Blu-ray big this Christmas


Being that curious thing called ‘the future’, the next eight weeks holds revelations we can’t yet know, but one thing is certain: Blu-ray will be taking a lot of headlines in the lead up to Christmas.

When DVD players hit $499 just prior to Christmas eight years ago, people began abandoning the VCR in serious numbers. The same is expected to occur when Blu-ray hits that magic price point.

Sharp and Olin already have models priced at around $450 in the market, but the $399 ‘go’ price of Sony’s BD350 will give other brands something to chase and trigger, at last, real interest in the high definition movie format among mainstream shoppers.

And it should be of interest, at least according to Andrew Gardiner, Managing Director of Franchise Entertainment Group, the software buyer for Blockbuster and Video Ezy rental chains. There are, he says, 2.3 million HDTVs in Australian homes and around 400,000 Blu-ray players, including PS3s. That means, he argues, that 1.9 million televisions are surviving on a diet of high definition (or less!) television broadcasts alone, and owners simply aren’t getting the most from their HD centrepiece.

Affordable hardware is now here to feed HD movies to these 1080p-starved screens, but compelling and plentiful content is critical for building the case for consumers to buy a Blu-ray player.

Franchise Entertainment Group will do its part to address this by boosting the number of Blu-ray titles that go into its rental stores, with plans for BD titles to comprise five percent of the Group’s annual $190 million turnover in the next year, according to Gardiner.

The software houses are on board too. With players hitting the sweet spot for family budgets, Disney is taking its popular catalogue into shopping malls around the country over the next few months to convert Mum, Dad and the kids with remasters of Pinocchio, Snow White, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and more.

Twentieth Century Fox will be offering select BD (and DVD) titles with a value-add feature called Digital Copy. This allows a copy of the movie to be ripped (Fox prefers ‘transferred’) to a PC or Mac and a single portable player, such as an iPod, for a premium of five bucks or so (see page 95). It means people can consume the movie they’ve paid for on whichever device happens to be most convenient, and the act that accomplishes it won’t actually make you a criminal.

Which brings us to Nintendo and a big New York investment bank. The US Financial Times reports that the profit generated by each of Nintendo’s 3000 employees worldwide was greater than that made by the average person at Goldman Sachs. The average Nintendo employee earned $US1.6 million for the maker of Wii and DS gaming devices, compared with $US1.24 million at Goldman Sachs.

For everyone with a super fund that’s been hammered by the Wall Street money men in the last month, here’s the criminal part: the bankers are paid more than seven times what the typical Nintendo worker is.