Video Business and Adams Media Research recently reported that the adoption curve for the first two years of HD disc sales ran significantly below that of DVD sales; 8.3 million HD discs vs. 16.3 milion DVDs. Now, there are a number of reasons why the growth of DVD sales was much faster than that of HD discs:
- DVDs were clearly superior to VHS cassettes, while HD discs are far less of an improvement over DVDs.
- HD discs are of value only to those consumers who already have a HD television set, of which only 26.5 million households in the US (out of 111 million total, according to Nielsen) have at least one.
- Many consumers can't tell the difference between movies on HD discs and DVDs.
- The format wars caused many consumers to delay purchasing either format until a winner arose.
The biggest issue, however, is whether electronic distribution will make Blu-Ray obsolete before it has a chance to take hold. As a Comcast subscriber, I can already see some VOD movies in HD; I can also rent HD movies on my Apple TV. As I write this, a partnership between Microsoft and Netflix is being rumored; this will get Netflix's streaming catalog, including some HD titles, onto Xbox 360s. If I can rent a movie electronically for a few dollars (and even see it at the same time that it's in theaters, as I did with "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days" last weekend on Comcast,) why do I need to buy or rent it on physical media?
If the Blu-Ray and HD DVD contingents had settled their quarrel two years ago, before either of them came out, the unified standard would have had two years to establish itself in the market. Today, I honestly can't recommend that anyone buy a Blu-Ray player unless they're buying it for some other reason (such as playing games on the PS3,) and thus will get the Blu-Ray capability "for free."