Blu-Ray "Is Dead" - ZDNet Editorial

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AndyDursin
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Blu-Ray "Is Dead" - ZDNet Editorial

#1 Post by AndyDursin » Sat Nov 01, 2008 3:03 pm

Interesting...

Blu-ray is dead - heckuva job, Sony!
Posted by Robin Harris @ 12:31 pm

Blu-ray is in a death spiral. 12 months from now Blu-ray will be a videophile niche, not a mass market product.

With only a 4% share of US movie disc sales and HD download capability arriving, the Blu-ray disc Association (BDA) is still smoking dope. Even $150 Blu-ray players won’t save it.

16 months ago I called the HD war for Blu-ray. My bad. Who dreamed they could both lose?

Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory
Delusional Sony exec Rick Clancy needs to put the crack pipe down and really look at the market dynamics.

In a nutshell: consumers drive the market and they don’t care about Blu-ray’s theoretical advantages. Especially during a world-wide recession.

Remember Betamax? SACD? Minidisk? Laser Disk? DVD-Audio? There are more losers than winners in consumer storage formats.

It’s all about volume. 8 months after Toshiba threw in the towel, Blu-ray still doesn’t have it.

The Blu-ray Disc Association doesn’t get it
$150 Blu-ray disc players are a good start, but it won’t take Blu-ray over the finish line. The BDA is stuck in the past with a flawed five-year-old strategy.

The original game plan
Two things killed the original strategy. First the fight with HD DVD stalled the industry for two years. Initial enthusiasm for high definition video on disk was squandered.

Second, the advent of low cost up-sampling DVD players dramatically cut the video quality advantage of Blu-ray DVDs. Suddenly, for $100, your average consumer can put good video on their HDTV using standard DVDs. When Blu-ray got started no one dreamed this would happen.

Piggies at the trough
The Blu-ray Disc Association hoped for a massive cash bonanza as millions of consumers discovered that standard DVDs looked awful on HDTV. To cash in they loaded Blu-ray licenses with costly fees. Blu-ray doesn’t just suck for consumers: small producers can’t afford it either.

According to Digital Content Producer Blu-ray doesn’t cut it for business:

* Recordable discs don’t play reliably across the range of Blu-ray players - so you can’t do low-volume runs yourself.
* Service bureau reproduction runs $20 per single layer disc in quantities of 300 or less.
* Hollywood style printed/replicated Blu-ray discs are considerably cheaper once you reach the thousand unit quantity: just $3.50 per disc.
* High-quality authoring programs like Sony Blu-print or Sonic Solutions Scenarist cost $40,000.
* The Advanced Access Content System - the already hacked DRM - has a one-time fee of $3000 plus a per project cost of almost $1600 plus $.04 per disk. And who defines “project?”
* Then the Blu-ray disc Association charges another $3000 annually to use their very exclusive - on 4% of all video disks! - logo.

That’s why you don’t see quirky indie flicks on Blu-ray. Small producers can’t afford it - even though they shoot in HDV and HD.

The Storage Bits take
Don’t expect Steve Jobs to budge from his “bag of hurt” understatement. Or Final Cut Studio support for Blu-ray. I suspect that Jobs is using his Hollywood clout from his board seat on Disney and his control of iTunes to try to talk sense to the BDA.

But the BDA won’t budge. They, like so much of Hollywood, are stuck in the past.

A forward looking strategy would include:

* Recognition that consumers don’t need Blu-ray. It is a nice-to-have and must be priced accordingly.
* Accept the money spent on Blu-ray is gone and will never earn back the investment. Then you can begin thinking clearly about how to maximize Blu-ray penetration.
* The average consumer will probably pay $50 more for a Blu-ray player that is competitive with the average up-sampling DVD player. Most of the current Blu-ray players are junk: slow, feature-poor and way over-priced.
* Disk price margins can’t be higher than DVDs and probably should be less. The question the studios need to ask is: “do we want to be selling disks in 5 years?” No? Then keep it up. Turn distribution over to your very good friends at Comcast, Apple and Time Warner. You’ll be like Procter & Gamble paying Safeway to stock your products.
* Fire all the market research firms telling you how great it is going to be. They are playing you. Your #1 goal: market share. High volume is your only chance to earn your way out of this mess and keep some control of your distribution.

Time is short. Timid incrementalism will kill you.

Like Agent Smith delivering the bad news to a complacent cop: “No, Lieutenant, your men are already dead.”


http://blogs.zdnet.com/storage/?p=365

Is Blu-ray the new Laserdisc?

Next-gen optical format promises to revolutionize the industry with features unavailable to previous formats... but it runs afoul of corporate infighting, high prices, and consumers uninterested in changing formats. Eventually they decide, en masse, to stick with what they already know.

Sound familiar? That's what relegated Laserdisc to an oddball obscurity back in the 1980s, and it's an uncanny description of the current situation with Blu-ray today.

ZDNet's Robin Harris is now taking the bold step of calling Blu-ray "dead" and "in a death spiral," saying that in 12 months the format "will be a videophile niche, not a mass market product." While it may be early in the game to make such a prediction, Harris has some good points in his screed. Among them: That after its gruesome, 18-month battle with HD DVD, no one has the energy to care about high-def players any more. Probably a bigger issue: That upscaled DVD players, which can be had for $50 or $60, look almost as good as content played on a Blu-ray player. Consumers just don't see the value proposition in upgrading their hardware, particularly given that players are still over $200. What's a little better picture worth? With Blu-ray pegged at a four percent market share, most people seem to be saying not that much.

I've got my own problems with Blu-ray, having been giving it a fresh shot over the last few weeks. The player I have is a real pain vs. my cheapie DVD player. Startup time is ungodly, and I'll never understand why the player can't automatically figure out to play a Blu-ray disc if there's one in the device when it starts up. Instead it goes to an aggravating "home page" after a 30-second wait, and then it's another button press and another minute-long wait before I can get to the Blu-ray disc's home screen. Fast-forward and reverse is jerky and difficult to finely control, and that's a problem because I have to use them all the time due to the player's biggest annoyance: It doesn't remember where you were in a movie if you stop in the middle. If I quit at the 1 hour mark while watching a DVD on my bargain player, it picks right back up there the next time I turn it on. I understand that different model players will have different features, but this is standard on even the cheapest DVD gear. It's unfathomable that a $300 Blu-ray player can't get the job done.

Is Blu-ray dead? When people like me who have both units sitting side by side actively prefer using DVD instead of BD whenever they can, you've definitely got some trouble ahead.


http://tech.yahoo.com/blogs/null/108657

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#2 Post by Paul MacLean » Sun Nov 02, 2008 3:44 pm

Well I said back in April that BluRay was coming to resemble laserdisc in its "niche" appeal.

Studios want to sell mainstream buyers on BluRay, so they release recent blockbusters. But mainstream people who buy said blockbusters seem happy with plain old DVD.

Conversely, the "cinephiles" who are ralying behind BluRay don't have much in the way on interesting titles to watch. Sure they might buy Iron Man or Batman Begins on BluRay, but titles like Citzen Kane, Lawrence of Arabia, Braveheart, Chinatown, Amadeus, every Hitchcock movie, most Spielberg movies, etc. -- the kinds of films that make BluRay worth watching in the first place -- remain unreleased on BluRay. :?

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#3 Post by AndyDursin » Sun Nov 02, 2008 4:00 pm

AMADEUS is coming in February (the Director's Cut to be precise). LAWRENCE OF ARABIA has been off-rumored since the format's origins but there's still no sign of it.

I think BD can still fly, but the player prices need to come down. I just find their strategy of overpriced players and odd software announcements to be a confounding situation -- this isn't like the beginning of the DVD format where the only competition was VHS. BD has downloads, streaming and the spectre of standard DVD (which is still selling) against it, so it's in the best interest of the format to get quality product out there at competitive prices.

Even $199 BD players priced low on Black Friday...I just don't think that's going to be enough by itself to stir adoption.

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#4 Post by Eric Paddon » Sun Nov 02, 2008 5:23 pm

I just don't see the reason to ever upgrade, period. Especially if its true that recordable discs don't always play properly in numerous Blu-Ray players because given the volume of transferring I'm doing I don't want to own a player that's going to give me fits about that.

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#5 Post by Eric W. » Sun Nov 02, 2008 7:10 pm

This thing still hasn't fully cleared what I consider an inexcuseable forfeiture of the first half of this year. This well was so dry up until about what? June?

Half a year squandered. No excuses for that.


The format has been on the street a total just over 2 years. This past August was the two year mark.

I still see a lot of simillarities across the boards between it now vs. where DVD was at in its first two years or so as well.

Economic situations notwithstanding, and it's not just confined to the U.S. by a longshot, we are seeing hardware prices go down and the only studio who needs to still learn about movie pricing is Fox.

People who shop smart aren't paying full MSRP on movies, hardware, or anything else for that matter.

Selection? All told, pretty good for a two year old format. There are things out on BD now that we had to wait an eternity for on DVD in hindsight.

I agree with everyone about wanting to see "more catalog titles" and such. We all know what we want to see.


This holiday season has to be where the training wheels come off, though. Now we're entering into "year three." Year three is where DVD really expanded and took off and essentially never looked back.

I have no idea if BD will parallel that kind of situation but I do expect it to follow a like course of expansion and ascension. It may or may not ever supplant DVD outright but I hardly think it's dead or in its dying throes.

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#6 Post by Paul MacLean » Sun Nov 02, 2008 10:01 pm

Eric W. wrote:I still see a lot of simillarities across the boards between it now vs. where DVD was at in its first two years or so as well.
DVD made its US debut in 1997. I got my first player in 1999, by which time there were a lot of movies available on DVD -- at least titles I wanted to see.

As far as BluRay, the availability of the Bond films are a nice development, and I like that Criterion is making a effort, but mostly the available titles are things that don't appeal to me (I just can't get excited over Zohan, Meet the Spartans and Barry Manilow Live). And while a few movies I like have been released on BluRay (Sense and Sensibility) there are titles which I would rate as far-more "HD-worthy" -- Lawrence of Arabia, Ben-Hur, Barry Lyndon, Amadeus, Excalibur, Spartacus -- all of which are still unavailable. Ironically, the only way to see Excalibur and Spartacus in HD is on HD-DVD (so for me the dead format actually remains the better one :roll:).

BluRy players also remain a little too expensive for me. But mostly I can't see investing in a format with such a less-than-assured future (I did that last year!).

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#7 Post by Eric W. » Mon Nov 03, 2008 9:38 am

Paul MacLean wrote:
Eric W. wrote:I still see a lot of simillarities across the boards between it now vs. where DVD was at in its first two years or so as well.
DVD made its US debut in 1997. I got my first player in 1999, by which time there were a lot of movies available on DVD -- at least titles I wanted to see anyway.

As far as BluRay, the availability of the Bond films are a nice development, and I like that Criterion is making a effort, but mostly the available titles are things that don't appeal to me (I just can't get excited over Zohan, Meet the Spartans and Barry Manilow Live). And while a few movies I like have been released on BluRay (Sense and Sensibility) there are titles which I would rate as far-more "HD-worthy" -- Lawrence of Arabia, Ben-Hur, Barry Lyndon, Amadeus, Excalibur, Spartacus. Right now, the only way to see Excalibur and Spartacus in HD is, ironically, on HD-DVD (so for me the dead format actually remains the better one. :roll:)

BluRy players also remain a little too expensive for me. But mostly I can't see investing in a format with such a less-than-assured future (I did that last year!).

There's no getting around one argument and I think we all agree on this: Content is king. If the movies you want aren't there then there's no incentive to get in, regardless of anything else.

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#8 Post by Paul MacLean » Mon Nov 03, 2008 9:54 pm

As soon as players come down in price (or I start making more money!) and title selection improves I'll be all over BluRay.

I do think that upconverted DVDs look excellent, but my HD-DVDs are noticeably superior -- even when viewed on a 26" screen with component connections. That HD home video will catch on is a given. I think it just remains to be seen in what form (BluRay, downloads, etc.)

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#9 Post by John Johnson » Mon Nov 03, 2008 10:14 pm

AndyDursin wrote: Even $199 BD players priced low on Black Friday...I just don't think that's going to be enough by itself to stir adoption.
Really? Which ones?
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#10 Post by AndyDursin » Tue Nov 04, 2008 9:09 am

John Johnson wrote:
AndyDursin wrote: Even $199 BD players priced low on Black Friday...I just don't think that's going to be enough by itself to stir adoption.
Really? Which ones?
There will be $199 BD players on Black Friday -- probably the bargain line ones (Magnavox, Insignia, etc.) and maybe some of the older 2nd gen machines from Samsung and the like.

If you go that route make sure you get a Profile 1.1 player and up -- nothing that's old and Profile 1.0 (if it can decode the new audio codecs via HDMI you're good).

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#11 Post by Eric W. » Tue Nov 04, 2008 12:01 pm

AndyDursin wrote:
John Johnson wrote:
AndyDursin wrote: Even $199 BD players priced low on Black Friday...I just don't think that's going to be enough by itself to stir adoption.
Really? Which ones?
There will be $199 BD players on Black Friday -- probably the bargain line ones (Magnavox, Insignia, etc.) and maybe some of the older 2nd gen machines from Samsung and the like.

If you go that route make sure you get a Profile 1.1 player and up -- nothing that's old and Profile 1.0 (if it can decode the new audio codecs via HDMI you're good).
I'm hearing a little rumour that says the hardware selection pot may be even a little sweeter than this.

Keep a close eye out that day, folks. If there is, you're going to have to probably be an early bird to take advantage of some of the deals. The Internet outlets are also going to be playing some aggressive hardball this holiday season as well.

As big as Black Friday always is, the retailers know they have to play hardball even starting now if they want to see good sales figures and such.

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#12 Post by Eric W. » Wed Nov 05, 2008 11:11 am


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#13 Post by JSWalsh » Wed Nov 05, 2008 4:15 pm

My "I'll wait until even *I* can use it/afford it" strategy pays off again!

I think folks here can judge whether I'm a casual movie fan or a real fan, and DVD's are good enough for me. I appreciate that Blu-Ray on a High-Def screen probably looks awesome, but I think the H-D freaks have to realize that not all of us actually desire to have a cinematic experience each night. Sometimes we just want to sit back and watch a normal TV screen and watch a flick, not Experience the Ultimate in Cinema Wow-ishness.

On the other hand, I find less and less of interest in new movies made with the great new technology available, and am more and more into character-oriented movies, so all this spectacular high technology would be for making movies about people in rooms talking to each other, in my case. I don't really care about if I can hear the ice cubes clinking in a character's glass.

I was working in video and camera stores for years, and I didn't get a DVD player until I'd been YEARS out of a video store that rented DVDs.

It's really interesting to me how these kinds of format things catch on or don't. It's always something the manufacturers never see coming that does 'em in.
John

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#14 Post by Paul MacLean » Wed Nov 05, 2008 8:31 pm

Now THAT's more like it! :o

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#15 Post by Eric W. » Thu Nov 06, 2008 12:00 pm

Paul MacLean wrote:
Now THAT's more like it! :o
Expect to see plenty more where that came from. :)

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