Blu-ray booming

I’ve just received a press release, issued by Sony Australia’s PR firm Hausmann Communications. It seems that providing Blu-ray support in the Playstation 3 was a pretty good idea. According to the release, market research company GfK Marketing Services says that, in Australia, ‘[m]ore than 18,000 Blu-ray Disc titles in total were sold in October 2007, while around 2,000 HD-DVDs were sold during the same period’.

That’s pretty impressive performance. But let’s look at things a little more closely. The headline of the press release refers to the following statement: ‘With a 95.2% total market share for home entertainment hardware and software, Blu-ray is well ahead of the HD-DVD format which currently holds the remaining 4.8% share.’

So for hardware and discs combined, Blu-ray has 95%. But for discs alone, Blu-ray has 90%. As the release says, ‘Blu-ray hardware, incorporating all home entertainment Blu-ray players and PLAYSTATION®3 (PS3™), outsells HD-DVD hardware (including Xbox 360 HD DVD drive) by 26 to 1.’

So Blu-ray’s hardware dominance in Australia over HD DVD is rather stronger than its software dominance (although clearly it is strong in both). That suggests that the average purchaser of a HD DVD player is purchasing more disc titles than the average Blu-ray player purchaser. In fact, roughly twice as many.

That makes sense. The only reason you would want to purchase a HD DVD player (or a HD DVD add-on to the Xbox 360) would be to play HD DVDs. But many people will purchase a PS3 solely for games. Nevertheless, it seems that quite a few people purchasing PS3s are, in fact, starting to accumulate a library of Blu-ray discs as well.

UPDATE (Tuesday, 11 December 2007, 6:14 pm): Whoops! Several days ago I asked Toshiba for its views on this press release, and it promptly responded. I read the response and then promptly forgot all about it.

Toshiba disputes these figures, saying that it has ‘access to other GfK reports showing software percentages on a YTD basis with Blu-ray at 86% and HD DVD at 14%’.

Toshiba also notes that JB HiFi has only just started retailing HD DVD (previously it only handled Blu-ray), giving the format much greater exposure than it previously had. It expects this to prompt other retailers to follow suit. Consequently, it says, ‘[i]n the last 3 weeks, shares of HD DVD have been 37%, 31% and 23% respectively, higher than the October number quoted in the report.’

I was in JB HiFi the other day and I was heartened to note that instead of mere cardboard display cases, it now has two sections in its regular shelving, with equal sizes for HD DVD and Blu-ray. It was also remarkably agnostic about the format, with a ‘buy three and get the cheapest one for free’ sale in which it allowed customers to mix the formats to get to the requisite three discs.

Toshiba also points out that in counting PS3 and HD DVD add ons for hardware sales, the Sony press release omits computers. Many of Toshiba’s models, as well as some from HP and Acer, incorporate HD DVD drives.

So, at the moment, Blu-ray still seems to be a stronger seller in Australia. But the baseline figures are so small just a few percentage points difference in rates of growth could fairly quickly swing it either way.

As for me, I just hope the day soon comes when there are fully-capable dual format players available, and then we won’t have to worry about which HD format in which a movie is released.

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