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Blu-ray reaches ‘critical mass’ - 12m discs this year

At Berlin’s Internationale Funkausstellung (IFA) – Europe’s giant consumer electronics fair – the Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA) took stock of the high-definition disc’s progress.

Frank Simonis, BDA European Promotions Committee chairman, was in upbeat mood. “In Europe, Blu-ray Disc is fast approaching a critical mass of users which will provide the platform needed to propel the format into the consumer mainstream markets. The fourth quarter of this year will see rapid growth in sales of every BD category from CE hardware to PCs, movies, music and games, Simonis said.”

UK-based Futuresource Consulting predicts close to 12 million Blu-ray Disc sales in Europe this year, accounting for around 2% of video sales volumes in large markets such as the UK and France – a figure, they say, that could reach 6% next year. By 2012, sales of Blu-ray Discs could total 240 million units, contributed by a predicted drop in price to €15.78.

Aware of the low-key approach taken by many high street retailers when it comes to in-store Blu-ray demonstration, Simonis calls for a more proactive involvement. “Perhaps one of the final pieces in the [marketing] jigsaw is to encourage more retailers to back Blu-ray – to give it prominence in their stores and to help raise awareness amongst a consumer market that responds favourably whenever introduced to this exciting new home entertainment technology.”

This was also the call from Warner Home Video vp of international marketing Monica Juniel who urged the industry for more in-store demonstrations of Blu-ray.

Sales need to be boosted. Blu-ray movie sales had a rough month during August in the US. The hidef market share falling to 8% compared to 92% for DVD, mainly attributed to lackluster title releases that did not catch. consumers imagination.

Speaking at the IFA electronics show Juniel lamented that the installed base of Blu-ray players is mainly made up of Sony’s PlayStation3. “This is slowing us down. We need more set-top players.”

Juniel wants the industry to be more proactive in encouraging consumers to use PS3 as movie players, driving the number of Blu-ray discs bought by PS3 owners up from two to five a year. “We need PS3 owners to buy more Blu-ray discs,” she said, suggesting that one option would be to bundle hardware and software.” The Warner executive also points to the importance of a remote control. “People who buy a remote control for their PS3 play more movies.”

Global Media Intelligence research shows that for Blu-ray standalone players, Blu-ray is behind DVD compared to the first few years of the DVD format, in terms of household penetration, with 6.5 million players sold in the United States and 5.5 million in Europe. Panasonic is set to launch its range of Blu-ray video recorders in Europe, starting with France, the electronics giant announced IFA. The company already sells Blu-ray recorders in markets including Japan and Australia, and cites France's high penetration of high definition content as the reason why it will be the first European country to see Panasonic Blu-ray recorders.

Panasonic expects Blu-ray's share of the video player market in Europe, North America and Japan to hit 65 percent by 2011, the manufacturer aiming to capture a 20 % share for players and a 40% share for recorders, according to Panasonic's video business unit director Takuya.

Sony for its part will offer two Blu-ray players worldwide and seven Blu-ray recorders in Japan this year. One of the players has been available in the US. since July, priced at $399. It will be available this month in Europe and in December in Japan. The other player will enter markets in early December and will be priced about $2,000 in the US.

Sony said it expects industry-wide BD player and recorder sales to more than triple to about seven million units in the year that ends in March, from 2.1 million a year earlier. Of that, Sony expects to sell 3.1 million units, a 44% share.

A number of manufacturers announced they will release players that feature the latest BD-Live internet-based interactivity. Amongst the brands that launched new BD players at IFA were JVC, Panasonic, Philips, Pioneer, Sharp, Sony and Yamaha.

Story filed 10.09.08

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