Early Ultra HD Blu-ray Sales Numbers Exceed Disc Predecessor

Ultra HD Blue-Ray
Courtesy of Ultra HD Blue-Ray

New format growing four times as fast as Blu-ray Disc a decade ago

Studio executives are cheered by early Ultra HD Blu-ray sales numbers.

A total of 45 Ultra HD titles have been released on Blu-ray Disc since March — and according to Home Media Magazine market research, consumers bought more than 228,000 discs as of June 24.

By comparison, Blu-ray Disc, launched in June 2006, moved just 57,000 units in the comparable time frame.

Ultra HD is a new format that not only offers viewers four times the resolution of HD, but also includes high dynamic range (HDR), which produces brilliant highlights, vibrant colors and greater contrast on compatible displays. Observers expect the new format to trigger a resurgence in overall Blu-ray Disc sales, which already are tracking up 3% for the year in units and 6% in dollars, Home Media Magazine market research numbers show.

“2016 will be a phenomenal year for 4K Ultra High-Definition (UHD) TVs — driven in part by the market introduction of next-generation technologies — with shipments of 4K UHD displays projected to reach 13 million units (an 83% increase),” the Consumer Technology Association said in its latest research report. CTA expects revenue from 4K UHD displays in 2016 to top $10 billion, a 65% increase from last year.

“The new Ultra HD format with HDR allows us to give audiences the best-quality picture and sound available at home today,” said Ron Sanders, president of Warner Bros. Worldwide Home Entertainment Distribution. “With Ultra HD HDR televisions now widely available, filmmakers and consumers alike are excited about the way we are able to present our films to home viewers. It is truly the closest thing to what the filmmaker intended.”

At this point, there are only two Ultra HD Blu-ray players available, from Samsung and Panasonic, but that situation is expected to change — and fast. In June, the 10th birthday month for the Blu-ray Disc, Microsoft announced its new Xbox One S games console is Ultra HD Blu-ray and HDR compatible, while Sony said it is developing an upgraded version of its PlayStation 4 gaming console that will offer Ultra HD 4K resolution and richer graphics.

Other CE companies are expected to roll out players of their own in the coming months.

In January 2016, the UHD Alliance unveiled a consumer logo to identify devices, content and services capable of delivering a premium experience to an Ultra HD market expected to grow eightfold by 2019. The “Ultra HD Premium” logo is reserved for products and services that comply with performance metrics for resolution, HDR, peak luminance, black levels and wide color gamut, among others. The specifications also make recommendations for immersive audio and other features. These advances in resolution, contrast, brightness, color and audio combine to deliver a premium Ultra HD experience in the home. The UHDA includes most of the major Hollywood studios, consumer electronics companies representing the majority of today’s 4K Ultra HD TV market, cutting-edge developers of enabling technology and top players in content distribution.

The association in April 2016 expanded the range of products that can bear the Ultra HD Premium logo with the announcement of certification and logo licensing for Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc players.

Next-generation immersive, object-based sound formats also will be delivered via the Ultra HD Blu-ray specification. Additionally, with the optional digital bridge feature, the specification enhances the value of content ownership by embracing the notion that a content purchase can enable consumers to view their content across the range of in-home and mobile devices.

The specification also mandates all new Ultra HD Blu-ray players be capable of playing back current Blu-ray Discs, giving consumers access to the vast library of more than 12,000 titles currently available on Blu-ray Disc.

Thomas K. Arnold is editorial director of Home Media Magazine.

Correction: An earlier version of this story said the initial Blu-ray Disc titles began shipping in June 2016; they actually first hit the market in June 2006.

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  1. Jason Woodson says:

    Makes absolutely no sense to play UHD, Bluray, dvd or cd’s on a game system. Why would you want to wear out a drive in a console you cannot replace on some movies and music. Once that drive wears out the cx is in the market for a completely new unit. better off buying a player dedicated to bluray playback and it cheaper in the long run.

  2. There will be millions of new UHD players sold buy the end of 2017 because the latest updates to the XBOX and PS4 can play UHD Blu-rays.

    • Seth says:

      Unfortunately, against all expectations, both new PS4 variants will NOT support UHD Blu Ray discs. So the best platform for high quality 4K content will be Xbox One S for the time being, despite not actually playing games in 4K.

    • Roy says:

      PS4 doesn’t play UHD Blu-Rays and neither does the new slim variant. Only the Xbox One S does.

  3. Dave Long says:

    Few who bought 1080p displays a few years ago want to upgrade again… I get that but anyone who is in the market NOW, is going 4K HDR. No buyer right now is looking for old technology in 1080p unless it’s a TV for a guest room. I could have taken the attitude that my plasma was better out of a ‘sour grapes’ attitude but the fact is, HDR kicked 4K into high gear and it makes my 2010 plasma look like a sick nephew. The plasma had better off-axis viewing but that’s ALL it had going for it. Motion, depth, detail, color and contrast has taken a massive leap forward. Hey, if you love your 13″ CRT on your VHS tapes… more power to you but many of us want better and this IS. When that 1080p panel of yours dies, you wont even find a replacement 1080p panel unless it’s in the Dollar Store clearance bin. Keep what you have and when you’re ready… the better stuff will be here.

    • Rex says:

      And then you’ll start ALL OVER AGAIN when they upgrade everything to 8K. And don’t think it’s not coming. They’ve already scanned certain films in 8K, and I’m sure they’ll be shooting them in it eventually. And with each new iteration, no matter how much “better” it is, there absolutely be less and less CATALOG content available, which has been one of the primary drivers of DVD sales and especially Blu-ray sales. True movie fans — who can live with 1080 or 4K — just want to enjoy the films, and while 4K may be great for new and upcoming movies, on old movies that were NOT FILMED IN IT, the added value just isn’t there, especially when quintessential Blu-ray editions are already on the market and largely selling to a dedicated niche. Want the latest whiz-bang superhero epic in the best possible home presentation? Go 4K. Want the kinds of classic, foreign and cult movies that makes up the catalogs from the likes of Shout, Severin, Criterion, Arrow, Olive, Flicker Alley, Vinegar Syndrome and Twilight Time? Blu-ray’s IT, folks.

  4. Dave Cordes says:

    And a format that will die 4 times faster than blu-ray. Having watched 4K and HD bluray side by side I can tell you the difference is VERY marginal. So marginal, in fact, that unless you have a 100″ or larger screen you won’t perceptively notice a difference in resolution aside from a “smoothness” that was lacking before. 4K UHD is for elite videophiles with high-end video projection equipment only and a consumer sham.

    • Dave Long says:

      Not true at all. I have a 65″ Samsung UN65JS9500 and the variance in detail, shades of colors is astounding. Take Sicario for example… compared to my 58″ 1080p Plasma, the 4K HDR feeding from the Samsung 4K BD player, you can see sweat in the characters faces you never saw before… colors are more accurate… you can see the faint bluish veins in Emily Blunt’s temple and neck you never saw before. Even Star Wars BluRay upconverted through the same player is a vast improvment. Either your panels were not set correctly or… well, I’ll leave it at that. I have 14 4K HDR titles on BD so far and I’m waiting to see a concert come out in that format! This format is stunning and is as big as a jump from DVD to BD but if you don’t have the proper panels with proper setup… like DVD to BD, you see a minor difference.

      • Rex says:

        Yes, because movies are so much better when you can see veins more clearly through the actor’s skin.

        Really, other than the broadened/heightened colour palette, which is often entirely unrealistic and will lead to more and more filmmakers using HDR the same way photographers use it to falsely “punch up” otherwise beautiful and REALISTIC images into tacky, gaudy aberrations that don’t reflect reality at all.

  5. James Dodson says:

    I am soo sick and tired of disc’s are dead every few months. I still REGULARLY purchase movies on Blu-ray, DVD and UHD Blu-ray, I prefer to own the movies I want to watch and not be dependent on if the movie I want to see happens to be on Netflix or Hulu or Amazon (the Amazon one hit me sunday as I wanted to watch a movie with a few friends and it was no longer offered) I can take my movies anywhere and watch them whenever I choose where ever I choose. I can tell you why UHD is selling well, my local best buy COULD NOT keep the players on the shelves for almost 2 months after they came out, granted the selection is crap at the moment but I have 3 or 4 UHD movies and I can say for sure that The Revanant and The Martian both looked amazing on my 4K tv.

  6. Jack says:

    I think a lot of people are satisfied with DVD, and don’t need Blu-Ray let alone UHD. Personally I love higher resolutions. Will it fly. probably. On the other hand it seems Blu-rays are a hard sell.

    What about the lack of content. I want to choose from tens of thousands of titles, not a hundred or so. And are those titles actually mastered from 4K source material or just upgraded from 1080 HD? Yeah, lets wait around for the dust to settle.

    • Rex says:

      That’s one of the BIG problems with these new discs. A LOT of them are just upgrades/upscales. The films themselves were often SHOT in 2K at best, so while you’re getting nearly double the resolution from 1080p, you’re NOT getting true 4K. But the studios know that many “elite videophiles” are really just wannabes who’ll take anything “better” as soon as it comes along. Then they’ll hook them all over again with 8K a few short years from now.

      4K displays are somewhat inevitable, really. The prices on them dropped FAST because the manufacturer’s knew that time was of the essence, and that they wouldn’t have the windows of opportunity they did in years past to SOAK the early adopters. So basically, anyone buying a new television NOW will probably get a 4K whether they actually watch much 4K content on it or not. ANd since there’s really not that much TRUE, NATIVE 4K content out there right now, it’s gonna be a loooonnng haul before we even see a disc catalog that even comes close to matching the 12,000 titles released on Blu-ray over the past decades. And Blu-ray never came close to the number of DVD releases, which themselves never achieved the numbers that VHS did. There’s a pattern there . . . :)

  7. jhs39 says:

    UHD has little to no chance of success. People aren’t going to suddenly start buying discs again in DVD like numbers now that most have switched to streaming from Netflix and Hulu and YouTube. UHD content over streaming isn’t practical for most people–either their internet connection is too slow to do it or bandwidth caps will make it very expensive for people who do have the necessary speed. Without a practical way for people to get UHD content, and UHD Blu-rays are not going to cut it any more than 3D Blu-rays did–why would anybody buy UHD televisions? This is another case of the tail wagging the dog–electronics manufacturers are desperate for a new format to take off, but there isn’t enough of a consumer benefit or demand for UHD to work. Videophiles will buy it and nobody else.

    • EricJ says:

      One of the problems with any new format is that it is driven by hardware companies who convince themselves we’ll all rush out to the CES and buy a new standalone player because it’s new. Mostly because they don’t use it themselves, didn’t know why MP3 replaced CD’s or Blu replaced DVD, and want to welcome any new Overlord.
      UHD’s problem that 3D and Blu-ray didn’t have, is that a new format A) has to have a Killer App that B) solves a problem that bugged viewers, and C) is accessible enough for them to try.

      Once the DVD-vs.-DiVX war was over, viewers discovered DVD was more addictive because a disk was more portable than a cassette, you could access scenes immediately and you didn’t need to rewind it (arg!). Players were too expensive, so if some teen wanted to get his hands on the disk-only “The Matrix”, he could still play it on his computer or Playstation 2, and that was how the word got out.
      With Blu-ray, the FCC was changing to digital widescreen HDTV, so if we wanted to watch Disney’s Sleeping Beauty on Blu-ray, our kids’ Playstation 3 just happened to do the job.
      With Blu-ray 3D, we could watch Avatar as it was intended in the theaters, but wasn’t as immediately accessible because it needed a new player and screen. (Unless you had a PS3 and the 3D was added in a firmware update.) That was why everyone cried 3D was a “corporate conspiracy”, because they were angry cheapskates who still held grudges about having to buy a Blu-ray player three years earlier.

      UHD was CREATED by greedy studios who thought we would be thrilled just for showing up. It was a “Looks better!” that solved no problem, it required buying Bigger Stuff, and rolled out movies that were either embarrassing or we’d already bought five times. And then tried to say “Disk is dead!” when it wanted to boost its digital sales, which weren’t accessible to most people’s connections.
      (And with the recent disappearance of movies off of Netflix, Amazon and HBO, disk is not only not “dead”, it’s starting to look more and more like a pretty good solution to our problem.)

  8. EricJ says:

    I’ll let other people make the “Blu-ray launched on June ’16” joke.
    What I remember is that people in, ahem, 2006 DIDN’T WANT to buy Blu-ray. The Format War was still on, Sony was shooting itself in the foot trying to sell action movies and guy-comedies to its Playstation gamers, and Warner was putting its classics on HDDVD, but Toshiba was acting like the industry jerk that was sinking the format. Most standalone players were too expensive for mainstream folk who had -just- adopted DVD five to seven years earlier, the affordable models were unplayably clunky with bugs and loading waits, unless you bought the PS3, which worked but few adults knew -could- play the format. Disney didn’t start popularizing the Blu format for the home until ’07, but most studios were holding back their titles until there was a clear winner in the War, which wasn’t until “W-Day” in January ’08.

    The only problems UHD has going for it is a disastrous selection of early-licensed ’15-’16 flops like Pan and Huntsman, the high price point, the large-scale screens for most casual users, the current in-fighting between hardware and studio companies as to whether UHD will be disk or download, and being seen as “unnecessary” except to the stubborn format-partisans who hoped UHD would “kill off” Blu 3D, which it hasn’t yet.
    Blu survived its troubles, UHD should be so lucky.

    • jhs39 says:

      This piece feels more like a press release than journalism and the fact that Blu-ray and HD DVD were launched at the same time makes this an entirely different situation, which the writer should have pointed out. But at least one of the readers remembers that far back. Good catch.

  9. BJM says:

    Im pretty sure Blu Rays launched before June 2016 :) I wish broadcasters would adopt more UHD content.

    • ndn21 says:

      I am still wishing for more 1080p format! Most televisions is in 1080i or 720p format, MOST of it. UHD is going to have a hard fight to get the average consumer to bite.

    • jhs39 says:

      That’s not likely to happen. Current internet technology for most people in the United States is too slow to deliver UHD content and most internet providers have caps, so even if you have a fast enough connection UHD content wlll eat up your monthly bandwidth in a few days. Serious investment in internet infrastructure would be necessary to make UHD work. Those UHD Blu-ray discs are not going to save the format.

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