Exclusive 3D Bundles: Shooting Themselves in the Foot

According to the Home Cinema Choice blog on TechRadar.com, the idea of exclusively bundling the Avatar 3D Blu-ray with Panasonic's 3D products—a deal that runs until February 2012—was initiated by 20th Century Fox, not Panasonic. Also, this is likely to be a one-time thing for the company, not a regular policy.

According to Masayuki Kozuka, head of R&D for Panasonic's Media and Content Alliance, the company did get involved in a bidding war with Samsung over the rights to Avatar, but the studios are leading the way in this regard, not the manufacturers. "Studios come to us and ask if we want to take exclusive deals," Kozuka is quoted as saying. As to why the Avatar deal is likely to be an isolated case, he says, "The market is more mature now, but during 2010 there was very little software. We needed an incentive."

Despite Kozuka's assertion, Avatar isn't the only Blu-ray title bundled exclusively with Panasonic 3D products. Others include Ice Age 3, Coraline, and Paul Carrack: Live in 3D, which captures a live recording session by the former member of Roxy Music and Mike and the Mechanics at Air Studios in London. Commissioned and filmed by Panasonic, this title is claimed to be the industry's first live studio recording in 3D. If so, it just barely beat out AIX Records' Goldberg Variations: Acoustica, which was released on August 3, 2010. Granted, GV:A was filmed and recorded in a concert hall, not a recording studio per se, but that's a mighty fine hair to split.

Aside from something like the Paul Carrack title, which was produced entirely by Panasonic, I am vehemently opposed to bundling 3D movies exclusively with the 3D products of one manufacturer or another. This only serves to anger consumers and slow the adoption of 3D in the home. I have no problem with offering certain titles in a bundle to entice consumers to a buy a particular brand of hardware, but those titles should also be available at retail.

I'm especially surprised that the studios are instigating this approach, since they want 3D to succeed as much as the manufacturers. Why can't they see that they're shooting themselves in the foot? What benefit does it offer them? I wish I knew.