Earlier today, JupiterResearch released a new market research report that paints a pessimistic future for the purveyors of Blu-ray and HD DVD hardware and software.
While the conclusions of the report may turn out to be more or less correct, the findings ignore the two most important factors in any forecast for this market -- one, the inherent incompatibility between the competing formats; and two, and the apparent failure of the new formats to generate genuine, broad-based enthusiasm among the trend-setting "early adopter" demographic.
[Publisher's Note: The
following article is provided to ISF Forum readers by G. Alan Brown,
the founder of CinemaQuest Inc. and creator of Ideal-Lume, the sole
source for reference standard lighting products used in professional
and home viewing environments throughout the world. Alan is one of the world's most knowledgeable, passionate and eloquent
advocates for display industry
standards and imaging excellence. We're pleased to be able to
provide Alan with a platform to explain why your home viewing environment
matters and what you can do to make it work better for you.
You can read more about Alan and his background here.]
There’s no doubt about it – consumers are becoming ever more demanding about television picture quality. This relatively new phenomenon is largely being driven by the fact that consumers have begun to move en masse to HDTV. As a result they’re suddenly spending anywhere from three to 10 times (or more) what they would have paid half a decade ago on a box-standard, replacement-level color television.
And, as a result, consumer expectations have been irreversibly raised.
While it appears that even casual viewers understand that HDTV technology is at the heart of the picture quality improvement all those extra TV dollars are delivering, there’s also an apparent realization that while the display may be the biggest and most obvious piece of the picture quality equation, it is most definitely not the only consideration.
This is probably most apparent in the explosion in demand for HDTV programming – whether it be over-the-air broadcasts, cable or satellite program delivery, or via new
packaged media, such as Blu-ray and HD DVD discs. There’s also rapidly growing
interest by consumers in professional video calibration services, as well as
the use of high-end cables and interconnects, video scalers and processors, and
power management and conditioning solutions.
All in the quest for even better picture quality.
The Missing Link: The Viewing Environment
Given all that, there’s still one fundamental ingredient in the picture quality recipe that is the least-recognized, the least-understood, and without question, the most consistently overlooked element – the viewing environment. Despite a
traditional indifference to viewing environment requirements, they have a direct and
weighty impact on the picture quality that an HDTV can deliver to viewers.
Perhaps the best way to bring the mystery of the ideal home viewing environment into clearer focus is to gain an appreciation for the importance these factors are given by film industry and television professionals.
Because the Conservatives are not the majority party in the UK and because a general election is unlikely to be held there for at least a year, the Conservatives' policy position is probably more public relations ploy than legal reality. But that doesn't mean that environmental groups in other countries aren't paying attention, with a report now circulating in Australian government circles suggesting a ban should be imposed there.
The recording industry strategy up to now has been to sue file sharers and then settle out of court at lower cost than the penalties available under copyright law. But one defendant decided to opt for a jury trial and that looks like maybe not such a wise decision.
After nearly 3 years of planning and what seems like a decade of breathless "We're the HD Leader" hype, DirecTV has finally released the first wave of its expanded national HD channel lineup, with 21 new channels lighting up early Wednesday morning.
Home Theater Specialists of America (HTSA), the $500 million buying group for A/V specialty dealers and installers, has formally confirmed that it is backing Blu-ray Disc technology based on sales trends among its 62 members.
The group announced during the recent CEDIA Expo that it will make Blu-ray its exclusive format choice for high-definition disc players. According to the results of an internal study released today, 92 percent of category sales by HTSA members were in Blu-ray players, with the balance comprised mostly of dual-format players that combine BD and HD-DVD playback capability.
Kevin Martin, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, gives an exclusive interview to Broadcasting & Cable, covering a wide range of topics, including a la carte cable TV pricing, the state of the digital television transition, how broadcaster public interest obligations should be defined and monitored in the digital age, and the potential for use of "white space spectrum" by unlicensed devices.
But perhaps the most interesting ground covered in the lengthy interview was Martin's discussion of multicasting, and his advocacy for mandatory carriage of all digital program streams by cable television providers.
The film industry lost the plot on piracy a few reels back. Despite more than a decade of foiled anti-piracy solutions based on ever-more-complex systems, the industry trundles on in search of that no-copy Holy Grail. It seems like a classic illustration of that old nugget about "the triumph of hope over experience."
The newest Great Anti-Piracy Hope is digital fingerprinting, and today the New York Times web site files a progress report on current Hollywood efforts to deploy that type of system against Internet file-sharing sites:
Circuit City laid off 3,400 of its highest-paid sales associates last month...The No. 2 CE chain said it plans to replace the employees, who were paid “well above the market-based salary range for their roles,” with new hires who will be compensated at the current market range for those jobs.
A more recent report from TWICE, from Tuesday of this week:
Best Buy reported improved margins in home theater and stronger computer sales during its fiscal second quarter, which generated double-digit gains in net earnings and revenue.
The chain reported net earnings of $250 million in its fiscal second quarter, a gain of 17 percent, and a 15 percent revenue gain to $8.8 billion during the quarter vs. the previous year.
Circuit City executives told analysts today that second quarter sales and earnings shortfalls were attributable to massive structural and procedural changes that disrupted operations during the first half.
Net sales at the No. 2 CE chain slipped 6.2 percent to $2.6 billion for the three-month period, ended Aug. 31, while same-store sales fell nearly 8 percent against strong year-ago comparisons. Net loss for the quarter was $63 million and its gross profit margin fell 313 basis points.
The chain attributed the latter to a decrease in merchandise margins stemming from a 38 percent drop in extended warranty sales and a greater mix of PC hardware revenue amid margin declines in computers and TVs.
The NPD Group reported today some reasons for the slower than expected start of high-definition video players and high-definition content sales (i.e., HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc). NPD's new High Definition Video Report Series examines consumer awareness, ownership, usage patterns, and intent to purchase high-definition players and content, since these new technologies were introduced last year.
Among those who currently own HDTVs, half (52 percent) are familiar with the availability of high-definition DVD players, but only 11 percent expressed strong intentions to buy one in the next six months. Seventy-three percent of HDTV owners reported that their current traditional-format DVD player still works well for them, so they do not need to replace it; while 62 percent said they are waiting for the prices of high-definition players to fall.
Copyright protection and fair use of intellectual property isn't one of the things that immediately springs to mind when you think about HDTV, DVD or home theater. But that issue holds the long-term potential to be central to our home viewing experience, because Hollywood and the recording industry are on a myopic mission to limit how consumers use the content coming into our homes, whether its over the airwaves, in disc format or via online downloads.