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Blu-ray Group Welcomes 3D Into The Fold At CES

The Blu-ray Disc Association greeted the dawning of the 3D age at International CES by celebrating the strong adoption rate of the Blu-ray format, and by pointing out that more than 20 2D and 3D Blu-ray Disc products were being introduced by manufacturers.

The group also launched here a new 3D Blu-ray logo that will help consumers quickly discern 3D-capable Blu-ray players from 2D-only versions.

According to BDA promotions group spokesman Andy Parsons, this year’s show featured eight home-theater product bundles (one with 3D capability), 14 new players (four with 3D capability), three portable players and a number of software titles.

Parsons said that the high-definition packaged media format maintained its strong early adopter sales pace, and it continues to amass hardware unit sales at a greater pace than the one-time record-setting packaged media format, DVD, did at comparable points in their rollouts.

In 2009, the number of Blu-ray households increased by more than 75 percent over 2008 totals. Dedicated set-top Blu-ray player sales were up more than 2.5 times over levels reported a year ago, according to the group, citing Adams Media Research data.

After four years in the market, total Blu-ray playback devices (including both set-top players and PlayStation3 consoles) numbered 17.6 million units, and 16.2 million U.S. homes had one or more Blu-ray playback devices.

Comparatively, DVD playback devices (set tops and PS2 consoles) reached 14.1 million units after four years, with 13.7 million U.S. households having one or more playback devices.

Parsons attributed the strong performance of the Blu-ray category to a number of factors, including the rapid rate at which prices declined due to competitive pressures and the tough economy; the rapid adoption pace of HDTV sets, which has generated a U.S. DTV household penetration rate exceeding 50 percent; and a demonstrably superior picture and sound experience compared to standard definition and even other HD sources.

Parsons continued that Blu-ray is not showing any negative impact from the rapidly growing pace of online HD movie and video streaming services, adding that the two formats offer ideal solutions for different use models.

Blu-ray, he observed, is ideal for the highest quality home-theater experience, therefore making it ideal for favorite title purchases, while downloading can be a convenient solution for people who want to rent a movie or program to watch once at a reduced price.

Another big factor in the successful adoption pace has been the willingness of movie studios to discount popular Blu-ray Disc titles over the holiday selling season. A number of movie classics were available through leading retailers at sale prices as low as $10, Parsons observed.

Even some new release material was offered at substantial discounts from normal day-to-day selling prices.

Parsons said that in 2009, software sales more than doubled in comparison with 2008.

Blu-ray software unit sales in 2009 reached 48 million, compared with 22.5 million in 2008, up 113.4 percent, according to Adams Media Research.

As for the 3D specifications recently approved by the BDA, Parsons said the new advanced subset of the Blu-ray Disc blueprint should help to maintain the format’s successful penetration.

Parsons reminded that the specifications allow studios (but don’t require them) to package 3D Blu-ray titles with 2D versions of the same content on the same disc. He pointed out some studios ultimately may still opt to package two or more discs in a box to deliver compelling extra content and additional formats, such as digital copies for portable uses.

Parsons said Blu-ray “is the ideal platform” for 3D technology in the mainstream market because of the high quality of pictures and sound it offers film producers, plus the uniformity and compatibility the specifications offer across the full range of Blu-ray 3D products, both hardware and software.”

He said the specifications, which were worked out collaboratively between hardware manufacturers and Hollywood studios, allow for FullHD 1080p resolution to each eye. They are display agnostic, meaning they apply equally to plasma, LCD, projectors and other display formats, and regardless of the 3D systems those devices use to present 3D to viewers.

The specifications also allow the PS3 gaming console to play back 3D content, including both games and movies, through the use of a forthcoming firmware upgrade powered by the platform’s powerful Cell processor.

The specifications also support playback of 2D discs in forthcoming 3D players and can enable 2D playback of Blu-ray 3D discs on installed base of Blu-ray Disc.