Blu-ray is five years old this week, with the first discs coming to market way back in June 2006. While the format may not yet be in the public conscience as DVD and VHS before it, there's still no better way to watch movies in the home at 1080p quality.
With high-def downloads still some way off hitting mass market and DVD sales on the wane, Blu-ray is a format that's here for the long run.
To celebrate the technology's birthday, TechRadar spoke to Danny Kaye, Executive VP, Global Research & Technology Strategy at Twentieth Century Fox about Blu-ray, where he reveals his favourite discs, why he thinks Blu-ray is the perfect hybrid between digital and physical media, and how the studio is trying to address customer confusion about the benefits of the format.
TechRadar: How has Blu-ray changed the home entertainment market?
Danny Kaye: Blu-ray discs and players have provided consumers with more affordable choice and a way of future-proofing their living rooms. We talk about Blu-ray as the perfect hybrid - bridging the gap between physical and digital for consumers - the player ups the resolution of your existing DVDs, provides the best available HD through Blu-ray discs and is the best way to make TV an internet-connected device.
TR: Is Blu-ray sales expectation where you think they should be at the moment?
DK: Sales are strong. Blu-ray sales are 20 per cent higher than DVD sales were four years after that format was introduced. By the end of 2011 over 159.3 million Blu-ray discs will have been sold in Western Europe with 83 million last year.
On titles launched simultaneously on DVD and Blu-ray, such as Avatar and the A-Team, we are seeing around a third of our sales on Blu-ray.
TR: Blu-ray is still seen as a premium product, when will we see it become more affordable like DVDs?
DK: We think Blu-ray is already an affordable option and we've seen players drop to under £100 recently. The discs themselves are good value with combo/triple play packs giving people a DVD, a Blu-ray disc and the digital copy.
It's a versatile pricing model and, we believe, the fairest way to buy movies as you 'pay once, play anywhere'.
TR: What's been your favourite Blu-ray disc?
DK: My personal BD choice has constantly been updated as we improve the technology. Currently I have to go with our first release of Avatar, which was encoded at the highest bitrate possible and was an amazingly pristine version of the movie.
The details, especially the colors, were so vibrant that for me at least the experience was better than anything I could have seen in a large movie theater, and that was an incredible experience on its own.
TR: Do you think there is still some confusion over value added extras, like BD-Live?
DK: We do think there is confusion in the market over several things and we're working with industry bodies alongside other studios and manufacturers to help educate consumers on the benefits of Blu-ray. As I mentioned, one of the things we talk about is Blu-ray as the 'perfect hybrid' – bridging the gap between physical and digital for consumers, which is one way we hope to help minimise consumer confusion.
It allows consumers to own a physical disc which we know there is demand for but acts as a gateway to the digital world now, with electronic copies in the box, and in the future with Ultra Violet.
TR: How is the triple format (DVD, blu-ray, downloads) working for consumers, is it causing confusion?
DK: Although triple play is the industry term, we also like to call it 'multi-screen' as the real benefit is consumers get to pay once and play their movie anywhere – it isn't just across three screens anymore.
We know that two thirds of people buying Blu-ray discs think the digital copy in the box is important – and we think it's the fairest way to buy movies today.
TR: How do you prioritise older films coming out on Blu-ray?
DK: It's our close working relationship with filmmakers that determines our catalogue Blu-ray releases. The likes of Spielberg, James Cameron, Ridley Scott and George Lucas all back Blu-ray as delivering the best high definition experience of their films.
TR: What's the situation with 3D Blu-ray – where in the world is leading 3D in the home?
DK: Significant improvements have been made in 3D technology recently, including full 1080p resolution per eye, that today allow us to fully exploit the benefits of Blu-ray's inherent data capacity. We have already started releasing Blu-ray 3D titles in store this year with more to follow.
The US and UK are the leading 3D markets, both in terms of early 3D TV sales but also in leadership for 3D broadcast channels and distribution, from Sky to DirecTv, Comcast/Xfinity, ESPN, etc. And of course 3D on Blu-ray as the best way to enjoy 3D in the home.
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