Why Doesn't Anyone Want a Blu-ray Player?

Blu-ray may have won the war against HD-DVD, but American consumers aren't exactly warming to the high-definition disc format.

According to a new Harris Poll, more U.S. homes have a Blu-ray or HD-DVD player compared to a year ago, but adoption is slow. Only 7 percent of Americans own a Blu-ray player, up from 4 percent in 2008; while 11 percent have an HD-DVD unit, up from 6 percent a year ago.

I suspect that HD-DVD's slightly higher popularity is due to the fact that HD-DVD players were cheaper than their Blu-ray competitors, and hence were more appealing to early adopters. Of course, now that HD-DVD has gone the way of Betamax, it's certain to fade away quickly.

The popularity of high-def physical media gets a boost if you factor in the 9 percent of U.S. consumers who own a Sony PlayStation 3, which plays Blu-ray discs too. Still, consumers' lack of interest in Blu-ray is bad news for proponents of the HD disc format. Only 7 percent of survey respondents who don't own a Blu-ray player say they're likely to buy a Blu-ray unit within the next year, down from 9 percent in May 2008.

HDTV Yes, Blu-ray No

Nearly half of U.S. consumers now own a high-definition TV, according to the Harris poll. Add that to the fact that prices of both Blu-ray players and discs are falling rapidly, and consumer indifference to HD players is a telling sign.

The online poll by Harris Interactive surveyed 2,401 U.S. adults between April 13 and 21, 2009.

A statement by Harris Interactive vice president and senior consultant Milton Ellis nicely sums up the challenges facing Blu-ray:

"Blu-ray also faces competition from alternative technologies such as cable, satellite, and the Internet. Consumers today can easily watch high definition TV channels or use the Internet or video-on-demand to access high definition movies. In the near future, access to high definition movies may be a download or streaming delivery of one's favorite movies to a home media server that eliminates the need for a Blu-ray player and Blu-ray disc."

Bingo. Home theater buffs and early adopters may take to Blu-ray, but most consumers will likely bypass HD discs altogether and advance directly to movie streaming and download services.

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