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Blu-ray sales are stagnating. What's to blame?

By Matthew Shaer / June 22, 2009

Blu-ray DVDs on sale in France. Internationally, DVD sales have slumped 4.7 percent since 2007, according to a new poll by Screen Digest.

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These are grim days for Blu-ray, a technology once heralded as the future of high-definition home video.

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According to a new poll from Harris Interactive, although the sales of HDTVs has continued to climb, the overwhelming majority of Americans have not yet bought into the Blu-ray craze. The results of an April survey show that 93 percent of adults in this country still have not purchased a Blu-ray player, down only three percent since May of 2008. (The survey does show that some consumers use video-game systems such as the Sony PlayStation3 to play Blu-ray discs.)

Internationally, the news is no better. The global video business lost somewhere north of $2.6 billion in 2008 alone, says trade publication Screen Digest, amid slackening sales and limited discretionary spending.

Who's to blame?

Milton Ellis, Vice President and Senior Consultant, at Harris, said in a statement that Blu-ray, particularly, is facing stiff competition from cable, satellite, and the Web.

"Consumers today can easily watch high definition TV channels or use the Internet or video-on-demand to access high definition movies," he said. "In the near future, access to high definition movies may be a download or streaming delivery of one’s favorite movies to a home media server that eliminates the need for a Blu-ray player and Blu-ray disc."

At the same time, the file-sharing practices that decimated the record industry are threatening to cut into video sales – thousands of hi-definition movies and TV shows are available for free, if you know where to look.

An uptick?

Over at PC World, David Coursey writes that, "most of us will end up with Blu-ray, because it comes as part of whatever we purchase next, be it a computer or video player."

But the numbers from Harris aren't particularly reassuring – at least in the short run. Of the 2,401 Americans surveyed, only 25 percent planned to switch to Blu-ray completely, and 43 percent want prices to come down significantly before they invest.

More sobering still, only 21 percent of Americans appear to be replacing or duplicating their existing standard format DVD library with Blu-ray format, Harris said.

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