Shipments of dedicated Ultra HD Blu-ray players in the United States grew 1% in 2021 to 963,000 units over the 12 month period, according the CTA’s latest 2022 Sales & Forecasts Data.

The results showed a slight return to growth for the category, following 2020’s drop from just over 1 million units shipped in 2019 to 953,000 units. But the trend continues to show little long-term major market upside for the dedicated physical video disc player category.

The bulk of the Ultra HD Blu-ray disc playback capability continues to ride with top-end next generation video game consoles Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5, which continue to support Ultra HD Blu-ray movie discs, as well as other lower-resolution disc-based video and gaming platforms.

The unit volume levels for traditional dedicated Ultra HD Blu-ray players have been well-below original industry expectations since major manufacturers Samsung and Oppo pulled out of the category several years ago.

Unfortunately, for format supports, the North American market historically has been the global region with the heaviest percentage of overall 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player and software sales.

Since the format’s launch in 2016, all other regions have lagged behind.

The numbers were an adjustment of the CTAs forecasts from a year earlier that called for the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray category continuing to show growth in 2019. However, those forecasts were made prior to the withdrawal of Samsung from the physical video disc player market.

The CTA forecast report said that 32% of all video disc players expected to be sold in 2022 will be 4K UHD Blu-ray players. Standard DVD players will represent 35%, and the remaining 33% will belong to traditional Blu-ray players.

The expected factory revenue from all DVD and Blu-ray/Ultra HD Blu-ray players shipped in the U.S. in 2022 will decline 8.7% from 2021 to $273 million.

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According to the report’s forecasts, U.S. factory shipments of 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray players reached 884,000 units in 2017, and plummeted 37% in 2018 to 559,000 units. The CTA estimated that full-year U.S. shipments of standalone (dedicated players not including video game consoles) 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player shipments fell another 8% to 514,000 units in 2019.

CTA has since revised the 2019 Ultra HD Blu-ray player unit estimate up to 1,002 million units, and 2020’s number to 953,000 from its previous forecast decline to 478,000 units.

As for 2022 predictions, the CTA expects the category to generate 982,000 player shipments in the United States by the end of the year.

Of the remaining brands still carrying Ultra HD Blu-ray players in the United States, Sony, LG and Panasonic lead the significantly reduced pack. All three have opted to carry over players in 2022 rather than to refresh models with new features and capabilities.

The shipment estimates and forecasts indicate that digital streaming of 4K/HDR video, particularly from popular Subscription Video on Demand (SVoD) over-the-top (OTT) service providers like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple TV+ and Disney+, has become the preferred system of access for home video viewing by consumers and studios, alike.

4K Ultra HD Blu-ray players continue to be the best medium for viewing 4K/HDR movies in the home, primarily due to their significantly high transfer rates of 100 bits per second, support for multiple HDR formats and freedom from the constrictions of narrow bandwidth pipelines that force streaming services to down-rez content on the fly to variable bit rates during periods of peak use.

The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player market is now a mere niche segment for discerning videophiles looking for the best picture and sound quality sources to play on their new 4K Ultra HD and 8K Ultra HD TVs.

Further, the outlook for the future of physical video disc players of all formats — DVDs, Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray — has been winnowing down for several years, although the other formats are coming down from much higher peak sales volumes. See chart at top.

Both the standard Blu-ray and DVD player categories were estimated to have shipped fewer than 1.5 million units each last year, and are forecast to move just over 1 million units each in 2022.

In total, the CTA said the industry shipped 3.5 million units of all disc-based video players in 2021, down from 4.2 million in 2020. The CTA anticipates that to fall to just over 3 million units by the end of 2022.

Despite this, discs and players aren’t likely to go away overnight. Major studios continue to deliver software for each format, answering demands from the massive installed player base — particularly of DVDs and Blu-rays — around the world.

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By Greg Tarr

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