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Early Ultra HD Blu-ray Sales Numbers Exceed Disc Predecessor

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.”

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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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