet connection
Blu-ray players can play DVDs
Fewer titles available compared to DVDs


  1. I remain sceptical about the predicted rise of blu-ray, mostly because of the cost of the discs. Purely my own personal opinion, but I buy 6-10 DVDs a year, if I were paying an additional $10.00, I probably reduce that number to 2 or 3.

  2. Jim brings up an interesting point. The cost of Blu-ray is higher than DVD, which might be a contributing factor to their niche representation in the home video marketplace. If the cost of Blu-ray titles decrease, the brand could see growth in popularity. What do others think?


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