Blu-ray players still scarce in Europe

Shortage of sub-$300 players in time for Christmas

LONDON -- Blu-ray disc players are going to be in short supply in the run-up to the holiday season in Europe, hampering sales and success of the format, according to a report Wednesday.

Research from media analyst Screen Digest indicates the supply problem comes despite a hunger from the public to purchase the new format.

"Hardware supply constraints earlier in the year meant that the anticipated European BD promotional campaigns had to be reined in," Screen Digest noted. "Rather ironically, the unexpectedly rapid withdrawal of rival format HD DVD from the market in early 2008 caused a problem for Blu-ray by stimulating retailer demand for BD players when a severe shortage of an essential component meant that manufacturing could not keep up."

But Screen Digest said that although the supply of hardware is now assured the industry has been left with insufficient Blu-ray hardware to meet global retailer demand for entry-level players over Christmas 2008.

Richard Cooper, Screen Digest analyst and report author Richard Cooper said: "A shortage of cheaper Blu-ray players means that the sub-$300 machines that are already appearing on U.S. shelves are unlikely to materialize in Europe this Christmas."

He said it means the format is unlikely to move much beyond the early adopter market this year when combined with the financial meltdown.

"BD hardware prices will start to fall in 2009, and in due course even price-conscious consumers will start upgrading, not least because the format’s backwards compatibility means they can continue to make the most of their existing library of DVDs,” Cooper said.

The report also predicts that DVD and Blu-ray will be the dominant force in home entertainment through the financial crisis and into the future with mass market delivery of digital content still many years away.

By 2012 only 2% of home entertainment spending in Western Europe will be for digital delivery of movies over the Internet, the research indicates. And European consumers will spend 11.4 billion euros ($14.7 billion) on buying packaged media (DVDs and BDs), up 25% from the 9.3 billion euros ($12 billion) spent in 2007, Screen Digest says.