UHD Blu-ray’s Narrow Opportunity Window

My wife loved Wonder Woman. No, to paraphrase Woody Allen, love is too weak a word for how she feels about the initial adventures of the Amazon princess—she luuurved it, she loaved it, she luffed it (two Fs, yes). She l’ed Wonder Woman so much, we’ve seen it three times in the theater. (I am rather enamored of it mine own self.)

She loves Wonder Woman so much that, when I hesitatingly suggested we buy a 65-inch UHD on which to watch the upcoming 4K UHD Blu-ray of the film, she not only seemed willing, but enthusiastic.

When it was released on disc this month (September 19), Wonder Woman joined the approximately 150 titles available on UHD Blu-ray, according to the Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA). By the end of the year, BDA forecasts there will be around 300 titles.

Nice, but in the grand scheme of things, 300 titles is not exactly a critical mass of content given our current video-delivery ecosystem.

But the UHD Blu-ray release of Wonder Woman presents a singular, narrow and, perhaps, final opportunity to the UHD Blu-ray selling community. The only non-streaming 4K/UHD version of the film is the upcoming UHD Blu-ray.

UHD Blu-ray Opportunity

This lack of 4K content presents the Blu-ray community a narrow window of opportunity to establish itself in an otherwise broadcast/DVR and streaming-centric TV consuming universe—an opportunity the UHD Blu-ray community doesn’t seem to get.

It’s clear the days of packaged media are fading. Streaming while sitting on the sofa is simply simpler than dealing with discs located in a distant depository.

But 4K streaming isn’t always 4K; most consumers lack the broadband bandwidth for full 4K to flow without constant bit rate fluctuations. And while adaptive bit rate (ABR) streaming smooths out some of the problems with pixilation, etc., it can also bring down the picture quality. Add to that HDR, wide color gamut (WCG), high frame rates and immersive audio, and it’s hard to reasonably compare the 4K UHD content from streaming services and from a UHD BD disc.

In short, UHD Blu-ray, even with a relatively measly 300 titles, is the biggest 4K/UHD content game in town, and will be—but not for long.

But how to convince consumers to re-commit to disc-based content? To promote its 4K/UHD benefits, BDA is launching a consumer education campaign at blu-raydisc.com, and the UHDA is promoting a parallel program at experienceUHD.com. Both organizations will also distribute their own pro-UHD brochures at retail.

Oddly, all this UHDA and BDA promotional material fails to exploit the one bit of 4K content that might actually sell 4K TVs and UHD BD players: Wonder Woman.

The Wonder Woman Effect

As of a month ago, Patty Jenkins’ spectacular passed the $800 million mark in global box office receipts, on the verge of becoming the biggest-earning comic movie of all time. And (as of this writing) the WW Blu-ray versions are currently #1, #7 (the UHD Blu-ray edition) and #15 on Amazon’s movie-TV best-seller list.

But in the BDA promotional materials, WW can be found only on the tiny Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice BD jacket on the rear of its booklet, and not at all during the lengthy splash video on the BDA site. (The tiara’d Amazon occupies a quarter of the UHDA booklet cover and half of its centerfold.)

More importantly, content unavailable in 4K, such as popular TV shows, needs to be out there and exploited, pronto, to help sell UHD disc players—as in, where the hell are UHD BD versions of “Game of Thrones” or “The Walking Dead” or “Downton Abbey” or “Outlander” or any version of “Star Trek” or even “The Big Bang Theory”?

And no UHD BD Star Wars: The Force Awakens, or the entire Star Wars series? Seriously, Disney? Must you be unfashionably late to every new video format party?

But I digress.

With the increasing quantity of 4K streaming content and the more broadcast 4K/UHD content available from service providers like DirecTV and Sky Deutschland, UHD Blu-ray has only a thin stretch of sand on which to establish its beachhead as a viable and continuing source of 4K/UHD content. Once UHD programming becomes ubiquitous on other delivery networks, disc-based video content could join VHS and 45 RPM singles on the archaic format list, unless the BD powers-that-be act quickly and boldly.