Here’s the set-up:
- More than a year ago, Blu-Ray finally (after much payment of money to the various film distributors) triumphed over HD-DVD in the HD Format Wars. However the rush to adopt the format has been conspicuously slow. We were told at first that this was because people had been holding up on buying players because of the war.
- Then the war was over and very few people ran to buy.
- Then we were told that it was because of the high price of the players and when they came down, in time for the 2008 Holiday Season, then all would be well.
- Then the player prices went down and sales went up — but not ferociously. (As of May 31, Blu-Ray accounts for only 12% of all DVD sales according to the most optimistic figures). Accoring to the web site Blu-raystats, sales of Blu-Ray disks are up 81% from last year, which seems impressive on the face of it. But when you consider that the number of Blu-Ray release is up 210%, that figure doesn’t look quite as good.
- At the same time, we were told that a huge impediment to adoption of Blu-Ray in the independent market was the high licensing fees for replicatable disks. Once those were licked, that group of content creators would leap onto the bandwagon.
Now the good news is that through Bruce’s (and the International Digital Media Alliance‘s) incredibly hard and diligent work, it appears that the most expensive of the two licensing organization for Blu-Ray — AACS — may finally be relenting. And that is great news for independent producers. But I’m still not convinced that anyone cares enough to make this the straw that breaks the Standard Def DVD’s back. Even with the growth of large screen TVs.
Ask yourself this question. I’m going to assume that most of you reading this blog are interested in Content Creation in some way — either as filmmakers or film watchers. That puts you in a group of people who are Interested In Content. Now, out of this group, how many of you own a Blu-Ray player and regularaly purchase Blu-Ray disks.
Hell, let’s make the question even broader. Out of all of you people, how many of you even know of someone who regularly purchases Blu-Ray content?
If that percentage doesn’t approach 50%, then Blu-Ray is dead. If we can’t even get those of us interested i films to watch them on Blu-Ray, how are we going to convince the rest of the world.
This goes beyond the Current State of the Economy. As I’ve said before, the leap from VHS to DVD made a huge difference in terms of the visual and audio quality. In fact, it made a big enough difference so that it passed the Mom Test — that is, even My Mom would notice. That, and market factors, eventually drove VHS out the window.
But, even with great big wall televisions, the difference between SD-DVDs and Hi Def Blu-Ray DVDs is just not that huge that my Mom would ever care or notice. Hell, my Mom hasn’t even bothered to use the component video outputs from her DVD player. (“Nothin’ wrong with those cute red and white plugs, right?”) And it’s a pretty steep curve to get her to upgrade — both the hardware box and all of the movies that she’s accumulated over the years.
In short, the drive to move to Blu-Ray, with my strongest apologies to Bruce, is completely led by the studios — who are looking to give consumers a reason to re-purchase all of their already purchased content. This isn’t coming from the consumers (except for HD sports on television most of us couldn’t give a damn) at all. It’s not even coming from the producers, directors, and cinematographers of the world. Nope, this is almost completely market driven.
Which means that, for now, those of us who love HD content would rather download it over the Internet then go through the upgrade path. The Future of Blu-Ray may be Broadband.