Blu-ray Isn't Going Anywhere

by Barbara Kraus | Feb. 8, 2016

Samsung announced that it is planning to ship its 4K Blu-ray player earlier than expected despite the fact that there is little 4K content available at this time. Although 4K Blu-ray discs for The Martian and Kingsman: The Secret Service are expected to be released on March 1, these titles join a very small 4K library. Samsung is expected to ship in March.

Despite consumer shifts to streaming content, Blu-ray players continue to be owned and used by 44% of U.S. broadband households, or roughly 43.5 million households in 2015. Owners have higher incomes than the overall broadband household population as well as a strong preference for the highest-quality video.

DVD and Blu-ray disc sales declined 12.1% in 2015 and annual declines in sales are expected to continue. However, physical media is not going away any time soon for a variety of reasons:

  • Physical media usage varies by geography and discs are not being replaced at an equal rate in all geos.
  • Media ownership remains important to some people who want to own it or want to add to an existing collection.
  • Some consumers will continue to want Blu-ray quality regardless of picture quality improvements such as 4K and high dynamic range (HDR).

In addition, a minimum sustained broadband speed of 12 to 15 Mbps is required to stream 4K; real world broadband speed fluctuations and network congestion mean that speeds of 25 to 50 Mbps are needed for a satisfactory 4K user experience. Only a small percentage of homes have speeds that high at the present time.

In lieu of a sufficient broadband speed, consumers who want top-quality 4K video can utilize 4K UHD Blu-ray. In this sense, consumer appreciation and adoption of 4K may benefit Blu-ray player and disc sales in the short-term to mid-term while broadband performance improves.

Ultimately, however, Blu-ray is likely to become and remain a niche product for a niche market.

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