Hello Tosh, got any Blu-rays?

Chris Forrester

Toshiba is eating humble pie and joining the Blu –ray revolution. But is it climbing onto a band-wagon that’s already running out of steam?

Sunday’s influential Yomiuri Shimbun reported that Toshiba, which firmly backed the rival HD-DVD technology, will have a range of Blu-ray players in the market by year-end. The range will include a Blu-ray recorder. Toshiba withdrew from the HD-DVD at the beginning of last year.

Toshiba has its fans and few doubt that the brand name will help shift some boxes, but the bottom line is that the global video business is in severe doldrums. DVD rentals and sales are down a worrying $2.6bn this past year on 2007’s numbers, according to Screen Digest. This equates to a global drop-off of some 4.8%.

This downward trend in DVD sales has been happening for the past few years, says Screen Digest, but with or without Toshiba most experts expected Blu-ray sales to fill the gap. It seems the global recession has scuppered those hopes. Last year’s Blu-ray sales topped $482m, and this was nowhere near enough to reverse the overall trend.

Screen Digest says the pressure is coming from all directions, including piracy, downloading of content and perhaps even the arrival of widespread broadcast HDTV.

Helen Davis Jayalath, Senior Analyst at Screen Digest says: "We expect Blu-ray to account for 6.9% of international video spending this year - assuming there is strong promotional activity. However, despite consumers' interest in the high definition format and demand for packaged media, the current challenging economic climate means that we don't expect BD to be driving even minimal sector growth until 2010."

Which is not to say the market is dead. Adams Media Research, in its half-year numbers for Blu-ray just out, says that Blu-ray sales in the US are up 13% this year, with player sales showing some considerable buoyancy with sales rising 25%. 1600 Blu-ray titles are now listed, and US buyers have bought more than 40m discs.