Ultra HD Blu-ray set for September launch, prices revealed

The Ultra HD Blu-ray specs were confirmed yesterday by the Blu-ray Disc Association and now Ron Martin, VP of Panasonic Hollywood Laboratory, has told What Hi-Fi? that the industry is planning to reveal the first products in September.

A September launch is designed to ensure Ultra HD Blu-ray hardware and discs are in shops and available to buy in time for Christmas.

Asked about the Ultra HD Blu-ray release date, Martin said: "Certainly for Panasonic, and most manufacturers, by IFA time in September we want to have players showing content. By holiday season, we want these to be available."

IFA is the biggest consumer electronics show in Europe and gets under way on 4th September.

As for how much Ultra HD Blu-ray spinners will cost, Martin, who works closely with the BDA, manufacturers and Hollywood studios, told What Hi-Fi? he expected Ultra HD Blu-ray player prices to start high but come down quickly. No surprise there.

"It will be high to start with, relatively speaking," Martin said. "But it won't be as severe as some launches in the past, we won't be seeing thousand dollar machines. Maybe two to three times the cost of equivalent HD players. But that will drop over time."

With Panasonic currently offering Blu-ray players from under £100 up to £400+, and with the exchange rate rarely working in the UK's favour, we'd imagine Ultra HD Blu-ray player prices will be comfortably above that bracket. £599 entry-level price, anyone?

MORE: 4K Ultra HD - everything you need to know

As for Ultra HD Blu-ray disc prices, they should be a little more affordable.

"Media will be very price comparable to existing Blu-rays," revealed Martin. "With all new technologies, we have to make them attractive to consumers, but it does cost quite a bit to develop these systems."

Of course, he was keen to stress the final decision lies with the studios and the hardware manufacturers themselves, but with many studios already working in 4K a lot of the time, the move to delivering Ultra HD Blu-rays wouldn't be too much of a strain.

"Many studios have fairly mature 4K production as many of these films are produced in 4K. I don't think it wil be a huge burden for studios."

IFA is also likely to see the launch of the first generation of HDR TVs, delivering the complete Ultra HD Blu-ray ecosystem.

MORE: HDR TV technology explained

Panasonic had previously sprung something of a surprise by revealing a prototype 4K player at CES 2015 and vowed to be first to launch an Ultra HD Blu-ray product.

Now it seems the company will be joined by the usual suspects, with LG, Pioneer, Samsung and Sony amongst the thorough list of BDA members.

"Panasonic always likes to think we're 'best to market' because of our relationship with Hollywood," said Martin. "We had a prototype at CES, much to the head-shaking of some of our friends, but we work very closely with other companies.

"I think everybody is planning to come out September time and make their announcements. It's a good healthy environment - the consumer always wins when they have choices."

MORE: 7 of the best 4K TVs for 2015

MORE: Ultra HD Blu-ray - everything you need to know

Joe Cox
Content Director

Joe is the Content Director for What Hi-Fi? and Future’s Product Testing, having previously been the Global Editor-in-Chief of What Hi-Fi?. He has worked on What Hi-Fi? across the print magazine and website for almost 20 years, writing news, reviews and features on everything from turntables to TVs, headphones to hi-fi separates. He has covered product launch events across the world, from Apple to Technics, Sony and Samsung; reported from CES, the Bristol Show, and Munich High End for many years; and written for sites such as the BBC, Stuff, and the Guardian. In his spare time, he enjoys expanding his vinyl collection and cycling (not at the same time).