Predicting Blu-ray's Troubles Didn't Take A Crystal Ball

from the that's-gotta-hurt dept

A bunch of regular readers of Techdirt have been sending in Robin Harris’ analysis that, despite beating HD-DVD in a drawn out standards battle, Blu-ray DVDs don’t seem to be gaining much traction. Harris specifically states: “16 months ago I called the HD war for Blu-ray. My bad. Who dreamed they could both lose?” I guess Harris doesn’t read Techdirt. Because we predicted such an outcome 3 years ago when the standards battle delayed adoption, and again when Blu-ray launched over two years ago, and again when HD-DVD dropped out earlier this year. It wasn’t exactly rocket science to recognize what would happen, if you just compared the standards battle over DVDs to previous standards battles, and looked at the competitive environment and tech horizon, you could see that an extended standards battle would hurt both sides. That said, I’m actually not as pessimistic as Harris about Blu-ray’s chances. I think that it will catch on somewhat and become more widely used — though, not nearly as widely as if the standard had been set three years ago, before online delivery of movies was a viable option.

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Comments on “Predicting Blu-ray's Troubles Didn't Take A Crystal Ball”

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jim says:


I hope that this is not the case. I waited to see the outcome for the hd v br results and now own a PS3 for watching movies. However not every new title is purchased is br due to cost (dvd is still a valid and economical format) and avalibility. I detest DRM it makes legal users criminals and would not purchase a movie, game, music from a online store that does not provide a hard copy (cd,dvd,br)as there is no method of protecting you investment (see sony movie downloads. until the content makers sort this out i will always buy media it works in most hardware, I don’t and won’t trust drm downloads. Am I alone?

hi mom says:

Hey, Hulk did well on Bluray!

18% of total sales were the Bluray version, which is apparently the highest percentage of first week sales for any same day DVD and Bluray release ever.

The average is 12%, and some movies do as low as 3% of their total first week sales on Bluray vs DVD, like Sex & The City.

Obviously, this is because Hulk is a manly man movie with CG that more people would want to see in HD than Sex & The City though.

The real challenge is to get everyone to buy the Bluray version ๐Ÿ˜€

jarosite says:

Bluray v dvd

Bluray may no longer be competing against HD-dvd but they are now competing against standard dvds.
Many people are not willing to pay up to 3 or 4 times as much for a bluray for a slightly better picture. Especially when they know that the extra money is just going into the pocket of the movie companies as there is very little extra cost in producing a bluray over a dvd.

People just don’t like being ripped off. If Bluray comes down in price so that it is close to dvd then people will buy Bluray instead of dvd. I think we are beyond the bleeding edge now.

It would up sales in PS3’s to ๐Ÿ™‚

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Bluray v dvd

you’re right here, hell, even a ~700MB divx file looks pretty good on the PS3 through HDMI, even on a 52 inch LCD. I remember when HD-DVD was around, you could find some of the newer (and crappier) titles for ~$18 sometimes. I have purchased 2 Blu-ray movies in nearly 2 years of PS3 ownership. Bring the price down and people will buy in to the whole blu-ray setup. Otherwise, IMHO, most people can’t justify the extra expense for a slightly better (from normal viewing distance) movie experience.

Peter says:

Re: Bluray v dvd

Well – and it’s not just a little money for a slightly better picture. When I buy a DVD – I can (legally) rip it and host it on my AppleTV. Now I can watch it the way I want, when I want without having to go rifling through a box of DVDs looking for it. Way better… So a DVD is cheaper, a better usage model, backed up… and I get all of that for just a slightly worse image… Seems like a good deal to me.

crystalattice (profile) says:

Re: Bluray v dvd

I don’t own any HD devices nor do I plan on it until I need to replace my TV. I’ve seen the demonstrations in stores and the quality improvement isn’t enough to justify the expense.

Granted, SD video on a super-ultra-wide bigscreen TV looks like crap in the displays but honestly, I don’t know if I trust that the stores are really showing the true quality difference.

There is a bigger difference between VHS and DVD than DVD and Blu-Ray. Especially when you consider the fact that VHS was analog, required rewinding the movie, didn’t support random access, and all the other features of DVDs. The difference between BD and DVD isn’t as big, IMO. So, it’s still not worth the price.

Plus, I refuse to support Sony anymore, especially because of all the proprietary tech they use that prevents people from using their legally purchased and rightfully owned products.

Bob says:

Heres whats gona happen

All the pipes in America will go DOCSIS 3, we will have to sign up for movie packages like we currently do with cable.
Then we will get to see movies and video.
Limits will be capped and if you don’t have the movie packages will cost you a fortune for overages.
Congress will make laws so that no one will be allowed to sell all you can use internet access.
Pirates will set up networks, grannies will get sued by the Internicaa.

PaulT (profile) says:

I have no use for Blu-Ray right now because I don’t own a massive HD screen and sound system – my 32″ works fine for my current needs and an upscaled standard def DVD looks fine to my eyes.

Even if this were not the case, Blu-Ray holds little appeal to me. Expensive players, expensive discs, many of the discs don’t have anywhere near the number of extra features as the SD releases, and I’m not sure but aren’t the region coding and “copy protection” pretty strong right now? I have no desire to pay more for an inferior package that won’t play when and where I want just because the picture and sound are a bit better.

TheZorch (profile) says:

Get Rid of HDCP and We'll Talk

Get rid of HDCP and the requirement to have an HDMI port on your TV to enjoy full 1080i/p resolution and then maybe people will start buying more Blu-Ray discs. As it is all those millions of HDTV early adopters don’t want to buy a brand new TV to enjoy the HD content Big Media promised them was coming if they did buy an HDTV early.

HDCP+HDMI = Screwed Over Consumers

That is why Blu-Ray isn’t doing well, any other argument is ignoring the truth.

Twinrova says:

Re: Get Rid of HDCP and We'll Talk

That is why Blu-Ray isn’t doing well, any other argument is ignoring the truth.
Not to be pointing fingers here, but it’s you who are ignoring the truth of the “failure” of Blu-Ray.

It’s the cost. Consumers are frustrated with having to buy expensive HDTVs, then to turn around and spend another $300+ for a player + $30 per movie? That’s the reason Blu-Ray isn’t taking off.

Add in the economic woes, and this just compounds the problem.

In addition, people aren’t going to be happy they’ll need to swap out all their DVDs for Blu-Ray. Don’t laugh. Consumers don’t truly understand the difference and believe their current DVD collection won’t work.

It’s no wonder. Rarely do “big box” stores cater to education as much as they do sales and pushing their expensive warranties onto consumers.

I’m pretty educated with technology and I’ve yet to purchase a Blu-Ray player + movies (although I do own an HDTV). Why? Cost. I know eventually prices will come down to a price point which makes it easier for me to obtain. I see absolutely no reason to buy a Blu-Ray player when my SDDVD player looks fine on the HDTV.

I could care less if I can copy the content or not. Nor do most consumers, so HDCP has no bearing on this “failure” (unless it renders the player useless).

Eric Davis says:

Re: Re: Get Rid of HDCP and We'll Talk

I agree with TheZorch, HDCP is total BS. I purchased two HD TVs as soon as they were avaliable and they only have a DVI port and I can not watch BlueRay. I can’t even watch video from an upscaler DVD player. Therefor I can not buy a BlueRay player until my 5 year old HDTV dies and I’m forced to get a new one with HDMI / HDCP.
Twinrova – your also wrong about the “big box” stores catering to BlueRay education – Target, WalMart and Best Buy all run non-stop videos about BlueRay.

Anonymous Coward says:

blue ray woes

I have just recently purchased two hdtv’s. The quality is much better then my anaolog tv. However I have yet to purchase a blue ray player. Like bob V I am very technology educated and found that my wallet must take front seat as to what I buy. Even though I paid $2k for my tv I am not willing to pay $300-$1k for a blue ray player. However unlike my associate I would like option to may copies and or burn to blue ray disks. I currently own a copy of dvd players/burners and they work just fine. Until the blue ray player comes down to under $100 and the movies are competitive dvd prices I wont buy one. If the burners that are stand alone come down to $300 then I will.

ken1569 says:

HD TV is fine if YOU have Satilite service*

I have NO blue ray and wont get one till they become cheaper and movie prices come down –
Now if you have HD TV and on cable (like cox ) you do not and wont get true HD TV cause they do not have the bandwith to bring you 1080i and some such as cox can’t even give you 720i……
Most who have cable do not know this and buy a nice HD TV thinking they have now got HD via there cable company Ha Ha… Not true
YOU pay extra to have HD tv via cable but YOUR not getting it! Regular TV is 420 and in most cases today on cable and a HD TV your lucky if you can get Discovery channel in 600i where lets say DishNetwork is sending out true HD 1080i:
Cable can’t do that cause it takes three regular channels to make one true HD1080i…..

Do your home work and stop paying for what YOUR not getting or going to get Via Cable……….

hegemon13 says:

Re: HD TV is fine if YOU have Satilite service*

Uninformed comments. Yes, cable is fully capable of 1080i using either QAM or a digital box. More importantly, OTA HD is available for free, which makes it a far better alternative to satellite or cable. When I bought my HDTV two years ago, the payment on it was less than my cable bill, and we canceled the cable because we could get everything we wanted in OTA HD. So, it was a net monthly savings, AND I got a new TV. Now, it’s paid off, so there is no monthly payment. Yet, the free HD content just keeps on coming. ๐Ÿ™‚

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: HD TV is fine if YOU have Satilite service*

> Yes, cable is fully capable of 1080i using either QAM or a
> digital box. More importantly, OTA HD is available for
> free, which makes it a far better alternative to satellite
> or cable.

…assuming the signal doesn’t break up. That can be
a big problem with OTA. That’s always been a big problem
with OTA. That’s why so many people have cable. That said,
you will probably see higher bitrates on OTA than you will
on either cable or sat. OTOH, the sat providers are using
h264 which helps them pack more channels in. They also
aren’t limited to a “single cable”.

Then again, I am perfectly content to record a HDTV
signal pulled off sattelite at only 480p. It looks very
respectable (being recorded from a good source) and takes
up a lot less space on the PVR.

Content and convenience are king.

AJ says:

Don't Understand

How does a free and competitive marketplace (and the regulators of such) allow for exclusive licensing deals for a format like blu-ray to force all competition out of the marketplace? In what conceivable way does that promote competition? Technology, what it is today, could easily support several high def formats. I have a player at home that will play both. But to allow the hardware manufacturers to get a monopoly on distribution of content to force its competitor out of business seems to be just plain wrong? Where are the guardians of the free market? Oh yeah, they’re sidetracked regulating the housing loan market. Right.

Steve (user link) says:

Cost vs. Benefit is the primary problem

Up scaling DVD players are very good. So good in fact, that a few people can’t reliably tell the difference between a well scaled DVD and Blu-ray.

Even the majority who can easily tell the difference frequently don’t think is so much nicer it should warrant a big extra cost.

During my highly accurate and definitive 5 minuets in a single Best Buy sample, I saw frequently $15 DVDs make $25 Blu-rays, and $19 DVDs made $30 or $35 Blu-rays. That’s a huge markup for something that people think is just “a little sharper and nicer”.

If Blu-ray titles were just a $5 markup all across the board, the takeoff would be much much faster. The faster it takes off the faster they make back their Blu-ray production costs.

chris (profile) says:

physical formats are dying

the world has moved on, i guess sony didn’t get the memo.

bill gates even said so about blu-ray years ago:

hard drive based players (flash included) and digital delivery are the future. dvd was the last successful physical video format and if the industry knows what’s good for it blu-ray will be the last physical format period.

Jean says:

That reminds me of the mini-disc vs. DCC standard battle. Not many people remember it, but it was quite the same: two new standards, one of which was supposed to replace audio-CD (the only sort of CD at the time), and everybody was absolutely certain that one of them would succeed and elimitate the other. Everybody except me (because I am such a genius). I was positively sure that none of them would survive, for the simple reason that CD’s were okay and nobody needed to replace his entire CD collection which had just finished replacing his Vinyl collection. And so on. That was obvious and I wondered how executives from Sony and Phillips could make such a mistake.
Now, it is even more astonishing since current executives could see how the mini-disc/DCC battle had turned out.

hegemon13 says:

Price is the problem

Blu-Ray will start to become mainstream when prices for regular movies don’t start at $30.00. Discount Wal-Mart price for third-rate documentaries is $24.99. The picture and sound may be better, but for most people, DVD is “good enough,” and it isn’t worth spending 3 times as much for a slightly better picture. Heck, we have an nice HDTV at home, and my wife claims she can’t tell the difference between HD and DVD. I definitely can, but it’s not enough to warrant the price difference.

Given that Blu-Ray disc and player prices have remained pretty static since the demise of HDDVD, I doubt that prices will come down quickly enough to ever make it mainstream. Blu-Ray will be like Laserdisc. It will hang around for a long time, fueled by enthusiasts, but it will never be a true DVD replacement. The replacement will be whatever product can change movie viewing as fundamentally as the upgrade from VHS to DVD.

TPBer says:

DVDs are old tech...

The little plastic disk is no longer needed. Hard drives are cheaper and more efficient than Blue-whatever. A 500GB HD is at about $125.00. You can fit about 15-20 movies per drive and plug it in directly to your entertainment system, better yet when you get tired of your movies, throw away and replace with new selections.

The only reason for a DVD will be to initially RIP the contents to a real format, then share with all, hey that’s going on right now :b

AJ says:

Oh yeah... and the darned protection

I tried to do it all legally… bought a qualified projector, purchased a qualified video card, purchased the right cables, used only blu-ray or HD original, legally purchased (or rented) product. I must have put an extra three or four hundred into my system to play HD and blu-ray. But, I could never get around the stupid copy protection stopping playback. It would stutter, or just not play at all. So I invested in a product to remove the stupid protection and, guess what? It works! But I’m still not doing blu-ray any more until the is no copy protection screwing up the playback process and the prices come down to reasonable. Regular DVD on an upconverter is perfectly acceptable. Don’t get me started on the stupid ideas they have for home streaming… the copy protection in that will be worse than anything you can imagine. What a great business strategy… piss off your legitimate customers.

jonnyq says:

I don’t have satellite or hd cable, and I’m just not that interested right now. I might consider digital cable soon. I don’t want to deal with satellite and get extra receivers for the tiny 13″ tv in the kitchen or the small TV in the bedroom. Cable would my only way to go so I could still have analog cable in the other rooms without extra boxes. And I’m still not that interested yet.

I’m not that interested in buying Blu-Ray because of both the cost and the DRM, but I do rend Blu-Ray as often as possible. I just watched the Hulk and it’s noticeably better than DVD.

I rent romantic comedies from the $1 RedBox instead though.

BD definitely has a big place for me. It’s the only way for me to reasonably get HD content right now. I don’t see it going anywhere soon, even if I still have plenty of use for other formats.

EEJ (profile) says:

I have to concur with a few other comments here, it’s all about the price of Blu-ray movies for me, and the reason I don’t own any.

While I have to disagree with some folks here regarding the difference between an upscaled DVD and a true HD picture being only “a bit better”, I do not feel $35 for a movie is worth the cost.

I rarely bought DVDs at $20, I’m not buying Blu-rays until the price comes down at least that far.

The only exception I’m making is for the “Planet Earth” series, which is DEFINITELY worth watching in full HD glory.

Justin says:

disc prices

HD-DVD should have won from the beginning. It was the same, media and nearly the same production process that had been in place for years for with standard DVDs. If CEOs of these gigantic corporations were smarter than your average rock, they would have seen that the HD-DVD format was good enough, incredibly cheaper in terms of equipment and production and thus more consumable for the world.

Anonymous Coward says:

Its all about the Benjamins

This just sounds like another case of people sitting idly by waiting for price points to hit a sweet spot. When BluRay player hit $100 you will see mass adoption.

As others have pointed out before, consumers will pay a premium price for special effects-filled action movies, but there is little reason to pay extra to see Kathy Bates in high def (my eyes are burning just thinking about it).

Casey says:


“The little plastic disk is no longer needed. Hard drives are cheaper and more efficient than Blue-whatever. A 500GB HD is at about $125.00. You can fit about 15-20 movies per drive and plug it in directly to your entertainment system, better yet when you get tired of your movies, throw away and replace with new selections.”

Although I agree that hard discs and file servers are the way to go (I know my 52″ is connected to my 2.5TB file server) the pricing in your scenario has nothing to do with anything. The $125 is for the hard drive only (btw, I just got a refurbished 1TB on ebay for $80), but that doesn’t scratch the fee’s associated with the actually movie. The example would be better used saying the 500gb hard drive is $125 and a blu-ray player is XXX. If E-books and Itunes are any example, the industry will still charge us the same amount or More for the digital content even though there is no overhead for them.

E-books really irritate me. A book out on hard back is $20 for the hard back and $19.99 for the E-book version that is locked down with every DRM imaginable. Iโ€™ve got no problem if you wanted to charge me the same price that you would receive for a hard backed book sale. Minus the Book stores portion, the printing and materials fee, and the shipping. To charge me the same amount though? Thatโ€™s ridiculous.

ChimpBush McHitlerBurton (user link) says:



Attention all Blue-Gay Fan Boyz! I have an important announcement:


The future is in the cloud, baby. Get used to it now and don’t waste your milk money on those shiny coasters.


Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Anybody Else Just Plain Hate DVDs?

You know, I’ve got to step back and say: I’ve never liked DVDs in the first place.

Sure, the picture is better than VHS, but for me, the advantage stops there.

– I don’t have time for bonus features (and those could easily be put on a VHS after the movie anyway).

– With VHS, you put it in, FF the legal crap, and the movie started quickly. With DVDs, you put it in, and are practically forced through previews, ads, crap, legalese. The menu buttons are disabled, you can’t skip the junk, etc.

– BTW, wasn’t DRM supposed to be about protecting the content? Then why does it lock my “menu” button during the previews? What has that got to do with copy-protecting the content? Why do I have to sit through the Interpol/FBI warning? I paid for the disk, but ironically, anyone who got a pirate version won’t have to sit through that warning. Infuriating!!

– With Disney as a prime example, on their DVDs, I am forced through so many ads for other movies that they should be paying ME to buy the DVD. Sadly, the ads are effective on my kids ๐Ÿ™

– Thus, “Throwing in a DVD” for my kids is really a 8 minute exercise in finding the disk, firing up the system, and standing there with the remote to get to the content. How is that convenient? Usually, I’m putting in a disk for them so that I can have a few minutes to get a job done, but now I’m standing in the room with impatient rugrats heckling me on.

– When you stop a VHS and turn off the machine, you can pick up later right where you left off (good for kids who don’t watch it all in one sitting). With DVDs, you may lose your spot, you may be forced through all the preview and legalese crap again.

– Young kids like mine tend to watch TV in 15 minute chunks. This is both because they do it while we cook, or clean up the kitchen, and also because they don’t want to sit still too long. They also tend to want Nemo today, and Dora tomorrow – even though they didn’t finish Nemo. This means we are always changing the disk, and thus have to sit through the pre-roll crap to access our 15 minutes of bought content. Our ratio of pre-roll crap to show is quite high.

– DVD menus have little consistency, so using them is always a pain. Sure, they look cool, but they are not easy to use. Jumping from scene to scene is easier, but I don’t do that much.

– DVDs are extremely prone to scratching, damage, and skipping. I’ve had to replace DVD players that go bad, I’ve had to replace DVDs that go bad. VHS players were rock solid, and the tapes lasted a long time.

– Rewinding was a small hassle, point scored for DVD. But for the kids content, it’s actually better that VHS “remembered” where you paused, even when the tape is removed from the player.

And the above is comparing DVD to VHS (a tech popularized in 1982). When DVD is compared to a DVR, it’s a joke. I use a couple of Tivos, one is for the kids. THAT’s the way to manage content quickly! When I want to watch a movie, I rent movies from On their site, I can browse, view previews, read comments, all BY MY CHOICE. If I want a particular film, I can skip all those “discovery and promotion” tools and search directly for the film. Then, I have the content digitally delivered to my Tivo Series 3 in real time. When I choose to watch, there is no crap, no warnings, no previews.

To me, DVD is just plain lousy. Never liked it, never will. I lived through it, but I preferred the VHS, and I am happy to more or less skip forward to DVR/digital delivery.

Chad Allard says:

Neither HD or Blu-ray have won in my eyes.. I mean to me, I see no point. The difference in quality is NOT noticable enough to me in order to want to fork over more money for a Blu-Ray disc player, and the even pricer cost of the Discs themselves. I was behind the times on switching to DVDs and it feels far too soon to be battling for another standard when I’ve just begun my collection of DVDs.

Neither is appealing enough to me. The switch from VHS to DVD was something very appealing on the other hand because it was noticable…. I have yet to be convinced as to why HD is so much better.

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