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OPINION: Learning from the past

Warnerís Blu-ray promotion is reminiscent of DVDís early days

By Samantha Clark -- Video Business, 7/11/2008


JULY 11 | The aggressive Blu-ray pricing promotion Warner Home Video has planned for September through the first quarter brings back memories of the early days of DVD.

Back then, the Godfather of DVD, then WHV president Warren Lieberfarb, was leading the charge to get rid of rental pricing and set every new release DVD priced for sell-through straight to consumers. Of course, it shook up the industry, as change always does. But the move got the interest of Wal-Mart, Target, Best Buy and the other big chains. Sure, they have become hefty competitors to rental chains, but without them—without low prices—would DVD have had such meteoric growth? And would the DVD industry be as big as it is today?

The switch from rental to sell-through changed home entertainment in the eyes of the consumer too. No longer were movies something you would watch one night, then return. With DVD, low prices gave consumers an opportunity to buy their favorite movies and display them as trophies on shelves.

People still want to do that—even though their shelves are sagging from the weight—and they want to do so with the newest, hottest thing: Blu-ray.

But the problem is, when DVD looks and sounds so good, is it worth it to shell out $30 for the Blu-ray version of Spider-Man 3 when you can get the standard-def and upconvert for $10? That was the question my husband and I pondered a couple weeks ago at the sale rack at Target. We opted for the $10 option.

I’m not saying Blu-ray doesn’t have better audio and video than standard-definition. It does, even when upconverting. But $20 worth?

And sure, the added interactivity is cool (picture-in-picture is my favorite), but I agree with the Home Theater Forum member who said, during a seminar at Home Media Expo last month: “GPS on Cloverfield? That’s fun for about five minutes.”

Studios can point to videogames and say, “but they’re priced at $50, and the picture isn’t half as good.” True, but my husband and I spent $50 on Bioshock and played it for about six months before we got to the end. And sports games are different every time you play them, for years to come.

It seems as though Lieberfarb knew a thing or two about what consumers will pay for. Warner might be onto something now too.

Samantha Clark is managing editor of VB (smclark@reedbusiness.com).

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