Blu-ray Statistics, the Other Side of the Coin

June 23, 2009

Blu-rayIf you haven’t had a chance to read the latest Harris Poll on HDTV and Blu-ray uptake among U.S. consumers, it might be quite the eye opener (Head’s up, PDF link). But before we get into some of those numbers, keep in mind that just like the data used by public relation firms, poll’s can be misleading as well. (Cough New York Times Healthcare Poll)

With polls however, at least we have a pretty clear understanding of what’s being presented to us in most cases, often with sales data what’s not being reported is just as important as what is. The first thing that jumped out at me about the report released last Thursday was that while HDTV ownership increased to 47% from 35% just the year prior, Blu-ray penetration lags significantly behind those numbers.

Just 7% of those polled indicated they would be likely to purchase a Blu-ray player within the next year. That’s actually down by 2% from last year, when the question posed was, “Knowing that Blu-ray is the unofficial winner of the high-definition DVD format war, how likely are you to purchase a Blu-ray disc player within the next year?”

Obviously the recession plays a part in that disparity, no matter what anyone thought of their finances a year ago, they’re likely even more concerned today. That alone would explain the dip in buying intent. But I couldn’t help think back to the bevy of “Blu-ray player sales surge” articles from last May.

I hope by now everyone understands that public relations firms are in the business of making sure the public (and “journalists”) see their client’s products in the best light possible. Take my word as someone who’s dealt directly with PR firms, they lose no sleep over trimming away the less than flattering bits and presenting only the sparkly clean version for us to see.

And you know what? That’s exactly what they should do; they aren’t in the fact business, they’re in the public relation business and specifically in the business of selling more of their client’s products. Make no mistake, PR firms have every right to spin the story being told in their clients favor, but consumers owe it to themselves to keep that in mind when disseminating advertisements and sales data.

While I don’t doubt the NPD data used in the articles, I can’t help but think we weren’t getting the whole story. Take for example the “first-quarter sales of stand-alone Blu-ray Disc players in the United States rose 72 percent”. That’s an impressive number, but without total units sold its hard to quantify. Hint: If the total number of units sold was impressive they likely would have included that figure as well.

Back in May we also had reports that included “NPD Group research also shows that overall consumer awareness of the Blu-ray Disc format in the United States has reached 90 percent over the last six months.” That’s great, right? Well sure it is, but contrast that with only 7% likely to purchase a player in the next year and you get a different perspective.

I’ll give you an example of how the other side (if one still existed) could spin those same numbers. “In spite tremendous marketing efforts and 90% consumer awareness only 7% of those polled indicated plans to purchase a Blu-ray player”, that gives the data a decidedly different twist, eh?

The examples of how this is done are endless. One popular ploy is to pit something with high consumer penetration against something recently launched (ala DVD vs. Blu-ray) and illustrate just how awesome said product is against the supposed king of the hill. Or, take the flip side of that coin and point out where said king-of-the-hill was at this point in its lifecycle and try to draw direct correlation to your product. Even better, and one of my personal favorites, is to draw attention to a particular data point then compare it to another semi-related data point while inferring they are directly related.

Another of my favorite misnomers is the pie chart comparison. This one’s a real hoot, often it’s (now that HD DVD is out of the picture) a Blu-ray to DVD comparison. And sure enough most weeks Blu-ray is slowly but surely gaining market share over DVD, there’s just one problem with this comparison however, it’s not 1997.

By that I mean in a straight little round disc vs. little round disc battle, Blu-ray will continue to gain market share against DVD but it’s 2009 and we have alternative ways of watching movies now. Now we’re even starting to move away from the notion that buying discs is the only way to own a movie. Likewise, I think those pie charts with only two contenders don’t tell the full story. But then again as we’ve already covered, the full-story isn’t always desired depending on your point of view.

But getting back to the Harris Poll for a second, more often than not the secondary data points are where the real meat and potatoes can be found. For example, of those polled only 25% planned to switch to Blu-ray exclusively yet 32% of Blu-ray owners stated the majority of their movie purchases are on the Blu-ray format. I suppose that’s a good news/bad news scenario among PS3 owners. Yes their Blu-ray adoption rate is higher than the public at large but at only 32% of a captive market. Is it large enough?

Price seemed to be the biggest hang-up for those on the fence wanting to switch to Blu-ray, with two in five waiting for prices to come down before they buy. Even for those already purchasing Blu-ray movies, only 21% of those polled said they were going back through their existing DVD catalog and replacing them with the Blu-ray version.

Before the Blu-ray fervent, crawl out of the woodwork to remind me of the virtues of the true blue god… I get it, really I do. Blu-ray is our best (and only) commercially viable pre-recorded high definition format and it’s a fine format indeed. My point here wasn’t to cast doubt on Blu-ray’s achievements but to put those achievements into the proper context.

All things considered, the recession, the format war, digital downloads both legal and illegal, Blu-ray’s doing about as well as anyone could have reasonably expected. That is, if you had reasonable expectations.



Posted by Bryan Greenway | | Filed Under Blu-ray, HDTV


Comments

  • poni02

    Great article. You mentioned a 90% market awareness, this is amazing. the reason for people holding off on the purchase of Blu-ray players are mostly due to the high costs associated with the devices and the actual movies. sad reality is, that manufacturers are trying to squeeze the last dime out of people, before Blu-ray becomes a standard and the competition brings down the prices of the players. Thank goodness the old model ps3 went on sale for $99 a few weeks ago, good BD player and more! Awesome article.

  • poni02

    Great article. You mentioned a 90% market awareness, this is amazing. the reason for people holding off on the purchase of Blu-ray players are mostly due to the high costs associated with the devices and the actual movies. sad reality is, that manufacturers are trying to squeeze the last dime out of people, before Blu-ray becomes a standard and the competition brings down the prices of the players. Thank goodness the old model ps3 went on sale for $99 a few weeks ago, good BD player and more! Awesome article.

  • good one