DVD and Blu-ray producers bemoan lack of studio support for Blu-ray, warns against making the same mistakes with 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
Image/Photo Credit: Blu-ray Disc Association
Top DVD and Blu-ray producers have attacked movie studios for poorly managing the Blu-ray format, and warns that if lessons are not learnt, the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray disc format may be doomed as well.
Speaking at the San Diego Comic-Con, a panelist of people responsible for creating Blu-ray movies, including Star Trek: TNG's Robert Meyer Burnett, Blade Runner: The Final Cut's Charles de Lauzirika and The Hunger Games's Cliff Stephenson, say that studios seem ready and willing to abandon the Blu-ray format in favor of the new kids on the block, digital distribution and the yet unreleased 4K Ultra HD disc format.
They say the main problem stems from the fact that the success of DVD altered the industry's perception about home video, turning what was a collector's product into a mainstream one. The studios then took that expectation forward to Blu-ray, which has failed to achieve the same level of success.
"DVD got really successful, far more successful than anybody knew it would be," said Stephenson, who also produced the Hannibal box sets. "It turned people from collectors to consumers. They bought stuff just to buy stuff and that boosted all the sales numbers. Then you go to Blu-ray which became much more collector driven, so the people who didn’t want to buy every single title weren’t buying every single title, so the studios looked at that as not as successful, when the reality is it’s as successful as Laserdisc was 20 years ago, even more so."
The reason why Blu-ray could not meet studio expectations, Burnett explains, is because the "general population" did not really care about what the main advantages offered by Blu-ray, essentially superior picture and audio quality.
"You have to have a decent home theater system to really appreciate the Blu-ray format," Burnett said. "And most people really don’t get it. You have to really be a discerning viewer to get something out of Blu-ray. My mother couldn’t care less, and my mother is the general population. She just wants to put something on and be able to see it. If we talk about the nuances of the transfer my mother doesn’t even know what I’m talking about. So to go to Ultra 4K? Who’s going to care about that?"
And this is why studios should readjust their expectations of 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, and should not expect it to be the "new DVD", in terms of revenue.
"Blu-ray should never have been marketed as a mass product,” Stephenson explained. "It should have been more of a collector format that could support the numbers that it would ultimately do because as all of us can attest, we would pay."
Apart from not understanding what consumers wanted, the moderator of the panel, Bill Hunt of TheDigitalBits.com, also criticized studios for being too greedy when it comes to "double dipping", or making consumers purchase the same content over and over again.
"If you were loyal and bought each season, you paid a premium but you didn’t get the bonus disc that came in the boxed set. So a lot of people learned, ‘well, I'll just wait.’ And by the way we'll wait and we’ll get it cheaper and we'll wait until Black Friday and we'll get it even cheaper. And it’s a vicious cycle because the sales aren’t there," said Hunt.
Stephenson also chimed in, saying the inconsistency and lack of commitment by studios have also dented consumer enthusiasm in Blu-ray.
"Then they’ll release something random, like Sony will put out Troop Beverly Hills," Stephenson said. "I don't get what the logic is."
"The other problem with these boxed sets that everyone's been talking about, is that they’ll start something and then they'll end it," Stephenson said, perhaps referencing the recent decision by Fox Home Entertainment to stop releasing The Simpsons box sets half way through the available seasons. "So everybody feels burned because you bought into this thing, and I think they haven't done a very good job of supporting the format that they created."
As for the future of packaged media, most of the panel agreed that it is not the end for discs, and that it will be always around as a niche product.
"I find it impossible to believe that the people who were buying movies 20 years ago suddenly stopped buying movies," Stephenson said. "I think they’re there. I think it’s the studio expectations that have shifted and that once those sort of get realigned and the resources are funneled in the right direction, I think the ship will right itself. The problem is they can’t make the mistakes with 4K that they made with Blu-ray. Hopefully they’ll make all new mistakes, but it’s like there’s things that they can learn and there’s ways to make it successful."