Despite some early challenges, shipments of Ultra HD Blu-ray players continued to climb at significant rates over the first half of 2018, according to data from two prominent consumer AV market research firms, as reported by HD Guru’s Greg Tarr.
NPD Group’s Stephen Baker said that so far, UHD Blu-ray player sales increased by more than 150% over 2017, while revenue is up 61%. The ASP of UHD Blu-ray players is $165 this year compared to $272 during the first five months of 2017.
Baker said that in May alone, sales of UHD Blu-ray players in the US increased by 82% and revenue increased 13%, with an ASP of $168.
Retail-initiated discounts on Ultra HD Blu-ray players appeared in US retail stores for select periods during the first half of the year, with promotional prices dropping as low as $100 on some models. Historically, that has been a catalyst point for greater software availability from leading movie studios, driving even greater sales momentum for players.
NPD estimated that Ultra HD represented about 15% of Blu-ray unit sales for the first five months of 2018. This came despite the announcement of Chinese AV equipment maker Oppo’s departure from the global Blu-ray player market, leaving a partial void at the top of the premium UHD Blu-ray market. Baker commented:
“Sales remain okay. As a new product and a new tech the growth is fairly normal. The question is not what it is doing now but what it will look like in 18 months.
There remains considerable legacy demand for discs and there also remains a core of consumers who recognise the video quality advantage that discs retain”.
Meanwhile, the advancement of the two-year-old UHD Blu-ray format continues in other parts of the world, but at far lower levels than in the United States, where Hollywood studios have kept the pump pretty well primed with new and legacy movie releases, analysts say. Unfortunately, much of this UHD Blu-ray content is still upscaled from lower resolutions, but with the much more significant added benefit of HDR and DCI-P3 wide colour gamut in many cases.
According to Futuresource Consulting’s Tristan Veale, sales of UHD Blu-ray players during the first and second quarters of 2018 aren’t that representative of how the rest of the year will turn out, due to the vast majority of volumes weighted to the second half of the year. The company forecasts that unit shipments are expected to reach 2.3 million in 2018, with North America alone totaling 1.2 million, slightly better than half of the global shipment total for the category.
Other forecasts have shown global Blu-ray player shipments of all resolution formats decreasing from 72.1 million in 2017 to 68 million in 2023. Unit shipments for the global Blu-ray media market are expected to decrease from 595 million in 2017 to 516 million in 2023. Despite this decline, the UHD segment continues to grow and will be a key driver in extending the life of the physical Blu-ray disc business, even as the popularily of UHD OTT streaming grows.
As for Ultra HD sales in the rest of the world, North America and Western Europe are the regions with the highest UHD TV and Blu-ray penetration at present. For UHD Blu-ray players, this is followed by Japan and the rest of the world.
Additionally, plenty of UHD TV opportunity awaits, analysts say. As of the first quarter of 2018, around 9 million US households — less than 10% — had an Ultra HD playback device (including UHD Blu-ray players), according to the Digital Entertainment Group. Comparatively, nearly 35 million US homes have a UHD TV set.