Will Blu-ray Victory Prompt Sales Surge?

Coming almost as quickly as primary HD DVD proponent Toshiba confirming mounting speculation this week that it will throw in the towel on its preferred next-gen disc format, attention quickly turned to what it may mean for Blu-ray Disc, now that it’s about to go it alone. While it may no longer have any direct competition, the question remains as to whether consumers will ever get into HD discs as fervently they did for the standard version (with hundreds of millions of standard players and DVDs still in daily use in households worldwide).

How the end of the disc war might affect sales of Blu-ray products is still unknown for a number of reasons, including the threat from huge media interests such as cable, fiber and IPTV service providers gearing up to eventually allow faster and cheaper downloading of long-form content like movies, including HD. Some analysts have speculated over the past couple of years that if and when broadband HD downloading ever begins in North America in earnest, and if it is not prohibitively expensive, the days of the video disc (in any format) may be numbered.

According to Paul Erickson of research analyst firm DisplaySearch, in comments made in a special update following the Feb. 19 Toshiba announcement, “The future of next-generation DVD as the consumer’s preferred HD content delivery method is far from certain. Many of the variables that will determine how well these non-disc methods penetrate consumers’ digital media consumption preferences include ease of use, content selection, pricing, availability and convenience.”

However, warns Erickson, “Realistically, packaged media [discs] will not be displaced for quite some time, thanks to less-than-friendly DRM issues with transferring HD content residing on PCs and [TV] set-top boxes.”

So even though the war is over, some HD distribution battles remain.