As usual, this is my learned opinion. While I strongly believe in both my viewpoint and in my knowledge that I have accumulated to reach this viewpoint, I do expect others to feel differently and to challenge and enlighten me. I cannot be right unless I can face the possibility of being wrong.
As a lifelong home video maven and almost as long a member of the home video business, I am one who loves the advances that come along in physical video media. Now you are branding me as a “stick in the mud” old head, because I did not use the words “digital” or “downloads” or “VOD” or “watching a big screen film on your fricking phone”.
And maybe I am, but I believe in the thought that you can only own, hold, library, and treasure something that you truly can actually hold. I’ll get into that later, but for now, let’s look at what was to be the next big thing in physical video media.
Raise your hands, all of you who have had this more than one year.
Now, those of you who specifically bought a Blu-ray player for the Blu-ray
Now, those of you who know what Blu-ray really is.
Now, those of you who know what 720p, 1080i, and 1080p are.
Now, those of you who actually know which of these numbers your HDTV is.
Now, those of you who wonder what is now wrong with DVD that you need to step up.
Those are just a few of the questions that I ask because I believe that the people behind Blu-ray have pretty much screwed up the process.
Now, it isn’t their entire fault. Sony, Warner, and the champions of Blu-ray, spent the first couple of years fighting a battle with other studios who championed a different hi-def disc, HD-DVD. In other words, instead of spending the launch shouting about how this was the next big improvement on DVD and home entertainment, they spent it telling people they were better than another rival that the consumer needed to be educated about.
So, this set back the ability to please anybody but the early adopters, who took sides and claimed to be the ones who mattered to the success of the format. This was an asinine concept, since any product that wants to be the next big thing needs to interest those who may not be initially interested, not just the early adopters.
Ok, so HD-DVD drops out, and Blu-ray has the field all to themselves. Now, what to do.
I still do not think that they know.
By the time Blu-ray finally “won”, the industry was facing the sea change that is online. Because Blu-ray spent so much time fending off competition, they forgot the general consumer.
A couple of years ago, I talked with one of the Sony execs about programs to better educate the mass market about Blu-ray. My theory rested on the concept that good independent video stores were built on the concept of customer service. They prided themselves on knowing the customer, remembering their likes and needs, and talking with them to help make choices. My stores always loved the conversation as much as the money going into the till. That conversation improved both the customers’ night of entertainment and our ability to serve them in the future.
One concept explored was a reasonable kiosk set up that would promote Blu-ray in an easy to understand way. Well, I guess the concept was good, because after a few conversations, the studio rolled them out to Blockbuster. Well!
Of course, to Blockbuster, they were just another merchandising floor plan, one more space to compete against what theater sized candy earned per square foot.
At the same time, along came the rise of Netflix and Redbox. (I still for the life of me abhor the thought of films being vended like gumballs). Netflix was the smart one, promoting itself as convenience, even though you had to wait a day or two for the DVD.
More on Netflix later.
The other great change was the studios desire to get into streaming and downloading, while the cable giants try to expand their VOD and other offerings. What was basically happening is that the market, which Blu-ray at first hoped would be sales oriented, and then reluctantly gave way to rental thoughts, was no longer the new kid on the block. Now, newer techs, some of them more like rental than sale, were the talk of the town.
Blu-ray has tried some good ideas that may be too little too late. The best was the Combo Blu-ray/DVD pack, which allowed the consumer to get both formats for one price. Those who had Blu-ray love it, especially for family films, since they may not have Blu-ray on all the TV’s or computers.
However, is it enough to cause a customer to think forward and say to themselves “Gee, someday I may own a Blu-ray player or computer”. In addition, did the combo pack actually do anything to educate and change consumer viewpoints.
Blu-ray is taking a larger share of the DVD pie, but is that because the DVD pie has hit its ceiling?
I have more on this, but this post is long enough, and as I have said, I really want to hear from others, because I can always learn and reevaluate. All I ask is that your comments focus on Blu-ray for now, and wait for me to get to other home video topics to tear me a new digital asshole.
BTW, did you know that if you have an HDTV, if it is 720p, it will upconvert standard DVD nicely, but that it can only upconvert to a max of 1080i, and Blu-ray uses 1080p for full effect?