DISC WINS THE HD DISC FORMAT WAR,
BUT THE BATTLE FOR THE AVERAGE CONSUMER HAS JUST BEGUN.
I wanted to follow up on my previous editorial, The HD Disc Format War: The War That Should Have Never Been, by adding some additional comments and observations, now that Toshiba has officially pulled the plug on HD DVD and we are finally left with One Format Only (namely Blu-ray Disc) for consumers to adopt. However, even with One Format Only remaining, Blu-ray is still going to be facing a battle for the hearts, minds and wallets of the average consumer.
Before I begin, I want to give credit to Toshiba for trying to bring to market a very affordable HD disc option, which in turn placed marketing pressure on Blu-ray Disc to drive their hardware prices down. This is probably the only positive aspect of the HD Disc Format War. Of course, the format war itself has left a very bitter taste in the mouths of the consumers who adopted HD DVD. Hopefully, the winning side will extend some sort of olive branch to the HD DVD consumers to make their transition to Blu-ray a little sweeter.
Continuing on the subject of prices, both hardware and software, Blu-ray Disc will now find will now find itself in competition with standard definition DVD for consumer dollars. Therefore, just because the pressure to lower prices from HD DVD has been lifted, Blu-ray Disc products still need lower in cost to appeal to the mass-market consumer. If the prices don’t come down to an appealing level, then Blu-ray will turn into the new Laserdisc- a niche product that will not help the bottom lines of either the hardware manufactures or the software content providers. There is a genuine need for a sub $300.00 Blu-ray Disc player on the market immediately and sub $200.00 players need to be brought to market as quickly as possible. In regards to Blu-ray software, a few dollars needs to be shaved off the prices of new titles hitting the market, while catalog titles that have been on the shelves for six months or more need to be discounted closer to the prices of their DVD counterparts.
Let me also say the following on Blu-ray software, the selection of titles also needs to be greatly increased. Right now, the thing that is selling HD content on disc are the eye candy movies, in other words, the high profile, blockbuster, special effects or action movie titles that have been released theatrically within the last decade or so. It is completely understandable that the studios will get the maximum return on new 1080p transfer/master from blockbuster films that everyone will want to add to their libraries, but movie fans will ultimately want more of a selection.
Fortunately, Warner has released and announced key classic titles for release on Blu-Ray, thereby demonstrating their commitment to getting important films onto HD. Some of the other studios have also announced and released some classic titles, which is a great sign. Personally, I’d like see some more commitment along the lines of getting all the Academy Award Best Picture winners on Blu-Ray or the movies that made the AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies list, but that is probably a pipe dream for right now. Of course, every studio does have a library of great films, many of which would be big moneymakers on Blu-ray and I would fathom that back catalogs are now being carefully scrutinized for potential releases.
Hopefully, Blu-ray Disc production lines are now being expanded to increase capacity and get more titles out the door and into the hands of the disc buying public. Additionally, with Universal and Paramount now on board with Blu-ray, the format surely can’t afford for there to be any production bottlenecks in bringing new titles to the format. You can’t sell Blu-ray titles if you can’t get the discs into the stores.
Another thing Blu-ray Disc needs to do is market itself to the average consumer. Let’s get some ads out there that reflect that the format war is over. Blu-ray needs to tell consumer there is now One Format Only for high definition disc releases and Blu-ray is it. The Blu-ray ads should be telling consumers that it is not only safe to get your feet wet with the format, but they should feel free to take the full plunge into the pool. Ads for Blu-ray can also be tied to the digital television transition; a lot of folks will be buying that new hi-def set in anticipation of the of the transition, so let them know that Blu-ray will not only complement that new television, but it also offers a better picture than they can get from broadcast. And finally, for those consumers that don’t even know about high definition content on disc, Blu-ray needs educate, market to and just let folks know the format is out there.
Lastly, I like to bring up the subject of Lossless Audio codecs on Blu-ray Disc, which is now becoming the equivalent Anamorphic Widescreen on standard definition DVD. Lossless Audio codecs or uncompressed PCM audio tracks aren’t a requirement on Blu-ray; they are an option that the studios can chose to add to a release, just like Anamorphic Widescreen. The greater storage capacity of Blu-ray allows for these fuller, richer types of soundtracks to be encoded onto the discs, and it is now becoming something that more and more consumers are demanding from their high definition disc releases. Lets face it, once someone adds a Blu-ray Disc player to their home theater setup, their old non-HDMI receiver will probably get replaced by a newer model that offers Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio. After getting used to the Lossless Audio, the older, lossy codecs will no longer cut it in the minds of home theater buffs, so why release anything that is less that what consumers will expect from a premium Blu-ray Disc title?
Okay, with the HD Disc Format War over, we now have One Format Only, but that was only the first step for Blu-ray Disc. Blu-ray’s battle for the hearts, minds and wallets of the average consumer has just begun- so go get ‘em guys! --DMG