Optimism abounds for Blu-ray future

Futuresource predicts 100 mil discs in U.S., Europe, Japan

U.K. market research Futuresource says U.S. consumers have embraced Blu-ray Disc as the "majority" home-entertainment format of choice, though in Europe it's still popular mostly among early adopters of new technologies.

Futuresource projects sales of more than 100 million Blu-ray discs in the U.S., Europe and Japan this year.

"In the U.S., Blu-ray has moved from early adopter phase through to early majority, with the format gaining real traction in the marketplace," Futuresource analyst Mai Hoang said. "BD video retail sales increased by a whopping 320% to 24 million units (in 2008), and we're going to see momentum continuing in 2009, with over 80 million disc sales forecast."

European sales reached 9 million units last year, and Futuresource predicted "further healthy growth" in 2009. Hoang noted the U.K. has been Blu-ray's biggest backer in the region so far.

"With sales of more than 3.5 million units in 2008, it represented over 40% of the West European total," the analyst said. "Blu-ray also benefited from a number of U.K. television campaigns during the critical fourth quarter of 2008, considerably raising consumer awareness."

Some 36 million Blu-ray discs were sold worldwide last year, and with more than 200 million manufactured, skepticism over manufacturing capabilities for the new format have been abated -- for now.

"There were concerns over how well the manufacturers would cope with the demands placed on them last year, but as a result of good planning and excellent cooperation there were no problems in the busy fourth quarter," Futuresource consultant Michael Boreham said. "It's going to be interesting to see what happens this year, as we're not seeing the same level of investment in manufacturing equipment that we saw in the early days of DVD."

Futuresource managing director Jim Bottoms said Blu-ray business "has gravitated toward new release titles," with action titles especially popular.

The research firm predicted that half of U.S. sales and 35% of European video disc sales will be Blu-ray by 2012.