Blu-ray Disc Trends in 2008

Posted in on January 3rd, 2009 by Dave

godfather.jpgIt is hard to believe that it is 2009 already – time to look back over one of the most eventful years for High Definition media.

Of course it was right around this time that Warner announced that it would eventually cease releasing HD DVD titles – an announcement that started a fairly rapid demise for the format.

The demise of HD DVD was a bonus for Blu-ray supporters, with the arrival of discs from the previously HD DVD exclusive Universal Studios and the return to Blu-ray from the Paramount/DreamWorks family after dropping support for Blu-ray in mid 2007.

bonusview.gifHowever it was also a year of progress for the Blu-ray format regardless of other influences, and saw the arrival of picture in picture Bonus View titles at the beginning of the year.

bdlive.gif2008 also heralded the arrival of the BD Live hardware and titles, as well as a couple of BD Live special event screenings with director participation in a live chat.

We also saw the first titles with Digital Copy included in the package or for download.

bonds.jpgIn 2008 we saw more than double the number of releases in 2007, and we surpassed the milestone of 1000 titles available in 2008.

There were a number of other interesting trends, so I thought I would highlight them in this featured article.

Disc Capacity

walle.jpgI think in 2008 we are definitely seeing a fairy stable ratio of dual layer titles compared to single layer titles.

In 2007 63.6% of the discs were dual layer 50 GB discs already, and in 2008 the DL share increased a little to almost two thirds.

I think as the additional cost of the dual layer discs decreases we will see this share slowly increase, but the reality is that not every title needs all that capacity.

It is great to see dual layer discs being commonplace – not bad for a technology described by a certain Microsoft executive as ‘Science Fiction’ – should I say former Microsoft executive!

Video and Codec Choices

Something that has become increasingly apparent is that AVC has become the defacto official codec for Blu-ray Disc.ironman.jpg

While Blu-ray exclusive studios Disney, Fox and Sony have used AVC video encoding on 90 percent or more of their releases, recently we have seen a shift towards AVC from previously HD DVD exclusive studios Paramount and Universal, with both releasing in more than 60 percent of their titles with AVC in December this year.

This leaves Warner as the last remaining big studio dedicated to Microsoft’s VC-1 codec.

In fact, with almost 3/4 of December’s releases adopting AVC video, it won’t be long before more than half of all releases to date will have AVC encoding.

With just over 5% of the 2008 releases, the MPEG2 codec is now pretty much relegated to independent and budget releases.

hellboy2.jpgOn the audio side, many were very excited to see Universal adopt the lossless DTS-HD Master Audio codec for their Blu-ray releases, with lossless audio on all of their releases.

Paramount also moved strongly towards lossless audio with only one release not using lossless audio for 2008. Safe to say that Dolby TrueHD audio is now their preferred audio codec.

This leaves Warner again alone in codec space, with lossy Dolby Digital audio on almost half of their releases this year, including some of their Day and Date releases like Speed Racer, The Bucket List and Get Smart.

That said, we have seen a move from 70 percent of titles with lossless audio to over 80 percent of releases with lossless audio in 2008.

Region Coding

hancock.jpgWe have definitely seen a move away from of restrictive Region Codes in 2008.

While 64 percent of the releases in 2007 were coded for all regions, over 72 percent of 2008 releases were Region A,B,C.

There has been a major move by Sony away from restrictive region coding, with over 40% of their discs Region A in 2007, and only 11% Region A in 2008.

To a lesser extent Disney also moved away from restrictive coding, while Fox went from all Region A titles in 2007 to having 10% of their 2008 releases coded for all regions.

Of course, previous HD DVD supporters Universal and Paramount have not used region coding and only the New Line Warner releases were Region A in 2008.

Disc Sales, Revenues and Market Share

darkknight.jpgWe have seen some very positive numbers with respect to market share and revenue over the course of the year.

Back in April 2008, the market share for the top 20 titles versus DVD averaged 5.5%, while the December average was 12%.

The revenue for May was around $34M, while in November Blu-ray earned over $60M, almost double the May earnings, and of course the December revenues are already $130M for the first three weeks.

This year we have seen Iron Man and The Dark Knight sell more than 1 million copies.

As well as these two, we have seen a number of great releases this year including the new Pixar film WALL-E, Oscar favourite No Country for Old Men and the classic animated film Sleeping Beauty from Disney.

matrix.jpgFox and MGM brought us both The X Files Movies, the first James Bond Collection releases, Firefly and Juno .

Warner finally released The Ultimate Matrix Collection, classics like How the West Was Won and the ever popular Will Smith in I Am Legend.

Universal came in strong with The Mummy , Hellboy II: The Golden Army and The Incredible Hulk as well as Heroes: Season 1 and Heroes: Season 2.

Paramount returned to Blu-ray with excellent releases for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Transformers and The Godfather Collection.

Sony covered a range of genres with foreign titles like The Counterfeiters and La Femme Nikita as well as the box office hits like Hancock.

thirdman.jpgWe also saw Criterion release their first titles including The Third Man, The Man Who Fell to Earth and Bottle Rocket.

All in all, 2008 has been an excellent year for Blu-ray Disc and I am encouraged by these trends and expect to see further growth in the right direction in 2009.