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Warner Bros. offers the 'truth' about Blu-ray

A recent survey by Warner Bros. identifies some misconceptions about Blu-ray, but the company's analysis isn't quite on the mark either.

Many consumers are sticking with DVD, but it's not necessarily because of mistaken "perceptions".
Many consumers are sticking with DVD, but it's not necessarily because of mistaken "perceptions".

In our recent review of the Panasonic DMP-BD55, we offered the view that Blu-ray has almost gotten its act together, after killing off HD DVD, getting more Profile 2.0 players on the market, and offering standalone players for less than $500. However, manufacturers are anxious to get more people on Blu-ray boat as quickly as possible, which is why we get e-mails from Warner Bros. attempting to clear up "confusion" about Blu-ray. According to the press release, the company did a survey of DVD owners that do not own Blu-ray players and found they have a "persistent lack of knowledge" regarding the new format. Warner Bros. offered three main "myths" that have confused consumers, as well as the company's response:

Perception: "I'd have to rebuild my movie library from scratch because Blu-ray can't play standard DVDs."
Truth: The switch from VHS to DVD made huge libraries of content obsolete. That's not the case with Blu-ray. Blu-ray players and PlayStation 3s can play ordinary DVDs! And not only can they play them, but the "upconversion" process makes them look even better!

Perception: "There aren't very many titles on Blu-ray."
Truth: The format war is over. HD DVD (the competing format) will not be coming back. All the movie studios are now backing one format: Blu-ray. Therefore, all the movies you love will be coming out on Blu-ray soon, and all major theatrical releases since 2006 are available on Blu-ray already.

Perception: "High-definition players are too expensive and I'm not ready to invest in new equipment."
Truth: There are Blu-ray players in the market for as low as $279 and this is expected to drop to $249 by Christmas. Also, PlayStation 3s are a great value, because for only $399 you get a Blu-ray player and a game console. Plus hardware and software companies are joining to offer consumers great package deals on Blu-ray players and PS3s with Blu-ray software.

While there's some merit to Warner's arguments, there's a whole lot of fact-bending going on. The truth is there still aren't that many titles available on Blu-ray right now. According to The Digital Bits, there are 772 Blu-ray titles currently available compared with more than 90,000 DVD titles. Yes, we're seeing many more new movies and TV shows released, but if consumers are expecting the same availability as DVD, they are going to be disappointed. Warner Bros. also argues that high Blu-ray player prices are just a "perception." That's debatable, but it certainly doesn't factor in the increased price of Blu-ray movies, which is significant. Not to mention the fact that if you really want to see the benefits of Blu-ray, you'll want a jumbo (50+ inches) HDTV.

And let's not forget that plenty of this confusion is not consumers' fault. Having several different Blu-ray profiles only added to this problem, as well as the vastly different audio decoding capabilities of the players. So while there have certainly been some misunderstandings about Blu-ray, it's not fair to frame buyers' legitimate concerns (like lack of titles and high player/movie prices) as myths. I say this as someone who does own a Blu-ray player and is willing to pay an extra dollar to rent Blu-ray movies from Netflix. But let's not pretend that the format doesn't need to make a lot of progress before it's a viable successor to DVD.