Economy grinch may pinch Blu-ray format

Wed Nov 12, 2008 4:12am EST
 
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By Carl DiOrio

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Executives hoping that the weak consumer embrace of high-definition discs will strengthen during the holiday season thanks to clarity on format and hardware issues suddenly face this rude awakening: It's the economy, stupid.

The format war is over, hardware prices are falling and studio marketing efforts finally are taking hold with retailers. Yet the economic downturn has become a chief reason for fearing that holiday sales of Blu-ray Discs will prove more naughty than nice.

Hollywood is counting on Blu-ray -- winner of a bloody format with now-failed HD DVD -- to become the next-generation format of choice for home entertainment, compensating for a DVD cash cow that's starting to run a bit dry. But consumer concern about the worsening economy couldn't have spiked at a more inopportune time: the cusp of the holiday gift-buying season.

"The economy is the biggest challenge, because there are just so many pieces to the Blu-ray puzzle that consumers face," said Lori MacPherson, GM of domestic home-entertainment at Disney. "You need the high-definition television set, you need the player, you need the cables, you need the software . . ."

MacPherson still believes Disney's seasonal slew of new releases and catalog titles in the Blu-ray format will help stir previously resistant consumers to check out the HD format. But industry colleagues participating in a panel discussion Tuesday at the HD3 conference in Century City agreed that the onset of recession won't help.

"The economy is hitting everybody," said Danny Kaye, executive vp research and tech strategy at Fox. "But we still look forward to a great fourth quarter."

If that sounds a bit like whistling past the HD graveyard, it should be noted that there also are distinctly positive bits of news on the home entertainment horizon.

"I know the economy is tough right now, but the manufacturers are really bringing down the price of their HDTV sets," Paramount vp marketing Chris Saito said.   Continued...

 
<p>Trademark of Blu-Ray DVD technology is displayed at an electronic shop in Tokyo February 17, 2008. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon</p>