Although DVD players dropped below the magic $100 barrier some time ago, they have only just caught up with the VCR, according to Nielsen. The media tracking firm says that DVD player ownership has finally surpassed VCR ownership for the first time.
During the third quarter of 2006, 81.2 percent of all US households reported owning at least one DVD player compared to 79.2 percent for VCRs. That figure marks a 6 percent increase in DVD player ownership from the same period in 2005, while VCRs ownership fell. It's a far cry from 1999, when Nielsen first began tracking DVD ownership. At the end of the 90s, only 6.7 percent of households owned a DVD player, compared with 88.6 percent owning VCRs.
The recent surge recent surge in DVD ownership is largely due to falling prices. Early on, DVDs were very expensive compared to VCRs. (Those of us who are old enough to remember the introduction of the VCR in the late 70s and early 80s will also recall how expensive they were at first launch.) Now, shoppers looking for a new DVD are confronted with a dazzling array of sub-$50 players. DVD players are now less expensive than VCRs and DVDs far outnumber videotapes in the majority of video rental places, making the old stalwart VCR an even less-attractive option. What the last generation tells us about the next generation
The news about the popularity of DVD players serves as another reminder about technology and consumer electronics. No matter how cool early adopters think a device might be, we're far outnumbered by late adopters and laggards. That may come as startling news to those of us who live on the cutting—if not bleeding—edge of technology, but most people are content to stick with a tried-and-true technology even when higher-tech, reasonably priced alternatives exist.
For all of the talk about the battle between HD DVD and Blu-ray, both technologies are far, far away from most family rooms. Yes, the two are just now beginning what could be a long battle for entertainment-center supremacy, but keep in mind that the technology that they are vying to replace has only recently gained the upper hand against the previous-generation technology—a decade after first being introducted. Even if Blu-ray or HD DVD unexpectedly routs its opponent from the market in the next two or three years, it will still be several more years before the victorious format supplants the DVD.
What about video downloads? Last year, Bill Gates famously said that Blu-ray and HD DVD were battling to be the "last physical format there will ever be," with physical media being replaced by live streams and hard disk storage. Sounds good, but the number of people with broadband connections capable of downloading a full standard-definition movie in a reasonable length of time is still comparatively small, with the number owning home theater PCs or other devices capable of playing said content in the family room even smaller.
So as those on the bleeding edge contemplate whether to buy an HD DVD or Blu-ray player to hook up to their 1080p flat-panel televisions, most people will be settling down to watch a DVD on their CRT standard-definition set. And that's fine with them.