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8/1/2008
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Consumers Shun Blu-ray Players

ABI Research attributes the lukewarm response to the fact that consumers don't see a big enough benefit to justify the cost of switching to a high-definition player.

Consumers are unimpressed with Blu-ray players, preferring to stick with their less expensive standard DVD players, a market researcher said Friday.

In a survey of 1,000 consumers, ABI Research found more than half of the respondents citing "other priorities" as their reason for having no plans to purchase a Blu-ray player. The 23% likely to buy one said they wouldn't until sometime next year.

The lukewarm response can be attributed to the fact that consumers don't see a big enough benefit to justify the cost of switching to a high-definition player, which in many cases would require buying a TV that supports HD content. "Consumers were happy to embrace standard DVD when that format arrived because the improvement in quality over VHS videotapes was dramatic," ABI analyst Steve Wilson said in a statement.

In the case of movies in the Blu-ray format, more than half of the respondents said it was "much better" than standard DVD, but another 40% said it was only "somewhat better." Most of the respondents said they were very satisfied with the performance of standard DVD players.

Blu-ray player prices and the need for an HD TV were the leading barriers to consumers switching to Blu-ray. ABI expected Blu-ray players to remain above $300 for the tier one models for the remainder of the year, with retailers trying to boost sales through disc bundling.

The one bright spot in the Blu-ray market is Sony's PlayStation 3 video-game console, which ships with a Blu-ray player. Console sales are rising among gamers, so the installed base of Blu-ray discs continues to climb, ABI said.

"While you might think gamers purchase fewer movie discs that others, we didn’t see any significant evidence of that in our results," Wilson said. "PS3 console shipments will go a long way to help bring down manufacturing costs and drive down Blu-ray player prices."

ABI is not the first researcher to find consumers lukewarm to Blu-ray. An online poll of more than 2,500 U.S. adults found nearly nine in 10 owned a standard DVD player, but fewer than one in 10 owned devices capable of playing high-definition content, Harris Interactive reported. Also, only 9% of non-Blu-ray player owners said they were likely to buy such a player within the next year.

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