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David Poland

By David Poland

The Hi-Def Price Wars Begin

The battle between Blu-Ray and HD seems to have, once again, been won by Blu-Ray after Warners made a decisive move. (You might remember that we were at this point right before Paramount/DreamWorks were bought on board as HD-only for a year or 18 months.)
I look for signs off the press release schedule on these things and found it when I signed onto and found that a HD player I had wishlished had dropped its price in half since I “wished” it. The next sign was a 53% Off Sale on HD DVD titles… though I quickly realized that these were specifically WB titles.
Today on Amazon, I find that there is now a drop on disc prices, for both formats, across the board. WB has the deepest discounting. But every disc on the site seems to be at least 30% off. The last season of Lost, which went on sale about 2 months ago, is on sale for 59% off.
It would appear that the unpress-released story is that all the studios have come to decide that the only way to make a future for hi-def DVD is to make a legitimate price argument. The difference between “regular DVD” and Blu-Ray or HD seemes to be about $7 on most new titles. On Ratatouille, it’s just $5… on Transformers, in both formats a 2-disc set, it’s just $2, as is Zodiac (another Paramount title).
Of course, nice as this is for hi-def hardware owners, the problem ahead is still price resistance to the Blu-Ray players, where the low price for a solid, web-accessible-for-upgrade player is still over $350. HD has players $100 lower… but the format is, for all intents and purposes, dead until proven living. With upscaling DVD players in the low-100s, I can see a 4200 – $250 player getting traction. But $350 is just too much for people to take a flyer on. If Sony wants to seal the deal, they need to build the low-frill $200 Blu-ray player with wi-fi for updates. And then, they’d have a real shot at gettting to 3 or 4 million units by the end of next X-mas.
And one more suggestion… Sony Home Ent should make a deal with Criterion to invest in converting that entire catalog ASAP. It may be a niche market, but it is one of the few markets where buying a $400 player is a no brainer if you can get those classic art films in the highest possible form of home delivery.

6 Responses to “The Hi-Def Price Wars Begin”

  1. PastePotPete says:

    Also there’s a pretty believable rumor(maybe since confirmed, I haven’t checked today) that the 40gb PS3 is dropping to $300 and the $500 80gb PS3 is being discontinued.
    I expect there’ll be $200 blu ray players by holiday shopping season at the end of the year, if not sooner.

  2. movielocke says:

    Part of the reason criterion is able to release some of the films they’ve released is that they’re licensed for only one format, DVD, a new format requires relicensing, unless Janus owns the rights already. And as great as many of the movies on criterion are, I’m really not inclined to buy elite priced versions of most of the criterions I have on a new format, they’re a big enough investment as it is.
    They’ve been holding out from HD for a format war winner, so criterion may go HD by the end of the year.

  3. mutinyco says:

    Summation: HD-DVD has lost. But Blu-Ray hasn’t won yet.

  4. About 3 days before that WB announcement, I read about a new DVD player that plays hi-def, blu ray and plain ole DVD hitting the market for around $399…did I dream that or something?

  5. I can’t judge (i’d wager that about 2% of the population have a bluray/hd player, if that) but I much prefer the BluRay commercials on television. They’re sooo pretty.

  6. ThriceDamned says:

    When Criterion decides to take the plunge, they’ll be able to move pretty quickly I suspect. I do know that they’ve been mastering all their films in high def for the last few years, so a substantial part of their current catalog could be released fairly rapidly once the decision has been made and licencing agreements ironed out.
    There are several Criterions I’d kill for in high def, so I’m hoping that they’ll announce something before the end of the year.

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