Why Does it Cost $300 to Buy Avatar on 3D Blu-ray?

via Gizmodo by Jason Chen on 12/21/10

Why Does it Cost 0 to Buy Avatar on 3D Blu-ray?

Who’s buying 3DTVs and 3D Blu-ray players? People who watched 3D movies in theaters, then want to re-live the experience at home. So why are the top movies, like Avatar and Coraline only available as bundles with hardware? What’s the deal?

It’s a matter of greed. Home theater 3D is still a crawling infant, meaning most of the population still needs to buy hardware. But what’s the differentiating factor between Samsung’s 3D set and Panasonic’s, or even Sony’s, if you’re a Costco shopper? How can normal people tell the difference between any Blu-ray player that’s not the PlayStation 3? It’s pretty much impossible, which is why companies’ ads don’t rely on specs or saying their version does 3D better.

But what they are relying on right now is taking movies hostage in order to force people’s hands. Don’t believe me? Check this out.

Avatar, the most wanted 3D movie of all time, is only available in a $300 “starter bundle” from Panasonic that includes two rechargeable 3D glasses. How to Train Your Dragon is in a “starter kit” from Samsung for $280, which includes two 3D active shutter glasses. What happens if you already have one type of TV and just want the other type of movie? Looks like you get two pair of glasses that you can’t use on your set.

There’s also Shrek and Monsters vs. Aliens, which your kids will ask you for, because they’re kids, and they want to see their movies in 3D. Because they’re kids. Kids who don’t know the value of $300.

Why Does it Cost 0 to Buy Avatar on 3D Blu-ray?

So what if you go on eBay and try to get some scalped Avatar action? Oh hello, I’m out $150 for a $30 movie. Thanks jerks!

It gets worse. Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs and Coraline are only available if you buy a Panasonic 3DTV. A TeeVee! And Bolt, which I’m sure is a fine dog movie in the realm of dog movies, is only gettable with Sony TVs. Same with Michael Jackson’s This Is It.

Retailers are also getting in on the exclusivity. My Bloody Valentine and The Last Airbender are Best Buy exclusives, whereas Amazon has some IMAX movies locked down. This, of course, is much less of a big deal, because Best Buy’s movies work just fine on any player.

The good news is that some of these seem to be timed exclusives. Alice in Wonderland was the same $300ish dollars if you bought the pack, but is now available for separate purchase. And there are a number of less desirable (apparently?) titles like Resident Evil, The Polar Express, Step Up 3D and Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs that the manufacturers didn’t think would entice anybody to spend $300 on.

Point being, manufacturers seem to have their heads up each other’s asses on this one. If you want people to get on board your 3D train, don’t make content for it so hard to get! Imagine the scenario where you could only watch NBC’s 3D channel if you had a Samsung TV, then had to get a separate set entirely for ABC’s 3D content. Who’s going to throw down a couple thousand dollars for that scheme?

Forget LCD; Go for Plasma, Says Maker of Both

What kind of company takes out ads in daily newspapers attacking one of its own type of products? In the case of Panasonic, the answer is a company that has significant investments in a rival technology.

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Flat-panel televisions at a computer store in Santa Clara, Calif. Panasonic has promoted its plasma sets over L.C.D. ones.

Panasonic, the consumer electronics company owned by Matsushita Electric Industrial, is the world’s biggest seller of plasma TVs. And it has long extolled the benefits of that technology compared with L.C.D., another flat-panel TV product. At the same time, the company sells a full line of L.C.D. sets.

But the company believes that plasma technology is under unfair attack from competitors making “desperate attempts” to denigrate what it sees as plasma’s superiority, according to Bob Greenberg, Panasonic’s vice president for brand marketing.

There is another issue as well, which is that the profit margins on L.C.D. TVs have fallen sharply because of competition.

To demonstrate plasma is better, the company has offered picture comparisons for journalists at electronics shows. And it has developed marketing materials that dispel some of the myths of plasma’s limitations, like how often to refill the plasma gas (never) and the problems with picture burn-in (none anymore).

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This holiday, Panasonic went a step further, running an ad in newspapers around the country under the heading “Six facts you need to know before you buy a large flat-panel TV.” The ad points out plasma’s superior contrast, color rendition, crisp motion, viewing angle and durability when compared to L.C.D. TVs.

Not so fast, says Sony. The company, which exited the plasma TV market to concentrate on L.C.D. sets, is running its own series of sportslike newspaper and magazine ads that promote what it calls an HD challenge. Once consumers see reflections of fluorescent lighting in the plasma set, they will opt for L.C.D., the ad contends.

While most people do not have fluorescent lights in their living rooms, Sony believes its challenge shows how bright light bulbs and other reflections can spoil a picture.

“The showroom is the only place where a consumer can compare two TVs,” said Phil Abram, the company’s vice president of product marketing.

To help Panasonic maintain sales of both technologies, it sells plasma sets from 37 to 65 inches on the diagonal, while its L.C.D. TVs can only be purchased in sizes from 23 to 32 inches. Sony, Sharp and other manufacturers sell L.C.D. sets from 19 to 65 inches on the diagonal.

Panasonic also looks to segregate the market. The company argues that L.C.D. TVs, which look brighter in daylight, are the right choice for kitchens and other rooms that need smaller sizes. But in larger sizes and for fast-moving sports scenes, plasma is the right choice, said Mr. Greenberg. Since the ad campaign began, “field research shows that the dialogue is changing. Once you point out that the blacks in plasma are blacker than in L.C.D., it is like pointing out the rabbit in the painting.”

Both technologies are gaining market share at the expense of traditional tube sets, with L.C.D. sales this year overtaking picture tube sets for the first time.

According to data compiled by the NPD Group, L.C.D. TVs held 49 percent of the market in 2006, compared with 26 percent last year. Plasma’s market share increased to 10 percent from 5 percent. At the same time, sales of picture tube TVs dropped by more than half, to 21 percent this year from 46 percent in 2005.

Does Panasonic’s strong support of plasma technology mean that it will never sell a very large L.C.D. TV? Well, not exactly.

“Panasonic in Japan is studying L.C.D. in its larger formats,” Mr. Greenberg said. “If we introduce larger-sized L.C.D. TVs, we will have overcome the problems in that technology.”

Panasonic Limited-Edition Plasma TH-58PZ600

Panasonic Japan announced a limited black edition of its TH-58PZ600, the 58 inch Plasma TV. This super smooth finishing plasma has an analog and digital TV tuner, supports full 1,920×1,080 HD resolution and has a 4000:1 contrast ratio. The remote control also comes in black to match the TV. It measures 1,454 × 570 × 1,422mm and weighs 110 kg.

Are you getting all the HDTV resolution you paid for?

Not necessarily, given the results of Home Theater Mag’s recent tests of 61 HDTVs. Using test patterns from a Silicon Optix HQV HD DVD, they tested deinterlacing, 3:2 detection and for the 1080p sets, bandwidth. Unfortunately, just over 54% of the HDTVs failed the deinterlacing test, 80% failed the 3:2 test, but the 1080p sets passed the bandwidth test, despite all but one (Pioneer Elite PRO-FHD1) losing some detail. If a HDTV doesn’t pass these tests, then you’re losing at least some visual information from a 1080i signal. Some televisions throw away half the horizontal lines, which results in a fail on the deinterlacing test, or don’t perform inverse telecine on moving images appropriately, failing the 3:2 test. Of course, contrast ratio, refresh rate and black levels still contribute to overall picture quality, but you should take a look at their results to make sure you’re getting every pixel you expected from your new HDTV.

[Thanks, Ryan]