Blu-ray set for 'explosive' growth in '08

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Blu-ray Disc software sales could hit $1 billion this year, according to proprietary research from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

The studio's Danny Kaye said the projection is based on current sales trends continuing for set-top Blu-ray Disc players and the Blu-ray-equipped PlayStation 3 game console. Should those trends continue, he said, the number of Blu-ray Disc playback devices in U.S. homes could be at 10 million by year's end.

"It should be a year of very strong, explosive growth," Kaye said, noting that the Blu-ray Disc business should hit its "inflection point" — where dramatic growth starts to occur — sometime in the middle of this year.

Fueling that growth will be heavier software release slates from all the Blu-ray studios and a redirected ad campaign for the PlayStation 3 positioning the video game console as a movie-viewing device as well, said David Bishop, worldwide president of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

Also high on the agenda: maximizing Blu-ray's potential for interactivity through picture-in-picture, Internet connectivity and other technological advances only now coming to market on the software and hardware end.

Speaking Monday night at a Blu-ray Disc event at the Consumer Electronics Show here, Kaye and Bishop were joined by three other presidents of Blu-ray-only studios, a group that now includes Ron Sanders, president of Warner Home Video, which said Friday that it was ditching HD DVD and releasing its next-generation titles exclusively on the Blu-ray format starting in May.

The presidents were unanimous in predicting a swift end to the format war and said that it is incumbent for them to refocus their energy on educating consumers about high-def media.

Speakers at the Blu-ray event also said that though Blu-ray awareness among consumers was 26% at the end of 2006, it's now at 80%.

In response to a question from the audience about whether Warner had been paid by Blu-ray to drop its support for HD DVD, Sanders chuckled and said, "I wish."

He added, "Any payment would just be a drop compared to getting it wrong in the consumer marketplace."
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