HD content is NOT going to be downloadable in the near future due its to excessive need for bandwidth. That in my opinion means there will be a market for an affordable Blu Ray player for quite some time. I think that studios might have recognized that they are near a tipping point with digital downloads and they could get smacked down like music sales on CDs if they dont get with the program. That said HD content is still going to be exclusively physical media for a couple of years more most likely.
Including a Blu ray in ATV would be the best of both worlds for the studios. They get a majority of the profits from rentals of digital download of nonHD old media (DVD), and they greatly expand the market for HD. Could this be why the studios have recently dumped HDDVDs enmasse?
The problem with this idea that I see is the cost factor for the ATV. It has to stay in the $300-400 range for Apple to sell any and it would have to also support full 1080p. As an owner of the current one I would be a little annoyed, but I would have to think a $400 ATV with Blu-ray would sell pretty well. I know the profit margins on the current ATVs are already below Apple standards (~30%) so inclusion of major new hardware and codecs while maintaining the same price could turn them into a loss leader, which isnt the strategy Apple has pursues with iTunes sales to date.
In the end I am just confused and wanting it to be Tuesday already.