Despite the attention given to streaming services as a delivery channel for 4K/Ultra HD content, physical media in the form of Ultra HD Blu-ray came in to CES 2017 on a high note, with multiple new product introductions, additional titles, and a boost from the increasing availability of HDR- and Dolby Atmos-enabled titles.
According to figures provided by the Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA), 2016 ended with 110 titles available and nearly 20 million software units sold in the U.S. An additional 250 Ultra HD Blu-ray titles are set to be released in 2017 from a list of studios that includes Sony, Warner, Fox, Lionsgate and Universal. On the hardware front, CES has seen Sony, LG and Oppo joining Samsung, Philips, Panasonic and Microsoft’s Xbox One S as participating brands. Other than Xbox, which does not participate in CES, all brands were showing new models, with many including the promise of updates to add Dolby Vision compatibility with software updates within the next quarter.
Unit sales in 2016 were over 300,000, placing the new format at three times the sales penetration of Blu-ray players at a parallel time in the underlying format’s original launch.
With the year-long launch period under its belt, the BDA plans an extension consumer and dealer outreach program in 2017. In a conversation with TWICE, Victor Matsuda, chair of the BDA global promotions committee and VP of Sony’s visual entertainment product group, stressed bandwidth requirements for 4K/Ultra HD content that are beyond the true capability of most U.S. homes. Despite increasing speeds, he noted that Netflix recommends 25Mbps streaming speed, yet Akamai estimated average US bandwidth at 15Mbps and thus barely sufficient for quality HD, much less Ultra HD.
Driving the message home will be “sizzle reels” and a consumer education brochure for dealer use, and new consumer-facing website, all pointing to the benefit of Ultra HD Blu-ray. Also key to increasing awareness for the UltraHD Blu ray value proposition will be a strong emphasis on the benefits of High Dynamic Range and expanded, wide color gamut on the video side and immersive, object-based sound formats on the audio side.
To be sure, streaming media is, and will remain, a large part of the 4K content-delivery ecosystem. Indeed, many of the new players include access streaming services, but the clear picture is that both will continue to promote their benefits. Physical media, in the form of Ultra HD Blu-ray will continue increase its presence in 2017 if the activities at CES 2017 are any indication.