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Blu-ray players slow to capitalise on HD DVD death

The end of HD DVD players didn't signal the beginning of consumers making a commitment to Blu-ray standalone players, according to the latest data from market research company The NPD Group.

Standalone Blu-ray player unit sales dropped 40% from January to February in the United States and only saw a 2% increase from February to March, according to NPD's Retail Tracking Service. HD DVD player unit sales dropped 13% from January to February, but as production stopped and inventories dried up, sales spiraled down 65% from February to March.

In fact, sales of Blu-ray standalone players remain so low that NPD has yet to release actual numbers, reportedly for fear that it would be easy to identify individual retailers. The research group will start to give actual figures later this year, said Ross Rubin, director of industry analysis at NPD.

"That standalone Blu-ray players haven't picked up significantly from HD DVD's loss shows that few consumers were dissuaded primarily by the 'format war'," said Rubin. "When we surveyed consumers late last year, an overwhelming number of them said they weren't investing in a new next-generation player because their old DVD player worked well and next-generation players were too expensive. It's clear from retail sales that those consumer sentiments are still holding true."

One option consumers are embracing to enhance their DVD viewing experience is purchasing up-converting DVD players. According to NPD's Retail Tracking Service, unit sales of up-converting players were up over 5% in the first quarter of 2008 compared to 2007, while sales of DVD players without an up-converting feature declined 39%. Recently, is reported to be giving these players away with the purchase of certain Samsung TV sets.

This news comes in the heel of ABI Research which noted that many consumers may not see significant difference in picture quality between ‘up-converted’ DVD and Blu-ray.

"Consumers continue to see a gap between Blu-ray's premium video quality and features and its premium price," said Rubin. "As content availability improves, this holiday season will be the best opportunity to date for retailers and manufacturers to promote Blu-ray adoption."

Story filed 04.05.08

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