Despite some early challenges, shipments of 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray players continued to climb at significant rates over the first half of 2018, according to data from two prominent consumer A/V market research firms.

Stephen Baker, technology business analyst for the Port Washington, N.Y.-based NPD Group, said that so far Ultra HD Blu-ray player sales increased by more than 150% over 2017 and the revenue is up 61%. The {Average Selling Price] ASP is $165 this year compared to $272 for the first 5 months of 2017.”

Baker said that in May alone sales of Ultra HD Blu-ray players in the United States increased 82% and revenue increased 13% with an ASP of $168.

Retail-initiated discounts appeared in U.S. retail stores for select periods in the first half on Ultra HD Blu-ray players, with street promotional prices dropping as low as $100 on some models. Historically, that has been a catalyst point for greater software availability from leading movie studios, driving even greater sales momentum for players.

NPD estimated 4K Ultra HD represented about 15% of Blu-ray unit sales for the first five months of 2018.

This came despite the announced departure last spring of Chinese A/V equipment maker Oppo from the global Blu-player market, leaving a partial void at the top of the premium Ultra HD Blu-ray market.

“Sales remain okay,” Baker assessed. “As a new product and a new tech the growth is fairly normal. The question is not what it is doing now but what it will look like in 18 months. There remains considerable legacy demand for discs and there also remains a core of consumers who recognize the video quality advantage that discs retain.”

Meanwhile, the advancement of the 2-year-old 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray format continues in other parts of the world, but at far lower levels than in the United States, where Hollywood studios have kept the pump pretty well primed with new and legacy movie releases.

Unfortunately, much of this 4K UHD Blu-ray content is still up-converted 4K resolution, but with the much more significant added benefit of HDR and DCI-P3 wide color gamut in many cases.

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According to Tristan Veale, market analyst, media & entertainment for U.K.-base Futuresource Consulting, sales of Ultra HD Blu-ray players during Q1 and Q2 aren’t that representative of how the rest of the year will shake out “due to the vast majority of volumes weighted to the second half of the year.”

According Futuresource forecasts for global Ultra HD Blu-ray player shipments over the full year,  player unit shipments are expected to reach 2.3 million, with North America alone totaling 1.2 million, slightly better than half of the global shipment total for the category.

Other forecasts have shown global Blu-ray player shipments of all resolution formats decreasing from 72.1 million in 2017 to 68 million in 2023. Unit shipments for the global Blu-ray media market are expected to decrease from 595 million in 2017 to 516 million in 2023. Despite this decline, the 4K UHD segment continues in growth mode and will be a key driver in extending the life of the physical Blu-ray disc business, even as the popularily of 4K over-the-top (OTT) streaming grows.

Much of the reason for this is the rapidly increasing global sales of 4K Ultra HD televisions. Worldwide 4K flat panel TV shipments account for more than one-third of the total flat panel TV units sold in 2017, according to a newly released report from ABI Research, a market-foresight advisory firm. That firm forecasts global 4K flat panel TV shipments will surpass 102 million in 2018, representing 44% of total global flat panel TV shipments.

In addition to increasing availability of 4K content on streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, pay TV service providers are also investing to offer 4K content, ABI reports. Russian pay TV provider Tricolor TV recently launched 4K movie channels; U.S. pay TV operators Verizon and Frontier Communications are also testing 4K video services at present.

“Better visual experience and availability of 4K content together with declining price points are driving 4K TV set shipments,” commented Khin Sandi Lynn, an industry analyst from ABI Research.

Geographically, Asia-Pacific leads the 4K unit shipments representing 37% of global unit shipments in 2018. The Asian-Pacific market is mainly driven by the Chinese market which offers a range of low-cast 4K UHDTV models from multiple brands.

However, China has not been a factor in the Ultra HD Blu-ray market. In fact, China-based Blu-ray player manufacturer Oppo recently announced it was discontinuing production of A/V electronics.

As for 4K sales in the rest of the world, North America and Western Europe are the regions with the highest 4K TV and Ultra HD Blu-ray penetration at present. For Ultra HD Blu-ray players, this is followed by Japan, and the rest of the world.

Boding well for Ultra HD Blu-ray players, ABI expects consumer demand for 4K flat panel TV sets will drive the flat-panel TV market to grow at CAGR 17.3% to reach 194 million unit shipments in 2022.

Additionally, plenty of 4K Ultra HDTV opportunity awaits. As of the first quarter of 2018, around 9 million U.S. households — less than 10% — had a 4K Ultra HD playback device (including UHD Blu-ray players), according to the Digital Entertainment Group. Comparatively, nearly 35 million U.S. homes have a 4K Ultra HDTV set.


By Greg Tarr


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