According to Futuresource research, worldwide pre-recorded Blu-ray video disc production exceeded 400m units in 2010, an increase of nearly 60% compared with 2009. Factoring in PS3 titles, overall BD production volumes were significantly higher, and the longer-term outlook shows production volumes will continue to expand, with annual global output on track to reach two billion discs by 2014.

“The BD replication industry saw capacity utilisation improve markedly during 2010, with replicators working flat-out during the final months of the year to get product on the shelves in time,” says Jim Bottoms, Director and Co-founder, Futuresource Consulting. “With the growing demand for titles on the high definition format, Q4 2011 BD capacity utilisation will average more than 80% in North America and more than 75% in Europe. Taking into consideration production spikes during that period, the figure is dangerously close to the industry’s operating limit, and given the high level of market expansion expected over the next few years – driven by growing player ownership and falling title retail prices – substantial additional investment is required this year to prevent peak quarter capacity shortages.”

These shortages could result in order backlogs and compromised street dates. The problem will be further compounded by the increasing use of combo packs, featuring more than one BD, as well as collectors’ box set promotions involving some of the leading film franchises of recent years, which will put pressure on both replication capacity and hand pack capabilities.

“Collectively, across the USA and Europe, the industry needs to invest more than $100 million in new plant and equipment this year in addition to upgrading older replication lines, in order to be able to meet the disc requirements of the content community,” says Bottoms. “The studios will try to press ahead wherever possible to alleviate some of the pressure, but even with this level of investment, Q4 2011 is still going to present some peak season challenges to avoid missing street dates on some of the key titles.”

Continued pipeline fill and infrastructure requirements are also putting pressure on BD production, and studios remain committed to maintaining inventory levels to ensure demand can be met in a growing market. Retailers are also playing their part and continue to maintain a good level of copy depth in store, adding momentum to the format through strong promotion strategies and the elimination of out-of-stocks and lost sales. Bundling discs with hardware is also a factor, and the launch of 3D BD titles has added extra importance to this. As 3D is ideally suited to the BD delivery platform, this is clearly a long-term opportunity for the industry to further sustain consumer interest in packaged entertainment media.

“With a number of high profile releases scheduled across 2011, it is imperative that capacity issues are addressed and maximum revenue continues to be derived from this valuable entertainment asset,” says Bottoms.