How can we expect Blu-ray to succeed?

Can Blu-ray succeed like DVD did? Don Reisinger thinks it's very unlikely.

Online research firm Futuresource released a study Monday that discussed the relative success Blu-ray is enjoying right now in Western Europe.

According to the report, Blu-ray disc sales are up significantly in Europe so far this holiday season, and based on its findings, it believes the strong sales will continue through 2009. In fact, it believes European Blu-ray sales will triple during 2009, seeing 2.5 million players enter homes next year. Similar results are being witnessed in the U.S.

But that's not all. A release last week claimed the latest Batman film, The Dark Knight, witnessed sales of 1.7 million Blu-ray units, representing the most popular Blu-ray title of all-time.

Quite impressive, eh? Well, what if I told you that worldwide combined DVD and Blu-ray sales of The Dark Knight totaled 13.5 million units? Suddenly, that 1.7 million Blu-ray unit mark doesn't look so hot next to the 11.8 million DVDs that were sold, huh?

Of course, we shouldn't expect Blu-ray to catch up anytime soon. According to Futuresource in a study it released earlier this year, Blu-ray isn't expected to outsell DVD until 2012. And even then, Blu-ray will control just a bit more than 50 percent of media sales with DVD coming in around 45 percent to 50 percent. In other words, DVDs will still be a major force four years from now.

Based on all that information, can we honestly sit here and say that Blu-ray has a chance at becoming the success DVD is?

I just don't see it.

I don't think there's any debating that as Blu-ray player pricing comes down and the price of the media itself starts dropping, Blu-ray will start gaining ground on DVD. But once people realize that the difference isn't that great between the two formats and replacing an entire library of movies isn't as fun as it sounds, I'm not convinced Blu-ray will enjoy the kind of success DVD did when it replaced VHS.

More importantly, can we really expect Blu-ray to enjoy any major success as HD streaming becomes more ubiquitous? Consider all the places you can find streaming content: iTunes, online video services, set-top boxes like the Roku Netflix box, video game consoles, and your own cable VOD box. I simply don't see how Blu-ray expects to compete.

Think of it this way: would the average consumer rather buy a Blu-ray player for $250 and purchase movies for $30 at Best Buy or buy an Apple TV for $300 or a Roku Netflix Box for $99 and watch as many movies as they'd like at a cheaper price without going to the store?

I'm willing to bet very few would choose the former.

It's not that Blu-ray is a bad format or that it's not worth using. I simply don't see the average consumer with a family, mortgage, minivan, and constant time concerns with work and baseball practice, choosing an entirely new media format over the simplicity and relative affordability of HD streaming.

Maybe it was bad timing or perhaps it was a complete misunderstanding of consumer desire, but either way, Blu-ray strikes me as just another footnote in the long and storied history of home entertainment.

Now bring on the streaming.

Check out Don's Digital Home podcast, Twitter feed, and FriendFeed.

About the author

Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.

 

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