The future of movie watching: Blu-ray and 3D
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The future of movie watching: Blu-ray and 3D

With apologizes to Mark Twain, the talk of Blu-ray's death have been exaggerated. According to industry organization Digital Entertainment Group, Blu-ray player sales have topped 28.5 million units. The DEG estimates the number of HDTV households in the U.S. at nearly 56 million.

At last week's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Blu-ray Disc Association President Andy Parsons notes sales have roughly doubled over last year. "That's been the trend for the past three-to- four years," he says. "That's bucking the trend with what's going on with packaged media in general. And that's good news: Blu-ray is growing at a nice solid rate, in spite of DVD declining."

What's more, Blu-ray sales increased 80% through the first three quarters of 2010, according to studio-sponsored research firm, the Digital Entertainment Group. Revenue from Blu-ray reached US$2 billion last year, and is expected to grow significantly this year, especially with the studios marketing Blu-ray combo packs that include DVD versions and, in some cases, digital copies. The latter is the best buy around, and a great way for the superior format of Blu-ray to be exposed to more people.

The way the Sellers Research Group (that's me) sees it, DVD sales will continue to plummet, losing ground to streaming video who find this quality good enough. However, for those who want an extremely high quality movie viewing experience, Blu-ray will be the format of choice for the foreseeable future. Which is a good thing for movie studios.

"USA Today" (http://macte.ch/JNPsU) notes that studios rely on the revenue from the higher-priced Blu-ray discs to fund ever more expensive films. If buyers increasingly opt for DVDs -- or choose to pay and download or stream digital movies from video services such as Netflix -- studios may be forced to make fewer films under more stringent budget decisions, according to Mike Dunn, president of Fox Home Entertainment.

"The studio needs creative freedom to make films as compelling and distinct as 'Avatar' and 'Black Swan'," he tells "USA Today." "We want to offer the consumer the premium experience, and that is with Blu-ray."

What's more, the popularity of Blu-ray will grow (sorry, Steve Jobs) as 3D begins to gain more traction in consumer homes. Want to watch a 3D movie at home? Buying it on Blu-ray will be the way to go for years to come. Don't expect adequate bandwidth for downloading a 3D, 1080p movie from iTunes anytime soon.

Which is why Apple should wise up and offer support for Blu-ray Disc playback on the Mac. Or at least add the "hooks" into Mac OS X Lion so third parties can do this. However, Steve Jobs & Company probably won't do this as the buying and renting of video online is going to grow and grow and grow. More on that tomorrow.

-- Dennis Sellers

 

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