NPD: Free Blu-ray player deals led to boosted sales this month

A report from NPD Group claimed Blu-ray standalone player sales accounted for 93 percent of the high-def market for the week ending January 12, but NPD itself won't stand behind the numbers, saying they were leaked and that weekly sales data is not a long-term indicator.

According to Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis for NPD, the data "came from an NPD subscriber" and "wasn't approved for release from NPD." He added that the firm typically sees big fluctuations in sales volumes each week, and never makes long-term judgements based on weekly data.

"It reflects what was going on during that week," Baker said, adding that it wasn't smart to "extrapolate that out for six months."

So what went on the week ending January 12 that led to such high numbers in Blu-ray standalone player sales? Bundling deals with HDTVs, explained Baker. Sharp Blu-ray players accounted for over 30% of sales, as they were offered free to buyers of the company's LCD televisions.

Sony -- also accounting for one-third of sales -- had a similar $400-off deal for Blu-ray players when buying a Sony HDTV.

Panasonic, like Sharp, offered a free Blu-ray player and made up for the remaining third of units sold. Samsung Blu-ray sales were almost non-existent, as the company did not offer any special deals to TV buyers.

The NPD figures did not include Sony's PlayStation 3 or Microsoft's HD DVD add-on for the Xbox 360 -- only standalone players.

Baker wouldn't get specific -- since NPD normally never even comments on weekly sales data -- but said there was some drop in HD DVD player sales. For its part, the HD DVD Promotional Group told BetaNews the weekly sales data was from before the HD DVD player price drop Toshiba announced last week.

Baker did provide BetaNews some insight as to how NPD counts sales. It receives its data from point-of-sale systems from a number of retail outlets across the United States. He would not say how many retailers send data to NPD, but said it was "double digits."

NPD's numbers do not include online sales from the likes of Amazon, where Toshiba's HD-A3 HD DVD player is the number one seller in the DVD player category and number 14 in all of electronics. By contrast, standalone Blu-ray players do not make the electronics list.

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