If you didn’t notice any Blu-ray player announcements from Samsung at CES this year, there’s a reason for that: the company has told both Forbes and CNET that it is getting out of the Blu-ray player business in the United States.
The large chaebol conglomerate will introduce no new Blu-ray players anywhere, it seems, and will stop making existing players for the US market. This comes as a confirmation of what many observers expected, given that the company last released a new player in 2017. Samsung was reportedly working on a high-end Blu-ray player for release in 2019, according to Forbes, but those plans have been scrapped.
Samsung didn't tell either publication why it decided to exit the business, and there is probably no big, single reason for this shift. But there are a lot of small ones.
Samsung’s Blu-ray players lacked Dolby Vision HDR support and relied instead on HDR-10 or the Samsung-backed HDR-10+. This was an important omission for the target audience; Dolby Vision is attractive to home theater enthusiasts because of its theoretically superior specifications and because it allows moviemakers to more finely tune the experience as compared to HDR-10.
Most people probably don’t care about the differences between HDR-10 and Dolby Vision, but if anyone does, they’re buyers of UltraHD Blu-ray players who may feel that the bitrate of content streamed from Netflix, Amazon, or Apple is inadequate for their setups.
Also, streaming has come to dominate Americans’ viewing habits, especially in high-income households that would be enticed by expensive 4K HDR Blu-ray players. Physical media sales have been declining at double-digit percentage rates for a few years running. Even within those sales, 4K Blu-rays account for only 5.3 percent of sales compared to the aging DVD format, which still sits at 57.9 percent, according to Forbes.
Sony and Panasonic currently lead in the Blu-ray player market, and they have not announced plans to discontinue production. Samsung may have made this decision in response to its competitors’ market dominance, not just the shrinking marketplace for physical media. And it probably doesn’t help that the widely owned PlayStation 4 and Xbox One game consoles are also perfectly adequate Blu-ray players for most consumers.
Samsung is not alone in abandoning the market, though. Last year, Oppo also left Blu-ray players behind.
Listing image by Mark Walton