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15 January, 2009

Blu-ray Takes Lead in Hardware Sales of January

According to data from NPD, Warner Brothers’ pre-CES announcement that it would back Blu-ray exclusively seems to have bolstered Blu-ray Disc player sales, and dramatically lowered HD DVD player sales. The data (disclosed by The Digital Bits), notes that in the week ending 1/5/08, Blu-ray Disc player sales were at 15,257 units, and HD DVD player sales were at 14,558 units.

Fast forward to after the Warner announcement. The week ending January 12 showed Blu-ray Disc had increased its lead by 42 percent, to 21,770 units sold. HD DVD sales plummeted by 88 percent, to just 1,758 units. This data would seem to support the fact that Warner’s announcement was indeed the tipping point that would ultimately determine the winner of the format war.

And no wonder. With Warner’s support, Blu-ray is now the format-of-choice of more than 70 percent of Hollywood’s content producers.

Of course, in looking at those numbers, Blu-ray’s commanding lead wasn’t the only thing that sprang to mind. I couldn’t help but notice that overall unit sales were actually down between those two weeks: 29,815 vs 23,528. Assuming, for a moment, that the first week sales weren’t just spiked by people using up holiday gift cards, that 21 percent drop in sales makes me think one of two things: Either a significant number of HD DVD buyers were so sensitive to the price of a player that they just won’t up the ante for the extra bucks that a Blu-ray player might require over HD DVD; or–the more likely scenario–a significant number of HD DVD buyers were purchasing the player primarily because it was an upconverting DVD player.

I’ll be interested to see what the January disc (software) sales data ends up showing once the month is out. My suspicion: We’ll see the Warner announcement had some impact there, as well (already, early 2008 Nielsen VideoScan sales, as reported by Home Media Magazine, show HD DVD represented just 15 percent of the high-def discs sold through January 13). I’ll also be interested in seeing whether the sales ratio for players maintains in the ensuing weeks, or if that 88 percent dropoff was an anomaly. The player sales numbers will be all the more interesting since Toshiba instituted aggressive price cuts on all three of its players as of January 13.

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