Blu-ray player sales down despite format victory

Standalone player sales not benefiting from HD DVD's exit from the market.

Looks like it wasn't the HD DVD/Blu-ray battle that was keeping potential customers away from high-definition video players after all.

The NPD Group released some of its retail sales tracking data Wednesday that showed sales of Blu-ray standalone players (not a PlayStation 3, combo player, or PC with Blu-ray drive) had mostly decreased since the beginning of the year.

Standalone Blu-ray player unit sales in the U.S. decreased 40 percent from January to February and saw a very slight increase (2 percent) between February and March, according to NPD.

HD DVD players fared even worse--player unit sales dropped 13 percent from January to February, and 65 percent from February to March--which was expected. Toshiba stopped production of HD DVD units in February, and the format's promotional group disbanded in March .

So what does this mean for Blu-ray player vendors? Why haven't sales experienced any sort of substantial uptick without a competitor? Prices offer one clue. Blu-ray player prices were at their peak for the year in mid-March, around $400. During the holiday shopping season the average price had been closer to $300.

But more likely is what NPD's high-def video analysts have been harping on for a while: that DVD is "good enough" for most consumers. And that the picture offered by a Blu-ray Disc and accompanying player doesn't appear so overwhelmingly better than a standard DVD and an upconverting player that many consumers can't justify the dramatically increased cost.

To that point, sales of significantly less expensive upconverting DVD players have actually increased 5 percent over the first quarter of 2008, compared with the same quarter a year ago. Standard DVD player sales dropped 39 percent over the same period.

Blu-ray player prices are going to have to drop dramatically, to around $200 probably, to make themselves more attractive to consumers outside of the early adopter/home theater enthusiast crowd. Sony, one of the largest producers of Blu-ray players, says $200 players aren't likely until next year at the earliest.

About the author

Erica Ogg is a CNET News reporter who covers Apple, HP, Dell, and other PC makers, as well as the consumer electronics industry. She's also one of the hosts of CNET News' Daily Podcast. In her non-work life, she's a history geek, a loyal Dodgers fan, and a mac-and-cheese connoisseur.

 

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