Sony unit betting 100,000 on 'Casino' Blu-ray rollout

Bond hit marks milestone for format

The Blu-ray Disc format's upward trajectory of late continues with word that Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has shipped more than 100,000 units of "Casino Royale," just nine months after the next-generation optical disc format was introduced.

It took DVD 11 months to reach that milestone with "Air Force One," also a Sony release.

" 'Casino Royale' has done it in far less time and is clearly demonstrating the format's robust growth in the marketplace," SPHE worldwide president David Bishop said. "We clearly feel that we are looking at HD DVD in our rearview mirror."

A spokesperson for the North American HD DVD Promotional Group was not available for comment.

Bishop noted that "Casino" also is the first high-definition disc to debut in the top 10 on Amazon.com's top-selling DVDs list. Bishop said that of the 100,000 units shipped to retailers March 13, more than 50% already have sold through to consumers.

At the same time, Home Media Research shows Blu-ray Disc sales to consumers have now topped 1 million units, with more than 700,000 of those units sold this year. By contrast, Home Media Research pegs cumulative HD-DVD sales at 900,000 units, 310,000 of them being sold this year.

Bishop said more than 2 million Blu-ray Discs have been replicated since the format was introduced in late Jun and that sales of Blu-ray Discs have accounted for about 70% of high-def disc sales since the first week in January.

"Casino" was released on DVD and Blu-ray on the same day. During its first week in stores, it sold nearly twice as many copies as all HD DVD titles combined that week. Bishop said SPHE initially shipped 50,000 units to retailers, with another 30,000 reserved for reorders.

"We completely sold out after our second day of release, so we were actually scrambling to meet the reorders, resulting in a delay in shipment by two or three days," he said. "We're at the verge of having a very exciting new revenue stream for home entertainment."

Blu-ray Disc is supported by five of the six major studios, while rival HD DVD is supported by three. Of the three studios that support HD DVD, Paramount Home Entertainment and Warner Home Video also release titles on Blu-ray Disc; only Universal Studios Home Entertainment is exclusive.

SPHE, Buena Vista Home Entertainment and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment are only in the Blu-ray camp, as is mini-major Lionsgate.

But HD DVD launched first, in mid-April, while Blu-ray Disc didn't come to market until late June — and then only with one player, from Samsung, and an initial slate of titles from SPHE only.

Blu-ray Disc sales didn't really ramp up until November, with the release of the PlayStation 3 console and its Blu-ray drive as well as several other set-top players.

By late January, Nielsen VideoScan data showed Blu-ray Disc closing in on HD DVD.

Bishop said Blu-ray is catching on fast not just in the U.S. but also "on a worldwide basis."

"In Japan, 95% of activity is around Blu-ray, and in Australia it's likely to be around 100%," Bishop said. "Even in Europe, where 'Casino Royale' was part of a bundling package for consumers who bought PlayStation 3, the title has been selling well. In the U.K. alone, we sold 10,000 units in the first week."

"Casino" was not part of any bundling program in the U.S.
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