$99 Blu-ray players coming, but will disc prices ever fall?

Blu-ray-logo Now that Blu-ray players are being made in China, the format’s price problems may rapidly be disappearing.

Mark Leathan, Samsung’s Marketing Director, told Blu-ray.com that the entry of Chinese manufacturers into the market means we’ll start seeing $99 players soon. Most likely, I’d think, in time for the holidays.

Just this past holiday season, it was a big deal that Blu-ray players cost less than $250, reaching that price point much faster than the original DVD. While it’s growing healthily despite the recession, the Blu-ray format is still a tiny fraction of the overall home entertainment biz. Last year it failed to meet the $1 billion mark predicted by supporters early in the year and wasn’t nearly enough to make up for the decline in standard DVD sales.

$99 players could make a big difference. Video game console manufacturers have found that $200 and $100 are both psychological barriers below which sales are boosted significantly. Granted, these won’t be the high quality players from manufacturers like Sony. But just as there are nicer name brand TVs and cheaper ones from no-name companies that do the same basic thing, Blu-ray will likely benefit from the same differentiation.

But while player costs may be falling, there’s no evidence yet that discs will do the same. Studios have been loathe to reduce wholesale prices for the Blu-ray discs to the same as standard DVDs. And,  because the install base is so small, retailers never use them as “loss leaders.” The result is that while prices for new DVDs generally range from $15-$25, hi-def discs cost $25-$35. Until the same efficiencies we’re seeing in players reach the discs, Blu-ray will most likely never reach the heights of DVDs.

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