Are Blu-ray’s Days Numbered?
Samsung recently announced it will no longer introduce new Blu-ray or 4K Blu-ray player models in the US market, which follows on the heels of former Blu-ray player manufacturer, Oppo Digital, who departed the industry last April.
With these latest moves, many industry pundits are calling this the beginning of the end of physical media. I say “not so fast!” Remember, we’ve been down a similar road before with the vinyl LP which died off many years ago, but has now made a huge comeback. I believe Blu-ray disc media will take a similar path with the exception of not dying off completely; in fact, it will at least remain a very big and strong niche market in my opinion.
The reason being is that A/V enthusiast and general fans of Blu-ray disc are not willing to give up the overall better and often superior picture and sound quality that physical media usually provides.
So why is Samsung quitting the Blu-ray market? Although Samsung hasn’t made an official statement as to why they will cease sales of Blu-ray players stateside. One possible reason is the very popular video streaming services which many consumers find a more convenient way to enjoy watching movies and TV shows rather than owning disc players and having to purchase physical media.
Furthermore, the facts also support a trend of increased 4K streaming and diminished use of Blu-ray and DVD players. In its Q2 2018 Total Audience Report, Nielsen counted Blu-ray players among devices that are in the “declining phase of their product life cycle as streaming devices gain prominence” and noted that the number of households that own a DVD/Blu-ray player dropped from 72% to 66% between June 2017 and June 2018.
One other possible reason is competition from other disc player manufacturers such as Panasonic, Sony and LG, which their players have been quite popular among consumers. Also, game consoles sales from Sony and Microsoft, which also play Blu-ray disc, may also be competing with Samsung sales.
On the flip side, all is not “doom and gloom” in the Blu-ray market – research shows overall disc sales were down 11.5% in the third quarter of 2018, however sales of 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Discs were up 68% in the quarter from the same quarter last year, according to the latest numbers from DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group. At the end of the third quarter, there were 392 titles available on Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc (595 available digitally), according to the DEG. U.S. 4K UHD disc sales are projected to almost double this year to more than 11 million units.
And to further boost support for Blu-ray, major Hollywood studios remain committed to producing Blu-ray disc, although not every new movie is released as a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray. Still, this is great news for the format.
Presently speaking, digital streaming media continues to grow and has become the preferred choice for consumers to watch video-based entertainment in their homes, but I still think it’s much too soon to draw the curtain and watch the lights go out on the Blu-ray industry. With that said, I believe there will be enough consumers remaining in the market place who want the “very best it can be” picture and sound quality that physical media has to offer, and will keep this great format alive.
And let’s not forget about Redbox, whose big red kiosks are still going strong and can be found outside of thousands of retailers throughout the U.S. I also see this as a positive sign that DVD and Blu-ray disc are still in public demand and won’t be disappearing anytime soon.