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3/13/2008
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Blu-ray Player Prices On The Rise

In February, the month Toshiba said it would no longer lead the charge for HD DVD, the average price jumped to $604.

HD DVD has been dead less than four weeks, yet it appears prices already have started to rise on DVD players supporting the surviving high-definition format Blu-ray.

The average price in January of the top 10 Blu-ray players on PriceGrabber.com, a comparison-shopping site, was $467. In February, the month Toshiba said it would no longer lead the charge for HD DVD, the average price jumped to $604.

Some of the increase was due to the introduction of expensive players with features that went above the norm, Darren Davis, VP of product marketing for PriceGrabber, said Thursday. Taking away that factor, however, still left an increase between $20 and $50 on most players in February.

Even though Blu-ray players no longer have to compete with cheaper HD DVD devices, manufacturers would be smart to keep prices low. "Consumers are not going to jump into the market yet," Davis said. "The demise of HD DVD, if anything, is going to delay Blu-ray adoption, given the increase in prices."

While raising prices could offer short-term gain for manufacturers by squeezing more money from early adopters, it would delay adoption among more price-sensitive mainstream consumers, Davis said.

A January survey by PriceGrabber found that consumers were turning up their noses over high-definition DVD players less because of confusion over the format war and more because of price. Fifty-six percent of the respondents said they would buy a Blu-ray disc player if there were a significant price drop. Only 19% said they were concerned about obsolescence in buying either an HD DVD or Blu-ray player.

Yet ending confusion over the format war was the main reason Time Warner's Warner Bros. studio threw its weight behind Blu-ray in January, marking the end for HD DVD. Warner Bros. accounts for 20% of the DVD market, and its defection prompted retailers, such as Wal-Mart, Best Buy, and online video rental company Netflix, to follow.

Toshiba officially ended the format battle Feb. 19, declaring it would no longer make or market HD DVD players and recorders. The company had sold 1 million players and recorders worldwide, including sales for drives for Microsoft's Xbox 360.

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