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Blu-ray’s Lead Narrows

New York – Despite aggressive price promotions on HD DVD players from Toshiba, sales of Blu-ray Disc players continued to outsell HD DVD units by a wide margin through the week ending January 26, according to leaked NPD Group reports, but the gap has narrowed significantly from reports issued two weeks earlier.

Dedicated Blu-ray Disc player sales, which omit video game consoles, represented 65 percent of unit volume share during the period and 69 percent of retail sales dollars, according to the leaked data. HD DVD players accounted for 28 percent of hardware unit sales and 14 percent of overall HD disc retail dollars. The remainder can be attributed to combo player sales share at 6 percent unit sales and 17 percent dollar share.

NPD numbers reflect retail point of sales data gathered from its panel of reporting dealers.

Due to policies against publicly releasing its weekly sales data, a spokesperson for The NPD Group would not confirm the numbers sent to TWICE.

However, Ross Rubin, NPD Group industry analysis director, said that in general, “It has only been a couple of weeks since the Warner Bros. announcement [of exclusive support for Blu-ray], as well as Toshiba’s price promotions, Microsoft’s lowering the price on its HD DVD Xbox peripheral and the [Toshiba] HD DVD Super Bowl ad. So, the story continues to evolve. The two formats ended 2007 essentially in a dead heat. Until one camp decides to give up its format we are going to continue to see confusion at retail.”

Although the recent numbers show Blu-ray Disc with a sizeable market share lead over HD DVD, they also showed a significant reduction from the much-publicized week ending January 12. At that time, NPD’s reports showed Blu-ray Disc taking 90 percent of both unit sales and dollar volume in the HD Disc player field.

Due to rampant reports using the numbers to declare HD DVD’s demise, NPD broke from its policy to confirm the leaked percentage numbers at that time, and to add that they didn’t necessarily indicate a trend resulting from Warner Bros.’ HD DVD defection.

Following the January 12 numbers confirmation, Stephen Baker, NPD Group industry analysis VP, said those results could have been skewed by major promotions being run by several Blu-ray Disc supporting companies, including bundled deals giving a free Blu-ray Disc player away with the purchase of like-branded HDTVs.

Jodi Sally, Toshiba Digital A/V Group marketing VP, said that if the numbers in the leaked January 26 report are accurate: “I feel it’s important to point out that there were several promotions being run by Blu-ray manufacturers that offered free players with the purchase of select HDTVs. These retail promos mainly highlighted HDTV ads around the Super Bowl.

“Although a player is given away free, it is still scanned at the retail register at the full retail price, similar in the way a ‘buy one, get one free’ offer on movies, is scanned as sales on both of the titles.”

Sally also pointed out that not all retailers report sales figures to NPD, including some key regional accounts and e-tailers, which could affect the count.

“Since is a public site, I can point out that Toshiba’s HD DVD players consistently rank as the top sellers of all DVD players on their site.” Sally said.

According to the leaked data, leading brands of dedcated high-definition disc players in the category during the January 26 period were:

* Sony (32 percent unit share, 33 percent dollar share);

* Toshiba (28 percent unit share, 14 percent dollar share),

* Samsung (13 percent unit share, 23 percent dollar share)

* Sharp (17 percent unit share, 14 percent dollar share),

*Panasonic (8 percent unit share, 12 percent dollar share),

* LG (1 percent unit share, 3 percent dollar share).