LOS ANGELES - Blu-ray stomped HD DVD to become the standard format for high-definition movie discs, but years may pass before it can claim victory over the good old DVD.
Noemi Velazquez, a 44-year-old warehouse worker, can explain why. She took one look at the $399 price tag of a Blu-ray player at a Best Buy store one night this month in Glendale, Calif., and kept going.
"I have to admit, Blu-ray is great," she said. "(But) I'm going to wait until they go to half-price."
Analysts, movie studios and the Blu-ray Disc Association, a manufacturing group, all say Blu-ray discs will eventually dominate video sales. The question is when.
Consumers are balking at the $300-plus cost of most Blu-ray players especially because only limited movie titles are available in the format.
"People aren't going to pay three times as much for a platform that's only half-baked," said Steve Wilson, a consumer electronics analyst with ABI Research.
Many also are waiting to see how cable, satellite and online video services play out. But, above all, consumers seem satisfied with standard-definition DVDs and players - even consumers who upgrade to high-definition TVs that can tap into Blu-ray's sharper picture and clearer sound.
Velazquez said that because she was still paying off a $1,000 high-definition TV she bought in October she was happy for now to keep watching pay-TV movies and standard-definition DVDs on it.
Sony Corp.-backed Blu-ray was crowned the next-generation video technology in February after Toshiba Corp., creator of the competing HD DVD format, abruptly said it would drop the fight. The move came after Warner Bros. decided to join most other studios by going solely with Blu-ray and video rental chains followed suit.
Manufacturers are planning a souped-up lineup of titles and special features on Blu-ray discs to boost sales this summer and during the coming Christmas season in the hope that Blu-ray can turn around the sagging home video market. And retailers are creating new displays to explain Blu-ray's benefits.
U.S. consumer spending on home video rentals and purchases in all formats, including DVD, HD DVD, Blu-ray and VHS, fell 3 percent to $24.1 billion last year. The figure was expected to drop 2 percent more this year to $23.6billion, despite a sixfold increase in Blu-ray disc spending to $1.3 billion, according to Adams Media Research.Adams says it could take two more years for Blu-ray sales to put the home video market back on a growth path.
"The group that bought $2,000, 40-inch TVs are the ones that will lead the charge," said Tom Adams, founder of the research firm. "Everyone else will come along when the price comes down."
Blu-ray machine prices are starting to drop. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. began stocking a $298 Magnavox model in mid-May, said spokeswoman Melissa O'Brien. That's cheaper than most alternatives but a hefty price hike from a typical $50 DVD player.