LOS ANGELES Despite the down economy, first-quarter sales of stand-alone Blu-ray Disc players in the U.S. rose 72 percent from the first quarter of 2008, according to The NPD Group's latest Blu-ray Report update.
NPD Group research also shows that overall consumer awareness of the Blu-ray Disc format in the U.S. has reached 90 percent over the last six months.
"Blu-ray Disc video technology is moving further into the mainstream," the report says.
U.S. consumers bought more than 400,000 stand-alone Blu-ray Disc players between Jan. 1 and March 31, spending $107.2 million, an increase of 14 percent from what they spent on Blu-ray Disc players in the first quarter of last year, according to NPD's retail tracking service.
"The rising penetration of high-definition televisions and lower Blu-ray player prices are broadening the format's market opportunity," said Ross Rubin, director of industry analysis at NPD. "Even as options expand for accessing movies digitally, Blu-ray is carrying forward the widespread appeal of DVD into the high-definition marketplace."
Purchase intent for Blu-ray Disc players also is up, with 6 percent of respondents saying they would be "extremely or very likely" to buy a player in the next six months, compared to 5 percent who responded that way in the last report, issued in August 2008.
Even so, more than half of adults surveyed (58 percent) said they are still "not very familiar" with Blu-ray.
According to NPD's retail tracking service, the average selling price for a stand-alone BD player during the first quarter of this year fell nearly 34 percent to $261 from $393.
"The leading driver of Blu-ray purchase intent is recommendations from friends, family or co-workers," said NPD entertainment industry analyst Russ Crupnick. "Blu-ray's superiority used to be difficult for many consumers to grasp, but when friends rave about it, or demonstrate Blu-ray in their homes, they are selling the benefits in a way that is far more effective than simply viewing an advertisement or seeing it demonstrated at a retail store."
Data for NPD's Blu-ray Report was collected through an online survey of 6,994 consumers between Feb. 25 and March 6.