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Why Has Blu-ray Failed To Catch Hold? 1162

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the paying-for-plastic dept.
Velcroman1 writes "My VCR is stashed in a closet, right next to a couple of CD-ROM players, a laser disc player, and other forgotten electronics. Is my Blu-ray player about to join them? Blu-ray really hasn't caught on — and probably never will. 'I'm surprised DVDs have continued to hang on,' said King, referring to the fact that player sales of over 20 million units in the US last year were pretty much evenly split between DVD and Blu-ray models. Blu-ray discs and players are clearly superior to DVDs, offering more features and a better picture overall. So why haven't shoppers been impressed?"
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Why Has Blu-ray Failed To Catch Hold?

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  • Not bothered (Score:5, Insightful)

    by aedan (196243) on Tuesday April 19, 2011 @11:01AM (#35868896) Homepage

    I suspect most people aren't that bothered by picture quality.

    DVDs are handier than tapes, you don't need to rewind.

  • It's simple (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Deathnerd (1734374) on Tuesday April 19, 2011 @11:02AM (#35868916)
    DVDs still work just fine.
  • by Mongoose Disciple (722373) on Tuesday April 19, 2011 @11:02AM (#35868922)

    For 99+% of what I or my wife watches on DVD we couldn't care less about a better resolution or extra features. That really eliminates motivation to get a Blu-ray player.

  • by Scrameustache (459504) on Tuesday April 19, 2011 @11:03AM (#35868940) Homepage Journal

    Until my DVDs started to give me disc read errors. I'm tired of wasting money on planned obsolescence, I'm not replacing that collection with BluRays just to have them crap out on me in 5 years. Anyway, a better format will be out by then... I'm skipping this cycle.

  • This just in... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by boristdog (133725) on Tuesday April 19, 2011 @11:04AM (#35868952)

    Many people don't want to spend thousands to re-buy their entire movie collection at a higher price.

    Especially when DVD looks almost as good as BR from across the living room on the 40 inch HDTV.

  • Re:Not bothered (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DataDiddler (1994180) on Tuesday April 19, 2011 @11:04AM (#35868956)
    Hole in one. Past a certain point, most people just won't care. This is why most people listen to music on cheap, crappy speakers; the gains in paying an extra $X aren't worth it to them. Plus, people are naturally conservative by nature and won't change anything unless they're forced to or see enough of a benefit in doing so.
  • interwebs (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Goalie_Ca (584234) on Tuesday April 19, 2011 @11:04AM (#35868958)
    Sony finally won the standards war but is almost irrelevant because people now watch stuff on-demand via streaming.
  • by DaveInAustin (549058) on Tuesday April 19, 2011 @11:05AM (#35868962) Homepage
    and are being replaced with lower-quality .mp3's? Because most folks care about content more then they care about sound or picture quality.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 19, 2011 @11:05AM (#35868964)

    I just got my HDTV this year and I'm surprised as to how many movies in my DVD collection have only been recently released on bluray (or are still waiting).

    The fact is hi-def is just coming out of the early adopter phase.

    Time will tell, but I bet a lot of those DVDs are being purchased by people on standard def.

  • Because... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by the_one_wesp (1785252) on Tuesday April 19, 2011 @11:05AM (#35868972)
    ...the economy is in the toilet, and people aren't rushing out to improve their video quality when they don't have the money to do so (or maybe they just don't care to do so).
  • Not worth it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Fulminata (999320) on Tuesday April 19, 2011 @11:05AM (#35868976)
    Because it's a substantial price increase for an incremental upgrade in quality and often a downgrade in convenience.
  • Lets see (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rossdee (243626) on Tuesday April 19, 2011 @11:06AM (#35868994)

    The viewing experience is only marginally different unless you are watching on a big hi-def screen.
    The movies cost more
    the players cost more
    and what is the point of rereleasing old movies on Blu-Ray - like theres gonna be more shades of black and white?

  • by 0x15e (961860) on Tuesday April 19, 2011 @11:06AM (#35869006)

    This is the first I've heard of it.

    Seems to me that someone at Fox just decided Blu-Ray was failing and wanted to write an article about it.

  • One-word answer: (Score:5, Insightful)

    by amliebsch (724858) on Tuesday April 19, 2011 @11:06AM (#35869012) Journal


  • Featuritis (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PvtVoid (1252388) on Tuesday April 19, 2011 @11:06AM (#35869018)
    From TFA:

    Blu-ray players connected to the Web can offer games, extra movie features, and additional bonus materials online that DVD players generally can't. And the latest Blu-ray players can handle 3D discs, something no DVD player can do.

    I don't want any of that shit, especially if I have to pay extra for it. I just want to watch a movie.

  • Re:It's simple (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Abstrackt (609015) on Tuesday April 19, 2011 @11:06AM (#35869022)
    That's exactly it. CDs were a major improvement over cassette tapes and DVDs were a major improvement over VHS, no more rewinding and they took up way less space, so there was a compelling reason to switch. Now the motivation is gone; the form factor is the same, the picture isn't that much better, and Bluray players and discs are still relatively expensive compared to DVDs.
  • by feepness (543479) on Tuesday April 19, 2011 @11:11AM (#35869152) Homepage
    It used to be about how BluRay will fail completely. Now it's "only" selling half of the market.

    No, BluRay will likely never have the complete hold of DVD, simply because download is a real option. But it's certainly not going anywhere.

    What do you think will be in the next consoles? [eurogamer.net]
  • by Chas (5144) on Tuesday April 19, 2011 @11:12AM (#35869162) Homepage Journal

    Plain and simple. Most people aren't looking to play in high definition on Frank's 2000 inch TV.

    And for screens 60" and smaller high def, while noticeable just isn't enough of an improvement to merit the switchover.

    That and the huge install base of DVD players and drives out there is just an 800 lb gorilla that Blu-Ray has to struggle to overcome.

    And the capper.

    If there had NOT been a credible format war between HD-DVD and Blu-Ray, we'd probably have seen better adoption by now. The format war completely crippled uptake of the format for YEARS. As such, neither HD platform gained the critical early traction necessary to overtake DVD. Now, this late in the game, since it has to now compete with streaming/downloadable content as well, it's going to continue to stumble.

  • Re:DRM (Score:5, Insightful)

    unless the DRM is a lot worse

    all DRM is eventually defeated (region free playing, sharpie on the inner ring, etc), but if BluRay makes you jump through more hoops, and spend more money, for less rights, it's a turn off

  • by Fr05t (69968) on Tuesday April 19, 2011 @11:14AM (#35869236)

    50% market share isn't that bad is it? For a long time after DVDs came out VHS was still selling and renting well. Most people I know (including my parents) upgraded to Blu-Ray shortly after getting a >40" LCD.

  • Re:Not bothered (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday April 19, 2011 @11:15AM (#35869256) Journal
    There are also (non quality related) advantages to DVDs, to this day:

    As with USB vs. Firewire(where Firewire is absolutely better; but modestly more expensive and much less common), the Blu-ray premium isn't nearly as crushing as it was back in the bad old days(TFA mentions a $70 Blu-Ray deck, albeit probably lacking support for some of the fancy features; but a DVD player can be purchased at just about any pharmacy for about as much as dinner and a drink...); but it is still the case that DVD is absolutely ubiquitous, while Blue-ray cannot be assumed.

    Want a disk that will play at your house, on your laptop(s)/desktop(s), at a friend's house during movie night, etc, etc? Blu-ray still can't promise that. DVD drives have, essentially, replaced CD drives in everything but dedicated CD players. You have to look to buy CD-ROM only devices(DVD burners aren't quite as ubiquitous; but DVD read/CD R/W is pretty much baseline). Blu-ray, by contrast, isn't wildly expensive; but you still have to ask for it, every kiddie going to college whose "TV" is a 17 inch macbook doesn't have it, most cheapy PCs don't have it.

    Then there's the fact that the user experience with some Blu-ray players has been almost hilariously hostile. DVD players, with comparatively rare and usually irrelevant exceptions, don't have firmware updates. Blu-ray, not always something that can be relied on to avoid that.
  • Re:Not bothered (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 19, 2011 @11:16AM (#35869286)

    That and the issue that not everyone has a huge LCD panel for a TV. Sure, some people have 50" 1080p TV's, but some have 20-30" 720p sets (where the difference between dvd and bluray is small), and some still have CRTs (where the difference between dvd and bluray is non-existant).

    I, for one, still have a CRT, and I've heard various horror stories of bluray players not outputing any picture at all to a set that didn't support HDCP (such as my s-video/component/composite connections). On my computer, where I do have a bluray-rom drive, I found out that my video cards (two) and monitors (three) didn't support HDCP. The idea of replacing so much hardware to watch a movie is just ridiculous.

    Plus, I have reservations about the Internet-connectivity on these discs. I buy a disc because I want the content forever. Is that content really forever if I have to download it from Sony each time I want to watch it? Can they use the connectivity to violate my privacy?

    Plus, and I'm sure this has been fixed on the new high end players, but the original bluray players took 60-90 seconds to play a disc. My dvd player takes less than 10. Why would anyone want to sit around and wait for a player to boot?

    Furthermore, the ever-changing DRM environment on Bluray discs is in perpetual upheaval. Many older players won't play newer discs. Some older players will, but only with firmware updates. But again, this is more hassle than I'm willing to deal with.

    Once I finally upgrade my TV and monitors, I'll probably take a more serious look at Bluray, but as it stands there are too many issues (many created by DRM-happy studios). I wish the upgrade to Bluray had been more about fixing what was wrong with DVDs, making it a defacto DVD-2.0, rather than the creation of a new format with a whole new set of problems.

  • Re:Not bothered (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ottothecow (600101) on Tuesday April 19, 2011 @11:18AM (#35869314) Homepage

    The people who write about this kind of stuff usually fail to understand this. As a tech writer, it is probable that you and everybody you know has everything fancy things like HDTVs and you are naturally invested and interested in new tech.

    The truth is, a lot of people don't even have TVs where blu-ray would matter, even if they did care about the difference between really good (DVD) and super good (blu-ray). My parents only bought an HDTV last year, which made everything look better already...so until they get used to that, why go blu-ray? When I come home at night and see people in my apartment building's windows, I see quite a lot of tube TVs still going strong (remember, analog broadcast is dead but the cable companies are keeping it alive and well).

    Sure, all of my friends have HDTVs but I am young, tech savvy, and by the time we graduated college and moved into new apartments, you couldn't buy anything else. However, judging by the number of people content with pretty mediocre panels and crappy built in speakers--I wouldn't guess any of them care about quality all that much (not to mention the people who watch stretch-to-fit content without thinking anything looks wrong).

  • Re:Not bothered (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Stormthirst (66538) on Tuesday April 19, 2011 @11:27AM (#35869476)

    I disagree with your analogy of black and white to color TVs. Color has an obvious and immediate difference.

    The same was true of DVDs over VHS
    1) No need to rewind
    2) No chance of the tape getting chewed
    3) No overall degradation of image quality over time which we saw with VHS.
    4) No chance of you accidentally over writing a DVD by mistake. (Aside from vindictive siblings, which happened to me once)

    What do you get on BluRay that you don't get on DVD?
    Sure it's higher definition - which is only any good if you've spent the money on an HDTV.
    Sure it's got extra features on the disk - but how often do you actually watch the additional features? Once, maybe twice?

    Personally, I'm happy with my CRT TVs. When they finally break, I'll buy an HDTV. Until then I have better things to spend my money on.

  • by profplump (309017) <zach-slashjunk@kotlarek.com> on Tuesday April 19, 2011 @11:30AM (#35869548)

    Or just read the article summary, where it says 50% of new player sales were Blu-Ray. That seems fairly mainstream.

    The headline-grabbing premise of the article claims "Blu-Ray is failing", but the actual argument being made to convince us of that is "Blu-Ray has not entirely replaced DVD in the first few years", which most people would not consider to be the same. There's absolutely no argument stated that even tried to convince us that Blu-Ray sales are on the decline or that Blu-Rays won't continue to grow and eventually supplant DVDs just like most incremental, backward-compatible upgrades.

  • Re:Not bothered (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wjousts (1529427) on Tuesday April 19, 2011 @11:32AM (#35869576)

    This is exactly it, it isn't about (marginal) gains in picture quality, it's about convenience. DVD beat VCR because disk don't need rewinding, they don't get mangled by your tape player, they don't degrade each time you play them, you can skip straight to the bit you want to watch, oh and they happen to have better picture and sound, but that last point is pretty far down the list of selling points. Blu-ray offers nothing except better quality picture and sound. To displace DVD, it's not enough to be a better DVD (DVDs are pretty good as it is, and good enough for most people), you have to offer something new.

    This is why CDs weren't displaced by a better CD format (although they exist), they were displaced by downloads, because downloads are more convenient. It will be downloads that displace DVDs too, because the convenience of having movies available on-demand is hugely more convenient that going to a store to rent or buy a physical disk. People will even accept slightly lower quality for the convenience of downloading.

  • Re:Not bothered (Score:4, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday April 19, 2011 @11:32AM (#35869584) Journal
    And the per-disk cost, of course(both with blanks and with commercial media). DVD blanks are basically disposable, blu-ray rather less so(but still not large enough or stability-tested enough to be a viable alternative to the really pricey tape, for smaller users). Then, when you hit the store, you find that the DVD is ~50% the price of the BD, except under special circumstances.

    Given that people are willing to watch streaming video in the under-5mb/s range, quite happily if the price is right, the quality bump just isn't worth the extra cost.

    The one that I would like to see more of; but is basically certain to not happen outside of pirate circles, is greater adoption of the dubiously standard; but quite convenient, intermediate format of MP4 video recorded on DVDs. All the cheapness of DVD production; but better quality than MPEG-2 for the same size. Some DVD players support it, and computers have no trouble; but it is totally informal.
  • Re:Not bothered (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bughunter (10093) <bughunter&earthlink,net> on Tuesday April 19, 2011 @12:51PM (#35871044) Journal

    So I've read thru most of the active, non-troll, non-joke threads here, and the union set of all of the discussions seems to be:

    • DRM is limiting Blu-Ray adoption. DRM makes for a pain in the ass to setup, to watch, and to place-shift. Many (if not most) people are willing to tradeoff DVD quality for ease of use. And more than a few people are driven to bypass DRM in order to get what they want (e.g., control over playback, access to full-res content, etc.).

    I'm with the majority on that. I torrent or record all of my HD programs. The rest is DVD movies from Netflix, or in the case of childrens' content, DVDs purchased and stashed with toys. I have one drive capable of playing Blu-Ray content, and I've never been impressed with the few Blu-Ray discs I've borrowed -- not enough to purchase a single one myself, anyway. But then I don't buy DVDs except for those with titles like "Thomas the Tank Engine" and "Justice League Unlimited," for which the extraordinary expense and headache of 1080p playback is entirely unnecessary, and probably would go unappreciated.

  • by hazydave (96747) on Tuesday April 19, 2011 @01:02PM (#35871222)

    The lack of Blu-ray support from Apple is entirely an Apple thing. They want people to support iTunes, not Blu-ray. The tiny bit of money they would have made on video professional who want Blu-ray support (which they can actually get, after-market, on the Mac ... Adobe tools support it) pales in comparison to the cash they're pulling in on iOS devices and products. In fact, just the iPad itself brought in as much revenue as the Mac last year... and it wasn't even launched until April.

    Sony won specifically because Blu-ray wasn't proprietary. Toshiba and Microsoft ran HD-DVD like a gaming console -- Toshiba sold every player at a loss, which they could, because they got a per-disc royalty. Blu-ray was rapidly licensed... other than the PS3, Sony wasn't even out with a BD player early on (they had to devote their supply of lasers to the PS3).

    Blu-ray in PCs wasn't a critical thing, just as DVD in PCs wasn't when DVD was new. PCs only adopt the new consumer formats once the drives hit a comfortable price point. Which is about where Blu-ray drives are these days.

    And this is the same evolution as other devices. The pundits do expect Blu-ray player sales to exceed DVD this year, for the simple reason that the CE industry has counted on new DVD features of some kind every year to drive new player sales. Particularly today, your best chance at a new sale is to someone who's already a DVD users. The premium player market was long ago established at around US$100. When 480p players hit the market, they were more expensive, but settled into the $100 niche. Then upscaling players took over that $100 slot. Now it's Blu-ray players... they are, after all, still fully functional DVD players. By Christmas, BD players will hit the $50 mark on sales, then pretty regularly into 2012 -- just as BD players first hit the $100 mark last Christmas, and now are readily available at around $100.

    Media sales are another thing... many discs are sold to people with multiple players. You may have that BD player in the livingroom, but DVD players in the car, the kids room, the portable player or PC for vacation use. This has many new BDs bundled with a DVD as well... they'll spend the extra $0.05 to make the BD sales. Disc sales were around 20% last year, depending on the film (films with geek appeal do a significantly higher share of BD sales than, say, chick flicks or kiddie films). This is expected to increase this year.

    That's not the whole story, though, because it's also keyed by retailer. Wal-Mart sells the most DVDs in the country, and they're still highly DVD oriented. Best Buy, on the other hand, went over 50% Blu-ray last year, and they continue to grow. DVD sales are skewing toward highly discounted older releases already, and probably keep moving that way. That's one big reason the studios are all about the Blu-ray, even though it hasn't dominated yet. Don't forget, it took quite some time for DVD to replace VHS, and that was without the backward compatibility.

    Another related factor: just try to find a standard definition television or camcorder any more. They essentially don't exist. Consumers are moving rapidly toward HD in all things, which starts to make DVD unacceptable, at least for certain films. Same reason I could imagine watching a small cast drama in SD, but wouldn't even bother to watch any pro sport in SD... just doesn't work anymore.

  • by AliasMarlowe (1042386) on Tuesday April 19, 2011 @01:14PM (#35871442) Journal

    The one that I would like to see more of; but is basically certain to not happen outside of pirate circles, is greater adoption of the dubiously standard; but quite convenient, intermediate format of MP4 video recorded on DVDs. All the cheapness of DVD production; but better quality than MPEG-2 for the same size. Some DVD players support it, and computers have no trouble; but it is totally informal.

    This is something I'd like to see also. All of our movies have been ripped to mp4 format and put on a hard drive on the media server, but there is no room in the car for such an item. It would be nice to fit a few movies per DVD for the kids to watch on long car trips.

    Which leads to the other two pluses for DVDs: (i) ripping a DVD is mindlessly easy nowadays, while ripping a BluRay still takes some effort, and (ii) region-free DVD players are the norm in most of the world, while I have not encountered a region-free BluRay player. We have a few DVDs which are region 0 (i.e. no region), a larger number which are region 1, but most are region 2. This is OK with a region-free DVD player, but wanting to view disks from different regions would mean buying multiple BluRay players.

  • Re:Not bothered (Score:4, Insightful)

    by BoberFett (127537) on Tuesday April 19, 2011 @06:56PM (#35875320)

    I watch movies and TV shows for quality of writing and acting, not resolution and sound quality. Maybe you need to improve what you're actually watching, rather than what format it's in.

"Bureaucracy is the enemy of innovation." -- Mark Shepherd, former President and CEO of Texas Instruments