Is Blu-ray Doomed?

Category: Video

I'm thinking about buying a Blu-ray player, but I've read some reports that claim Blu-ray may not survive in the marketplace. What's your take on Blu-ray's chances of long-term success?

Blu-ray Doomed?

Is Blu-ray Here to Stay?

It's true, some tech pundits are saying that Blu-ray won the battle but may be losing the war. In early 2008, after a hotly contested battle against the backers of the HD-DVD format, the Blu-ray camp appeared to emerge victorious in the high-definition DVD wars. But even though prices on Blu-ray players are falling, consumers are not flocking to buy them.

For some background on Blu-ray technology, and the details of the Blu-ray/HD-DVD controversy, see What is Blu-ray?

So the battle is no longer HD-DVD versus Blu-ray. HD-DVD is officially dead and buried, right next to BetaMax in the technology graveyard. Nobody is making or selling HD-DVD players, and studios are not releasing movies in HD-DVD format. But there was always a third horse in this race. The great minds that control the entertainment industry assumed that once the Blu-ray/HD-DVD issue was settled, consumers would kick their good old-fashioned standard DVD players to the curb, then run to the stores and buy high-def DVD players. But that hasn't happened, at least not in convincing numbers.

Is it because many people can't really tell the difference between standard DVD quality and high definition Blu-ray?

Or is it a money problem? Blu-ray movies are more expensive than the same title in standard DVD format, and many consumers don't want to spend a few hundred dollars to upgrade their DVD player, then pay more for the movies on top of that.

Or maybe there just aren't enough people owning HD TVs? It would be silly to buy a high-def Blu-ray player or movie, and connect it to a television set that can't display high definition content.

Another factor to consider is that many of the standard (cheap) DVD players on the market today can "upsample" DVDs to almost HD quality. Upsampling is a technique used to take a movie that's recorded in standard definition, and with the magic of software, make it look almost like high definition. To the untrained eye, or the average consumer, that may well be good enough.

Then there's the issue of Digital Rights Management (DRM) which is essentially digital copy protection. DRM can cause problems for legitimate users who want to play their content on multiple devices, and really doesn't offer much real protection against piracy. The DRM code for Blu-ray was cracked even before the format wars ended.

Finally, there's the availability factor. Not all titles are available in Blu-ray format. And although the big movie studios have the resources to release their films on Blu-ray, the smaller independent movie makers may not.

Hope on the Horizon?

Consumer behavior groups are reporting a significant increase in Blu-Ray sales as the holiday season approaches, and prices drop below the $300 mark. Home Media Magazine observed that Blu-Ray players were among the top selling items this past Black Friday. And overall for this year, Blu-Ray player sales since January have edged out traditional DVD players.

But we also have to consider the sheer number of traditional DVD players that are already in homes. Practically and logistically speaking, it appears that people are not seeing Blu-ray's promise of jaw-dropping HD viewing as reason enough to buy a new DVD player. They're waiting until they need a new player, then buying one that will play both standard and Blu-ray discs. It will take a few years for all of the owners of DVD players to either trade up to Blu-ray or replace their unit with a cheaper standard DVD player.

One factor favoring the success of the Blu-ray format is the Sony Playstation. Sony's PS3 gaming console uses Blu-ray discs, and can also function as a relatively cheap Blu-Ray player. Untold millions of PS3 boxes have already been sold, which helps to make Blu-ray financially viable for the hardware vendors.

But in some sense, the timing is critical. If people don't get on the Blu-ray bandwagon fast enough, and in numbers large enough to make it worthwhile for the producers of Blu-ray equipment and Blu-ray content, then the technology could die an early death.

Netflix Streaming to Blu-ray player To me that seems unlikely, given the level of investment by hardware vendors and movie studios. But if Blu-ray does bite the dust, does that mean we're stuck with standard definition movies? Again, not likely. And the reason has nothing to do with physical format disc formats. Thanks to the Internet, entertainment is going digital. Just like vinyl records and music CDs are giving way to digital downloads, movies delivered via the Internet will eventually spell the end of the shiny round disc era.

Case in point: Netflix recently announced that they will begin streaming movies via the Internet to Blu-Ray players. The Samsung BD-P2500 and LG's BD300 players both support the Netflix digital download option, and cost about $400. Just connect your player to the network router, and it will download movies from Netflix in as little as 30 seconds. You can also fast-forward and rewind, just as if you were watching the video on a disc. Netflix is initially making 12000 movies available via streaming, and you can bet they'll be expanding that if the idea catches on.

So what about you? Are you craving HD and dumping your current DVD player in favor of a Blu-ray model? Do you think Blu-ray will die a slow death, or catch on like wildfire once prices drop a bit more? Be part of the discussion by posting a comment below...

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Most recent comments on "Is Blu-ray Doomed?"

(See all 38 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

Whipsnard Q. Bimblemann, III, Esq.
10 Dec 2008

Let me manipulate a line from Frank Zappa. "Blue-ray is not dead, it just smells funny".

Having owned a 42" Vizio 1080p and a Panasonic DVD/VHS player that can copy in either direction and converts DVDs up to 1080p for almost a year, I doubt I will go out and buy a Blue-ray player until this player quits working.

Sure, HD is awesome as long as I don't have to see too much face imperfections, but the investment by the consumer needs to be in the TV first. With the broadcast stations going digital soon, people will have to spend their hard earned cash somewhere else before they go out and buy a Blue-ray disc player. Blue-ray will boom in 2009 after everyone has made the change over to watch digital via a new TV or converter box.

Who knows? Maybe Santa will drop a PS3 under my tree this year! Make sure it is one of the models that plays PS2 and PS1 discs too, would you big fella?!?

Posted by:

10 Dec 2008

Quote from Afterdawn;

The manufacturer Pioneer has confirmed that its upcoming 16-layer Blu-ray discs will play back on most current standalone Blu-ray players including the Sony PlayStation 3.

The discs boast an impressive 400GB capacity and are finally headed into production by 2010 after being introduced earlier this year by Pioneer. The company also added that it will begin manufacturing 40-layer 1TB discs in 2013.

Posted by:

10 Dec 2008

I just recently got a Blu-ray player. It came free with my 50 inch plasma. :) Had I not gotten one, I would still be using my DVD player until it died. However, you can't argue with free... I do agree the TV has to come first, then the player.

Posted by:

Pablo Picasso
11 Dec 2008

When I bought my HDTV, I could have paid $400 for a Blu-ray player. Instead I spent $80 and bought an upscanning DVD player. Looks as good as my brother-in-law's expensive Blu-ray.

Posted by:

11 Dec 2008

I've heard about the blu-ray technology from ps3.As for me I won't replace my ordinary DVD-player with a new Blu-ray one because I can't recognise the difference in picture quality between them. The only way for me to have a Blu-ray player is to buy a PS3.

Posted by:

Bill the Pirate
11 Dec 2008

Already owning a good quality 50" HDTV, an up converting DVD player, and a collection of more than 300 DVD's, I doubt an "upgrade" to Blue-Ray is in the future. I think a big problem is, that there is not a big enough increase in picture quality to spur the masses into buying or upgrading.BIG difference between VHS and DVD. BIG difference between standard broadcast and digital HD broadcast. Up converted DVD vs Blue-Ray...not so much.

Posted by:

13 Dec 2008

We have 4 dvd players, two of which are multi-discs, around our house, along with numerous standard dvds. It does not seem to make sense to buy a single disc blue-ray player, and then only be able to play blue-ray discs in one location, or one at a time. Maybe when the cost of both the player and discs comes down to very reasonable prices, would it make sense to upgrade everything.

Posted by:

05 Jan 2009

I was a huge skeptic of the whole HD DVD / Blu-Ray fiasco and preferred my DVDs to either of them. However, my partner brought home a Blu-Ray player just before Christmas and curiousity got the better of me. I now LOVE Blu-Ray. Am not a fan of the price of the discs, but that's what sales and internet search engines are for and I've done fairly well so far.

The picture quailty is excellent, the sound is crisp and the extras are quite interesting on the newer releases. It was definitely a Blu-Ray Christmas this year.

Posted by:

01 Feb 2009

We generously received a 42-inch plasma HDTV for Christmas. I contemplated getting a Blu-Ray player but just couldn't get past the fact that I already own most of my favourite movies on DVD. I really didn't want to start again, paying big bucks for movies I already own. Your article got me thinking and researching HD upconverting DVD players. Although skeptical about their performance, I took the plunge and "splurged" $67.78 for a Citizen upconverting DVD player and an HDMI cable. All I can say What a difference from my "normal" non-upconverting DVD player (Panasonic). I think it would be quite hard to tell the difference between Blu-Ray and upconverted DVD. For my purposes, I'm extremely happy. Both for the beautiful picture and clarity of The Lord of the Rings - The Two Towers that I'm watching as I write this, and for the fact I've saved myself about 200 bucks.

Thanks for the tip Bob!

Posted by:

22 Mar 2009

Some of all the above!

I bought a Sony upconverting dvd player to go with my Bravia for 50 bucks from Dell. HUGE difference for most movies {my edition of Blade Runner looks AWFUL} .
And the thing is there are only a few movies I want to watch more than once.

AND along with streaming/download for movies, rides the fact that solid state storage costs are coming down to match.
Within five years costs for solid state read only will probably obsolete rotating read only... if you even care to hold your movies in your hand.
After that it's all a matter of what technology packs the most bits in the least INTERNAL space.

End of the format wars! Hopefully forever.

Posted by:

05 Apr 2009

I have a ceiling mounted projector shooting on a 120" screen, having HD makes a big difference on the colors and sharpness of the movies. Upscaling a regular format DVD is alright to I have look through the internet for information on how to convert the standard DVD to Blue Ray if possible or how does the older movies are re-formated to Blue Ray? Is it something only movie studio can perform?

EDITOR'S NOTE: I think you could rip a DVD, then burn to a Blu-Ray disc, but it wouldn't change the video quality.

Posted by:

24 Apr 2009

Not planning on switching to Blu-Ray. I myself do not have a Blu-Ray Player yet but I have seen more than enough examples of what it can do to video in comparison to standard DVD players.

The clarity is good...perhaps a little TOO good. Every movie I have ever seen on a Blu-Ray Player and Hi-Def TV just looks TOO CLEAR. They don't even look like movies anymore. They just look like High-Production TV shows and there is almost no motion blur.

Had I been born into this kind of technology I may have been more open-minded. But, all that "clarity" just makes things look cheap now. When I watch a movie I want it to look like a movie. When I watch a TV show it can look like whatever.

HD-DVD should have won that battle but because of space and audio enhancements from Blu-Ray it lost. I'll stick with the standard.

Posted by:

19 Jun 2009

I'm in the process of choosing between HD and upconverting or, HD and Blue Ray. Well, not really, it took about 5 minutes to decide what to do.

Let's compare prices of just switching my current collection of DVDs to Blue Ray. I have about 200 standard DVD disks. If I were to upgrade to Blue Ray the cost of those disks might total about $6,000 (200X$30 / if they're even available in Blue Ray).

Ok then no brainer. I'm sticking with standard and buying an upconverting player. Don't CEOs see these types of issues prior to investing $Ms on a new format.

Remember Beta vs VHS. Beta was actually a better format but because most people had VHS and there's a cost to convert from one version to the other, death to Beta. Bye bye Blue Ray.

Posted by:

05 Jul 2009

I'm one of those people who waited for DVD to catch fire before replacing all of my VHS tapes (dozens) w/ DVDs. This was considered safe / logical, according to the promises that the DVD format was "here to stay". Now, I'm supposed to run out and re-purchase all of my movies (hundreds of them) on Blu-Ray? Forget it! I'm certain that even if I did lose my mind and buy BR discs (and player of course), it would soon become obsolete, leaving me w/ another gigantic collection of pretty, shiny coasters...

Posted by:

Joanna Janssen
07 Jul 2009

I read an article in Wired mag just before Xmas that the smartest marketing strategy for Blue-ray manufacturers would be to cut the prices on their players to 99.00 to sell them before they are obsolete. Given the price of the players and the discs, I think I will wait to find out what's next.

Posted by:

29 Jul 2009

It is me or am I missing something here. Lots of people are saying I'm not upgrading to Blu-Ray because it's a waste of money replacing all my DVD's. Well hold on - you can still watch them on a Blu-Ray player and it upscales it! I bought one at Christmas for £150 and it's now down to £120 in certain shops.

Posted by:

07 Aug 2009

We 3rd worlders just d/l aXXo rips - they're (usually) just 700 MB & fit a CD - that's the max quality we want to - what else can one expect for free (we did pay for the computer, the Internet connection and spent the time to d/l & burn it to disc).

Anyway, most of us just have a cheap PC-type sound systems so BD, HD or whatever is imperceptible to us.

I personally regularly d/l aXXo rips off BitTorrent using Peerharbor, a 3rd party BT d/l service which allows me to d/l completed BT highspeed over HTTP / FTP, which I do over free connections (hotels, McDonalds, Starbucks, other free wifi hotspots).

All I invested in was a new 1 TB internal SATA Seagate HDD enclosed in an eSATA box. I have 300 GB worth of movies alone.

Posted by:

28 Jan 2010

Blu-ray will go the way of Beta-max if they don;t get that awful DRM code to become standard or stable.
Some people can watch certain titles and not others due to this and sometimes when the code is upgraded to the BD compatibility fails on a different title..
Just a whole pain in the but!
Everything is becoming so dependent on "upgrades" and "Updates" .. What happened to the days when you bought a device and it worked fine for years without a "update" until it died?

Posted by:

Zeke Zeski
17 Feb 2011

I have to strongly disagree with most of the comments here. The one exception being streaming - but that too is a reason to buy a blu-ray player with built in streaming. You CAN tell the difference between a blu-ray and up-converted DVD. A regular DVD is 480P that is 'blown-up' to look like 1080P. There is simply not as much information there. A blu-ray, while admittedly not living up to its promise of extras and popup menus and the like, look brighter, clearer (they are not too clear - get out of the age of film stock and get into the digital era)and they sound better. Watching a blu-ray is like watching a play performed in your house - it's amazing. For those who like motion blur and circles of confusion (I was a film/video production major right before the switch from film stock to video) then you should go back to watching your old VHS tapes. Time and technology march on. Streaming 1080P is a viable alternative but knowing this country, people like to hoard and my bet is on people wanting to brag about the huge collection they personally own.

Zeke - neo-videophile

Posted by:

Hammerhead Shark
18 Jul 2011

This is the way I see it. When we went from VHS to DVD, there were SOLID reasons for doing so. Our old VHS tapes were wearing out, and it made sense to only have to replace it one more time (with dvd). Yes. The picture quality was much better, but even if the quality had been no better than VHS, DVD's made sense.

(A lot more material on one dvd, no more RR or FF, no fear of it wearing out through normal usage, and it even took up less space.) To say nothing of being able to play them on computers!

There is NO REASON to go out and buy our films (we have on DVD) yet again on Blu ray. (Especially since with a simple upgrader, we can get much better quality.) The difference between DVD and Blu ray may be there. But it's not enough to cause a format change. If you ignore blu ray, it will go away.

DVD is good enough for most people, and streaming and net flix are the future. Sorry blu ray. If you haven't grabbed much of the market after 5 years, it's not going to happen now. You didn't push the old dvd out, and streaming is the future. Can't say I'm upset.

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