Archive for the ‘High Definition (Blu-ray/HD DVD/4K)’ Category

Weekly News Roundup (March 5, 2017)

Sunday, March 5th, 2017

Welcome to another edition of the WNR. As we start my favourite month of the year (birthday month!), things are happening all over the place. And by things, I only mean more and more copyright actions, whether it’s new lawsuits, or new site blockings. It all seems rather pointless considering how none of it has proven to work in the past, but I guess for some, doing something is better than doing nothing at all.

But that’s a dangerous line of thought. Because sometimes doing something but doing the wrong thing can take your focus off doing the right thing. If rights-holders want to spend all their time and effort in obsessing over these anti-piracy measures, and totally ignore trying to innovate, then that’s great news for the likes of Netflix and Google and Apple, or the next big tech company, who will all gladly fill the gap in consumer need left by the dinosaurs that are the movie and music companies.

With Netflix making movies, and YouTube getting into TV, it’s only a matter of time we will have to redefine just what is a movie studio or a music label, and what kind of value do they actually inject into the whole ecosystem.

Okay, enough ranting for now, let’s get to the news (which will ultimately lead to more ranting).

Copyright

Censorship

Rights-holders: censorship is the way to go

The piracy blockade in Australia is gathering momentum, with more sites now being added to the blocking list. The Pirate Bay, Torrentz, TorrentHound, IsoHunt and SolarMovie have already been targeted, and now in the second round of legal action (to get a court order to force ISPs to block sites),  ExtraTorrent, RARBG, Demonoid, LimeTorrents and dozens of other sites are now being added to the blockade.

If successful, this will lead Australians to one of three choices. To pay for the overpriced, under performing legal option to watch Game of Thrones; to get a VPN to bypass the blockade (or to access sites that haven’t been blocked yet); or to not watch Game of Thrones. The last option is obviously not realistic or acceptable, and the first option is hardly palatable (or even a realistic option for many), so … let’s put it this way, if I was operating a VPN company right now, I would be pretty happy with these developments. And if I was a copyright lawyer, I would also be happy and would start preparing the legal groundwork needed to start suing VPN providers. A win-win for everyone except for consumers and innovators.

Sweden is also getting in on the site blocking game (a little late if you ask me), with the Pirate Bay, and a handful of other sites, finally getting blocked in its home country. The ISPs are not happy and vow to fight future blocking attempts, with one ISPs boss even calling this latest development just a sign of the copyright industry’s “death throes” as the industry fails to grasp the need to reform and to evolve to become more customer oriented.

Meanwhile ExtraTorrent is coming under renewed pressure with its main domain name, extratorrent.cc, being seized by the domain’s registrar, although it does not stop the site from being accessed thanks to the myriad of backup domains. More death throes.

High Definition

Netflix Downloads

Netflix: Innovation is the key to success

So on the other site we have company like Netflix, and their CEO, talking positively about the future, and taking positive steps to innovate their way to success. With mobile data usage on the up and providers not so keen on the development, Netflix has seen the potential problem and has decided to take some steps to address it before it becomes a problem. The company is working on compressing its already efficient video streams to make it less data intensive for mobile users, with CEO Reed Hastings believing that 0.2 Mbps is all that’s needed to deliver good quality video. To put that into perspective, a typical 2 hour movie would only use up 180 MBs of data.

Infographic: Finding the right sized TV

Infographic: Finding the right sized TV (Click to enlarge)

On piracy, Hastings confirmed the company’s strategy of not fighting pirates, but helping them. Helping them by giving them what they want (lots of entertainment options) at a price they’re willing to pay (so not $30 per movie).

Speaking of the future, 4K means that many people are going to start looking for a new TV soon, and one of the questions that’s always been asked, regardless of whether it’s looking for a projection TV, a plasma, a HD, or Ultra HD one, is how big should the TV be.

Based on my experience, there’s usually no such thing as too big unless you have a very small room. A TV that you think might be too big now, will seem small by the time you need/want to upgrade again. But if you do have limited space, or more precisely, limited distance between you and your TV, then maybe take a peek at this infographic (special thanks to Kagoo.com for the image). It uses science to determine what’s the optimal distance is if you actually want to be able to see those extra pixels from your new 4K TV.

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Okay, that’s enough for this week. Have a great one and see you in seven.

 

Weekly News Roundup (February 19, 2017)

Sunday, February 19th, 2017

Hello on this chilly morning from Melbourne. Hope the past week has been a good one for you!

Not much news this week, in that there really wasn’t too much news worthy stories to discuss. So I spent most of it working on other projects and also (finally) finishing up the Blu-ray: The State of Play post for 2016.

Star Wars Episode VII - The Force Awakens Blu-ray

Could a single title be responsible for Blu-ray’s mini-revival in 2016?

While you can read the report for what I think happened to Blu-ray (and DVD, and Ultra HD Blu-ray) in 2016, for 2017 so far though, things don’t look very good for Blu-ray and disc sales in general. It could be the relative lack of quality in the new releases so far, but Blu-ray revenue is down an average of 27% compared to the same weeks last year.

There’s no doubt that ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ had a big hand in boosting Blu-ray sales in 2016 – it’s third on the list of all-time consumer spendings on Blu-ray, and could go even higher given time to catch up to ‘Frozen’ and ‘Avatar’. It also broke all sorts of sales records in overseas markets. But it wasn’t released until April, and so January and February should be fairly comparable between this and last year (although I guess you could say that the popularity of ‘Minions’ was still giving a helping hand to Blu-ray sales back in early 2016, and there’s no such comparable title this time around).

Time will tell if this is just a blip, caused by the lack of good releases, or something a bit more serious.

Well since there’s not much news, which should change next week, there’s not much point in going on and on except to say, see you next week!

Blu-ray: The State of Play – 2016

Thursday, February 16th, 2017

Welcome to another edition of our annual Blu-ray sales analysis, where we look at how Blu-ray has performed over the last year.

The data used in this analysis derives from our weekly updates, based on figures released by Home Media Magazine. Some of the historical figures you’ll see have also been adjusted, due to slight tweaking of the metrics used by HMM to create these sets of data, although the changes have been very subtle and does not change the bigger picture in any way.

Last year, we concluded that “peak Blu-ray” had been reached in 2013, and that the format’s fortunes were on the decline ever since. 2016 is a particular interesting year to examine because of the introduction of a new Blu-ray format – Ultra HD Blu-ray.

Can these new fancy 4K discs reverse Blu-ray’s fortunes? Read on to find out!

Blu-ray Market Share

As has been the case with all of our “Blu-ray: The State of Play” reports in the past, we start with the ever wider Blu-ray Market Share graph. Blu-ray market share represents weekly Blu-ray sales as a percentage of total packaged disc sales. So a Blu-ray market share of 45% means that 45% of all disc packages sold in that week contained a Blu-ray disc (inversely, this also means that 55% of disc packages sold only contained the DVD version of the content). With the way sales figures are reported, any edition that includes a Blu-ray version of the film is counted as a Blu-ray package (even if the package also contains a DVD version of the film). Ultra HD Blu-ray sales are also counted in the Blu-ray column. In the graph below, we also point out some of the more obvious milestone releases. 2016’s major releases, at least those that had a significant impact on Blu-ray market share for the week that they were released, were Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens, DeadpoolZootopia, Batman v Superman: Dawn of JusticeCaptain America: Civil WarStar Trek: BeyondFinding Dory, and Suicide Squad.

 

Blu-ray Market Share – 2008 to 2016 – Click to see larger version

Blu-ray Market Share – 2008 to 2016 – Click to see larger version

Note that because Blu-ray market share is proportional to DVD market share, any drop in DVD sales will also result in a higher Blu-ray market share, even if Blu-ray sales are steady. With DVD on a steady decline, Blu-ray market share will continue to rise as long as it’s own sales decline is slower than that of DVD’s.

Below is the same data condensed and with a trend line added. You might notice a huge peak in the graph during the earlier part of 2016 – this can be explained simply by the fact that Star Wars: The Force Awakens was released that week. I mentioned in last year’s report that the new Star Wars movie could break market share records, and it indeed did, by a considerable margin as you can see from the graph below.

Blu-ray Market Share – 2008 to 2016

Blu-ray Market Share – 2008 to 2016

Blu-ray Revenue

For actual revenue, unfortunately, no records were broken as you can see from the graph below. Apart from the smaller peak for The Force Awakens, the other peak, the one that you see almost every year at the same time, is for the important Black Friday/Cyber Monday week, and the pre-Christmas sales period. 2016’s peaks are somewhat higher than 2015’s, but the record remains with 2013 (and may always be the case). 2013 being the peak Blu-ray year, at least when it comes to revenue, remains a likely fact for the foreseeable future – it’s not so much that disc sales were so much higher, but that discs costs less per unit than they did in 2013 – so more sales could still mean less revenue, overall, which seems to be the case.

Blu-ray Revenue Growth – 2010 to 2016

Blu-ray Revenue Growth – 2010 to 2016

2015 vs 2016 Comparison

So let’s take a closer look at how 2016 did compared to 2015, starting with Blu-ray market share as shown in the graph below. Unlike in 2015, the big releases came mostly in the first half of the year, as you can see from the series of peaks early on (with ‘The Force Awaken’ being the biggest peak, followed by ‘Deadpool’, ‘Zootopia’, and ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’).

Blu-ray Sales Market Share: 2014 vs 2015 Comparison

Blu-ray Sales Market Share: 2015 vs 2016 Comparison

Revenue wise, the differences between 2015 and 2016 were less visible. The start of the year wasn’t particularly impressive, but things start to pick up around March, and then after the big releases start to come in. Overall, 2016 looks to be a better year than 2015.

Blu-ray Sales Revenue: 2015 vs 2016 Comparison

Blu-ray Sales Revenue: 2015 vs 2016 Comparison

We can get a clearer picture by looking at the raw numbers. Out of the 53 reporting weeks in 2016, 29 of them was better than the same week in 2015, with 24 being worse. This compares well to 2015, when 31 of them had a weekly revenue worse than the same week in 2014. The quality of releases may be the bigger driving factor, but it’s hard to ignore the effect of the Ultra HD Blu-ray format, first introduced in early March. If we look at the time period before the introduction of Ultra HD Blu-ray, 6 out of the 11 weeks (55%) were worse than the same weeks in 2015. After, only 19 out of 43 were worse off (44%). If you need further evidence that suggests Ultra HD is having a role in Blu-ray sales, then all you need to do is to follow our weekly sales reports, where you’ll find almost all new major releases now come with Ultra HD editions, some of these editions sell quite well. It’s not only replacing 3D sales, which have severely declined due to lack of consumer interest and the lack of new 3D releases, it also seems to be doing much better than 3D at the same stage of its development (and much better than the original Blu-ray format, during the same period).

But again, just the fact that The Force Awakens was released a couple of weeks after Ultra HD’s launch and continued to chart for most of 2016 could have been enough to help make things better for Blu-ray in 2016. The other major releases, in particular new properties ‘Deadpool’ and ‘Zootopia’, may also have contributed to the better results in 2016.

Whether it’s the Force, or the 4K, either or both helped Blu-ray revenue reverse course for the year and post the first year on year increase since 2014. Total Blu-ray revenue for 2015 was $2.07 billion, compared to $2.095 billion in 2016, a growth of 1.22%.

Conclusion

To sum up:

  • Blu-ray market share grew, but it may largely be due to the decline in DVD than any rise in Blu-ray sales
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens was the title to beat in 2016 (and possibly the best selling Blu-ray ever)
  • Blu-ray revenue reverses declines from previous two years and posts a small gain, possibly due to the better caliber of releases in 2016 as well as the introduction of Ultra HD Blu-ray.

These results still seem to confirm that 2013 was the peak for Blu-ray sales, but there seems to be a “Rey” of hope for Blu-ray, maybe thanks to Ultra HD Blu-ray. Although with that said, the first few weeks of 2017 have not been good ones for Blu-ray sales, and so perhaps the caliber of releases, as opposed to the newness of the format or the clarity of the picture, is a bigger factor when it comes to sales.

Weekly News Roundup (January 29, 2017)

Sunday, January 29th, 2017

Welcome to the Year of the Rooster. In traditional Chinese custom, those born in the year of the rooster (1921, 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005 – although those born in early January/February might have to double check to see which side of the lunar year they fall under) should always carry with them something red (red undies will do) to ward off bad luck for the year, so make sure you take precautions!

In terms of news, it’s somewhat quiet, but there are two stories on the coming and goings of technology that are unmistakably related. So let’s get started!

High Definition

First the going. Those still getting good use out of their 3D TV will have to extra careful to protect their investment, because pretty soon, it’s going to be really hard to buy a decent 3D set. Sony and LG this week announced that none of their new 2017 range of TVs will include 3D support. This move follows Samsung and Philips, both having ditched 3D in 2016, and raft of other CE companies like Sharp, TCL and Hisense that failed to announce any new TVs featuring 3D support at CES.

Samsung 3D active shutter glasses

3D, at least for the home, going the way of the dodo as last two holdouts announce the end of 3D support for their TVs

Those following our weekly Blu-ray sales analysis will also have seen a familiar pattern, that while studios are still doing 3D releases, the number of people buying them have steadily decreased.

The irony of this, in particular the LG announcement, is the company has finally perfected 3D technology for the home using their passive technology. But the fact remains that not all movies benefit greatly from 3D, that people just aren’t that interested in recreating the 3D experience at home, or at least not enough people to justify the cost of including the tech in the latest TV models. And some people like me can’t even watch 3D for extended periods without wanting to throw up.

That cost is being transferred to other technologies that, according to the NPD and according to our own Blu-ray sales stats, are quickly gaining popularity with consumers. Of course, I’m referring to Ultra HD Blu-ray and all the associated acronyms. For the week ending January 14th 2017, eight of the top 10 selling Blu-ray titles all had Ultra HD Blu-ray editions, but only four had 3D editions. This could be because more movies, if not most movies, benefit in some way from having an 4K transfer, than compared to 3D.

So what to do if you’re a 3D fan? The first thing you should do is to make sure you take good care of your current 3D TV, because it might be hard in the future to secure yourself a good quality 3D TV. Also don’t fret too much about studios not releasing 3D movies – Disney just recently released the 3D edition of The Force Awakens, and it sold enough copies to probably justify other re-releases like this in the future (plus there’s the whole series of new Avatar movies coming).

Pioneer BDR-S11J-BK

Pioneer and Cyberlink giving us PC heads a crack at playing Ultra HD Blu-ray movies on our PCs

Now we go to the other story, the coming. With Ultra HD Blu-ray looking more and more like the natural successor to the Blu-ray format, one thing has been noticeably missing – where’s the PC support? I know PCs aren’t what they used to be, but to be a year into a format without even a glimpse of an Ultra HD Blu-ray optical drive, seems quite odd considering how Blu-ray and DVD before it (and this site, for that matter) got started.

But that will soon change. Pioneer will finally bring out a pair of Ultra HD Blu-ray capable optical drives (the BDR-S11J-BK & BDR-S11J-X). Even better, Cyberlink has teamed up with Pioneer to include a special modified (and unavailable to buy at retail) version of PowerDVD that has received Ultra HD Blu-ray certification and will play all the latest discs.

Better late than never, I suppose.

Of course, having a drive and player software is only the beginning of the requirements, thanks to the annoyance of DRM, and the brilliance of HDR. You’ll need a Kaby Lake CPU and a GPU that supports HDMI 2.0a and HDCP 2.2. And if you want HDR, you’ll need a monitor that can do it justice as well. Not too many people are buying high spec’d PCs these days, and so I don’t expect Pioneer and Cyberlink to do roaring business from these drives/software, at least not yet. I’m just grateful they haven’t forgotten us old PC heads, many of whom are itching to upgrade their PCs to attain full Ultra HD Blu-ray support status. I know I am!

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That’s all we have for this WNR. See you next week!

Weekly News Roundup (January 8, 2017)

Sunday, January 8th, 2017

Hope the new year is treating you well so far? The start of the year is usually a bit quiet, and then boom, CES hits and there is this tech news explosion. This doesn’t necessarily translate to news that we cover here on the site, because there’s only so many stories you can do on company X’s new Ultra HD Blu-ray players, or company Y’s new super thin TV (if X != Y, then X in this case is Sony and Y is LG – more on this later).

Before we get to the CES stuff, there’s a bit of copyright news to go through as per usual.

Copyright

You don’t hear much about three-strikes much these days. Some countries have had it for years, and thousands upon thousands of warnings have been sent out, yet the creative industry has been particularly quiet about the positive effects it has had on piracy and more importantly, their bottom line. The reason they are quiet on the positives may be because there are none!

Three Strikes

Three-strikes has not proven to be successful in raising revenue

According to a new study, three-strikes and other types of warning regimes does not seem to have had any positive effect on box office revenue. Earlier studies and reports seems to suggest that piracy rates do drop on the pirating platforms that are monitored as part of these regimes, but it appears this drop in piracy is not translating into increased profits. In fact, when Megaupload was shuttered, the box office take actually dropped in a few key regions.

Either people are still pirating and they’re just not being caught because they’re using VPNs or an alternative, un-monitored downloading source, or maybe piracy simply doesn’t translate to lost profits that, once piracy is removed from the equation, magically re-materialise.

And all the while during the scare campaign about piracy, the movie industry has been doing much better than it has ever been. Funnily enough, even the so called piracy stricken music industry appears to be recovering (even though it’s decline may have had nothing to do with piracy, and its revival has nothing to do with anti-piracy).

Take the UK for example, where the music, movie and video game industries all recorded profit growth over the last year, much of the change, both the good and bad, has more to do with the digital transition than piracy. The fact that the digital transition started at around the same time as the surge in piracy (and think for a moment and you’ll see that both of these things are actually related) may have confused these industries as to the root cause of their woes. Their obsession with destroying piracy may have also cost them valuable time and resources that could have otherwise been used to innovate and adapt to the digital transition. Instead, tech industries frustrated with being blamed for the piracy problem developed their own innovative solutions that gave consumers the legal digital platforms they sorely wanted. This changed the distribution landscape dramatically, and shifted revenue away from the traditional industries and towards the few tech companies that had the vision to fulfill a consumer need. This is why the music industry isn’t profiting as much from say streaming as they should right now, and why they now have much less of say in how their product is distributed.

The movie industry suffered less because the digital transition occurred at a slower pace than with music, possibly due to the fact that movie files are bigger and Internet speeds just weren’t good enough back then. This allowed the industry more time to adapt, and they’ve been able to negotiated better deals with the likes of Netflix and others (as well as to launch their own platforms, such as Hulu). The gaming industry’s digital transition is further delayed, again possibly due to the file size issue, and they are perhaps even better equipped to deal with the transition.

I would like to think lessons have been learnt, but the way the music industry is still going on about Spotify, I fear it hasn’t.

High Definition

Sony UBP-X1000

Sony finally releasing an Ultra HD Blu-ray player

So CES was dominated by 4K stuff once again, and now with Ultra HD Blu-ray being the format of choice for 4K (the digital transition appears to have gone backwards here, and again file size is the main issue), there are related products all over the place. Surprising is the fact that Sony and LG have only now announced their first Ultra HD Blu-ray players, despite Samsung, and even Microsoft, having had a player out for ages.

As always trying to shoot itself in the foot, the consumer electronics industry’s latest gamble is that consumers won’t mind a pseudo  format war in term of HDR. With HDR10 and Dolby Vision already confusing things for consumers, they may have to contend with Hybrid Log Gamma and Technicolor HDR, both of which are being pushed by LG (but are open formats, so anyone is a free to adopt them). I used the term pseudo because it’s unlikely that a full blown format way will develop, mainly because CE manufacturers will simply adopt support for all of these formats (just like LG has already done) and the content distributors can pick whatever format they want to use.

LG UP970

LG also has an Ultra HD Blu-ray player coming

Not great news for early adopters with equipment that can’t be upgraded via firmware though, but isn’t that always the case?

Just more more thing on the CES before I sign off, it’s interesting to see so many new products that now fall into the category of “consumer electronics”. It used to be just TVs and tape/disc players, and now we have cars, hairbrushes and basically anything you can stick Wi-Fi into. The tech industry is expanding into other traditionally non tech industries, just like how it has made inroads into movies and music – these other industries should heed the experiences of the music industry especially, if they don’t want to be left behind.

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Looks like that’s it for the week. Hope you have a good one, and see you next week!