In a head scratching development, Samsung confirmed reports that it will no long introduce new Blu-ray or 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player models in the U.S. market.

The company issued the terse confirmation statement to us Monday, without explanation for the move, after the news was first reported in Forbes article late last week.

The move seemed to put the long-term future of the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray format in some doubt. Despite this, most AV enthusiasts recognize it remains the best way available to watch movies at home in 4K resolution.

Samsung was the first company to introduce both a Blu-ray player and a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player in the United States. It had been an active promoter of the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray format as a high-quality video source for the playback of native 4K movies with high dynamic range (HDR), including the dynamic metadata HDR+ profile it has championed as an alternative to the rival Dolby Vision profile.

Both dynamic HDR profiles are included in the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray specifications for “voluntary” support for player manufacturers and disc distributors.

Samsung’s apparent departure from the category leaves Sony, LG, Pioneer Elite, Panasonic and Funai/Magnavox as the primary suppliers of 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray players with products still in the U.S. market. However, some of those companies are not shipping in large volumes, and Funai showed no new models at CES 2019.

Samsung departure from a seemingly major category is not without precedent. The company has long had a directive to dominate in any market in which it competes. In recent years, the company exited the U.S. camera after failing to break into the top ranks dominated by Sony, Canon, Nikon and Panasonic.

In Blu-ray players, Sony has long held the market share crown.

Samsung’s decision follows a similar move last year by Chinese AV component manufacturer Oppo, which announced it was discontinuing the manufacture of all Blu-ray players, including its widely acclaimed 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray models.

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Curiously, Samsung’s decision follows recent positive state-of-the-market reports from the Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA) at CES 2019 indicating that the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray format continued to exhibit promising signs of growth around the world. Despite this, North America remains the region of the largest adoption activity.

The BDA indicated that 4K UHD would be a key driver in extending the life of the Blu-ray format, citing the intense bandwidth requirements of 4K content formats for streaming, limiting the consistent delivery at full resolution without buffering and down-rezing. Meanwhile, Ultra HD Blu-ray offers the ability to watch 4K videos at full resolution without interruption at bit rates up to 100 mbps.

Global shipments of standalone Ultra HD Blu-ray player in 2018 were estimated to have grown 44% over 2017, and another 30% rise in global unit shipments was forecast for 2019, according to Futuresource data cited by the BDA at CES 2019 last month.

Meanwhile, 15% of all Blu-ray players shipped worldwide in 2018 are expected to be Ultra HD Blu-ray, with 25% projected in 2019 (excluding Xbox One sales). The worldwide UHD Blu-ray player installed base is expected to reach 4.5 million by the end of 2018.

The BDA said there were 29 4K Ultra HD BD player models available on the global maket at the end of December 2018, and 11 4K UHD recorder/player models (sold outside of the U.S.).

Key studios continue to back the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray format, with about 430 4K UHD Blu-ray titles available in the United States by the end of 2018, according to the BDA. However, some forthcoming recent box office releases, including “Stan & Ollie” and “The Favourite” were not included among the home video releases scheduled to have 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray versions available.

 

By Greg Tarr

 

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