If you thought the price cutting on Blu-Ray disc players was going to stop for a couple of months, think again.
Sony recently slashed the tag on its new, summer player entry, the BDP-S300, from the initially announced $599 list to a nicer $499, even before the first units had landed at SonyStyle.com.
But AllthingsHighDef has now learned that the retail distribution for this model is going to be super-wide – a marketing strategy sure to force the actual selling price down even more.
“You’ll see the BDP-S300 at places where we’ve never sold before, ‘” said Nate Kraft, senior marketing manager of Blu-ray and DVD-Recorders for Sony Electronics. “Say, at Wal-Mart or Walgreens?“ this inquisitor asked. “The only place where you won’t see it is in grocery stores,” said Kraft, only half joking.
Get a big bunch of retailers selling against each other always pushes the price of an high profile item down, we then noted. How low can or will these discount operations slash the asking price for a BDP-S300?
“Well, we don’t set the price,” said the Sony guy. “We have our suggested list, and we’d hope that the retailer would stick with it, but (by law) we can’t enforce prices. It’s up to them.”
Unlike Sony’s profit-less PlayStation 3 Blu-Ray multi-tasking machine which reportedly costs a dealer virtually the same amount that he then sells it for, the BDP-S300 carries a “normal profit margin,” said Kraft. Typically, that means a 25 or 30 percent markup for a/v goods. So a $500 list price item might actually have cost a dealer $350 or $375. If the merchant wants to lure you in to his retail or on-line store, he could essentially give the player away at cost or even a few dollars lower (making it a “loss leader”), and then profit by selling you an expensive HDMI cable or extended warranty, where the markup is more like 50 or 100 percent.
In typical Sony product development fashion, the second generation BDP-S300 is a slimmer, lighter and more featured-ladened model than its pricier predecessor, the BDP-S1. The new model adds support for x.v.Color, the Sony/Mitsubishi developed standard for delivering a wider gamut of colors – about 92 percent of what the human eye can actually see. To appreciate this upgrade, you’ll also need a new generation TV which also supports x.v.Color.
The BDP-S300 also plays standard audio CDs (missing in the BDP-S1) and DVDs (upscaled to 1080p), plus home recorded DVDs, MP3 discs and high def camcorder discs recorded in the new AVC-HD standard (which does support x.v.Color.) The player adds Bravia Theater Sync, Sony’s branded version of Consumer Electronics Control, which lets you power up an HDMI connected TV and receiver merely by tapping one button on the Blu-Ray player’s remote.
Oh, and while we’re on that subject, this player features a conventional IR-blasting remote, so it will also take commands from an aftermarket multi-task learning remote from, say, Harmony/Logitech. One big complaint with Sony’s PS3 is that its Bluetooth- enabled remote control communications platform won’t work with other RC products.
But also typical of Sony product development, the BDP-S300 is less than the final word in Blu-Ray players. “We concentrated on the core features, delivering the best in picture and sound” is the way Kraft puts the spin on that. While the BDP-S300 adds support for Dolby Digital Plus, an enhanced lossy audio encoding system, the new model still can’t internally decode the lossless, higher resolution Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD-Master soundtracks now being packed on some discs. Nor will the player support all of the promised BD-Java interactive features, like picture-in-picture and on-line connectivity, which don’t become mandatory in the Blu-Ray standard until October 31.
“We’ll have near-future models for the consumer who demands those upscale features,” said Kraft. “For the moment, the BDP-S300 represents the best performance and feature package we could come up with at a price that consumers should find compelling.”