Blu-Ray Format Shows Gains in Germany, But Installed Base Remains Negligible

Popularity of Blu-Ray Disc Players Still Low on Europe’s Biggest Market

by Anton Shilov
01/28/2009 | 06:52 AM

The development of the Blu-ray disc (BD) player market in Germany, the largest economy in Europe and also the world's fourth largest economy, has been quite positive in the last three months of 2008, nevertheless, less than 1% of HDTV owners have bought a Blu-ray player yet due to high prices of devices as well as movies.


Thanks to €300 players, sales figures of Blu-ray players finally exceeded the 100 thousand mark in December when more than 30 thousand units were sold, according to GfK Retail and Technology research firm. Meanwhile 35 different models are being sold and the number of competitors increased from 8 in September to 12 in December 2008. 

Despite this positive development in the last quarter of 2008 one can still not speak about a resounding success of the new format: in December there were already more than 11 million HD-ready or Full HDTV sets on the market in Germany compared to only 110 thousand Blu-ray players. Obviously, there are Sony PlayStation 3 game consoles in use in Germany, but since video game systems are usually bought to play games and not for movie playback, the PS3 hardly changes the whole picture.

While the fact that only 1% of HDTV owners have BD player means that this market had enormous potential, this also might be an indicator that for many customers the difference in quality between Blu-ray discs and DVD does not seem enough to justify paying for a Blu-ray player compared to a DVD player.

This phenomenon is also supported by the increasing success of the "1080p upscaling" functionality of DVD players and recorders. Already 17% of the standard DVD players sold and even 53% of the DVD recorders in December had the ability to upscale standard DVD signals to almost HD quality, claims GfK. The average price of €95 for a standard DVD player with upscaling functionality was about €200 below the average price of a Blu-ray player. Even DVD recorders with an integrated hard disk drive were on average only marginally more expensive than Blu-ray players.

Still, in the long run one can expect that the undisputed qualitative advantages of the Blu-ray disc – which can especially be experienced by directly comparing SD to HD resolution – will prevail, according to GfK. Further declining prices, an increasing model diversity as well as increased advertising efforts (especially with regards to the ever growing number of film titles on Blu-ray disc) should help the German Blu-ray player market to grow further in the coming months, claims GfK.

Nevertheless, it remains to be seen how the global economic slump, which also affects Germany very seriously, will impact sales of BD equipment going forward. In certain conditions additional advertising efforts and marginal price-cuts may not be enough to make the format popular and more aggressive methods will have to be imposed.