Connected Blu-ray Continues To Grow

2012 turned in another milestone for Blu-ray’s ‘connected’ technology. Via Home Media Magazine, the number of connected players in use hit another high water mark.

Blu-ray Disc players aren’t just for watching high-definition content, as 12.9 million devices are also connected to the Internet, according to new data from The NPD Group.

For studios and other content providers who continue to or will soon be implementing BD-Live technology on current and upcoming releases, this is good news. As more consumers are capable of leveraging Blu-ray’s most under-utilized capability, the numbers of viewers who can use it is bound to grow with it.

Yet it’s interesting that the same report places connected Blu-ray players within the context of all connected devices within the home, where this number pales in comparison to the total of the other devices out there which are also streaming media into the home:

The tally is nearly 35% more than the 8.9 million connected streaming media players such as Roku and Apple TV. While all BD players sold include Internet connectivity, a majority remain un-tethered to the Web as households increasingly opt for alternative devices such as video game consoles (39 million), tablets (31.8 million) and smart TVs (16 million).

Connected, streaming devices seem to be taking the lead in the evolving mediascape. Speaking from my own experience, I tend to use my own Samsung Blu-ray player as a Netflix access device just about as often as I use it to play discs. (Looking back at my own media consumption habits in 2012, this may be partly due to Netflix’s flubbed Quikster debut and the adjustment of solely disc-based subscriptions vs discs + streaming subscriptions.)

Advancedtelevision.info‘s review of the same report, however, focuses on the effect that all these connected devices are having and will have on the viewing habits of the public,

By the end of 2013, The NPD Group expects a shift towards more screen-sharing across devices. Smaller screens such as the smartphone have the greatest reach now with an estimated 133 million users, with tablets contributing another 31.8 million screens. The developm

ent of the shared screen experience, by throwing content from a smaller screen to the TV, is converging device ecosystems and will allow for over-the-top content to become even more prominent on the TV.

NHL's Stanley Cup 2010 and 2011 releases both had BD-Live portals with additional content provided by the Blackhawks and the Bruins

The introduction of the tablet, the immense popularity of the smartphone and the nascent second screen revolution may be, or perhaps already has hurtled beyond BD-Live to provide an effective way to provide an augmented experience to viewers.

BD-Live does still has its advantages. In terms of behind-the-scenes capabilities for content providers , BD-Live provides an efficient way to add content to disc AFTER manufacturing. (The NHL has used the technology in this way, and done so effectively, with their Stanley Cup 2010 and 2011 releases.) Additionally, BD-Live does preserve the one-on-one relationship between studio/content provider and the consumer, without adding in Cupterino or San Bruno. In some ways, the simplicity of BD-Live may be the key to its continuing longevity.

The real benefit to connected Blu-ray players may be in how they can authenticate and communicate with other content devices, particularly mobile.

That’s an area ripe for innovation.