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NPD Confirms Huge Blu-ray Share Jump

Market research firm The NPD Group confirmed numbers sent to members earlier this month showing Blu-ray Disc player sales accounted for 90 percent of dedicated HD disc player unit sales and dollar volume during the week ending Jan. 12, but the firm wasn’t ready to declare a trend resulting from Warner Bros.’ HD DVD defection.

Several media outlets leaked the sales numbers last Wednesday without confirmation from NPD, executives from the firm told TWICE. This publication received the same numbers from unnamed sources, but elected to wait to release the data until NPD could verify its accuracy and provide perspective.

NPD, which broke from policy to comment on its weekly share data, confirmed that dedicated HD DVD player share dropped precipitously compared to dedicated Blu-ray models during the week ending Jan. 12, after being only slightly ahead of HD DVD the week ending Jan. 5. Video game consoles were not part of the study.

According to retail point-of-sale data (sell-through to consumers) that NPD would release publicly for the week ending Jan. 12, Blu-ray player sales accounted for 90 percent of unit and dollar share, compared with 7 percent unit share and 4 percent dollar share for HD DVD players. The remaining share went to Blu-ray/HD DVD combo players.

Leading brands in the category during that period were: Sony (34 percent unit share, 32 percent dollar share); Panasonic (27 percent unit share, 30 percent dollar share), Sharp (23 percent unit share, 22 percent dollar share), Toshiba (7 percent unit share, 4 percent dollar share), Samsung (6 percent unit share, 6 percent dollar share) and LG (2 percent unit share, 4 percent dollar share).

NPD attributed the results largely to promotions run by several Blu-ray supporting manufacturers, and said they were not necessarily the result of reaction to the news that Warner Bros. would be dropping support of HD DVD to go exclusively with Blu-ray in May.

“We’ve been doing weekly data for a long time, and we often times will see big shifts in sales for one week that doesn’t necessarily determine a trend,” Stephen Baker, NPD industry analysis VP, told TWICE. “There were some promotions in the marketplace during that week with Sharp and Sony bundling Blu-ray players with televisions — it seems to me unlikely that consumers would have made that kind of a choice that quickly based on new reports of Warner Bros. shifting from Blu-ray and HD DVD to Blu-ray exclusively.”

Typically, Baker emphasized, big swings in market share are the result of major promotions.

Commenting on the numbers, Jodi Sally, Toshiba Digital A/V Group marketing VP said: “We all know that it is not accurate to make long-term assumptions based on one week of sales. In fact, putting it into perspective, during that specific week, it’s important to recognize that the instant rebate promotions that had previously netted our players’ manufacturer’s suggested retail prices (MSRPs) to $199 and $249, had actually ended on Jan. 5 — causing an increase in our MSRPs back to $299 and $399.

“Since Toshiba’s retail price move on Jan. 13 to $149/$199 — we are seeing very positive sales results at retail,” she continued. “All of our consumer research and our experience indicates that retail price is the primary motivating factor in consumers’ purchasing habits and we are confident that Toshiba’s HD DVD players represent a significant value to the consumer.”

But Andy Parsons, Blu-ray Disc Association Promotions Committee chairman and Pioneer Electronics USA new product development senior VP, respectfully disagreed with NPD’s assessment of the results: “If [running successful promotions] were that easy, don’t they think we would have done it a long time ago? It’s not like we haven’t tried it before … It may be true that the promotions helped, but we believe everyone has gotten the message quite clearly through the press, and Blu-ray has taken a huge jump forward from the Warner announcement.”

The sales data was gathered from NPD’s Leader Panel of High Definition Retailers, which does not include point-of-sale data from Wal-Mart, NPD confirmed, although some industry observers told TWICE that Wal-Mart was probably not a big factor in the sales of HD disc players during that period.

According to NPD, for full-year 2007 HD DVD player sales accounted for 49 percent of unit share and 37 percent of dollar share, while Blu-ray Disc players accounted for 49 percent unit share and 58 percent dollar share. Dual-format players accounted for 2 percent of unit share and 5 percent of dollar share.