Thursday, June 21, 2007

Blockbuster to support Blu-Ray; have format wars ended?

If you're thinking of buying an next generation DVD player that supports high definition resolution, Blockbuster may've made your decision easier.

The video rental giant announced it will only rent Blu-Ray discs in its 1,450 stores when it expands its high-def offerings next month.

What does this mean?

There are two formats in the high definition DVD market, Blu-Ray and HD-DVD. It's very similar to the old VHS vs Beta war we had in the '80s.

In the videogame world, Sony's PlayStation 3, which has struggled in sales because of price, includes a Blu-Ray player inside the box. Recently, many big box stores are offering heavy discounts on Sony TV/PS3 combos, essentially playing up the PS3s ability to be a killer high definition DVD player, which it is.

Microsoft had supported the HD-DVD format with a $199 add-on to its Xbox 360 machines. It'll be interesting to see if the Bill Gates Company adds a new Blu-Ray drive.

Blockbuster has been renting both Blu-ray and HD DVD titles in 250 stores since late last year but officials said customers were renting Blu-Ray over HD-DVD titles about seven out of 10 times.

Part of that was choice. All major studios except one are releasing films in Blu-Ray format. Several of them, including Walt Disney, are only releasing Blu-Ray.

Universal Studios exclusively supports HD-DVD.

"The consumers are sending us a message. I can't ignore what I'm seeing," Matthew Smith, senior vice president of merchandising at Blockbuster, told The Associated Press. "When you walk into a store and see all this product available in Blu-ray and there is less available on HD DVD, I think the consumer gets that."

Smith said Blockbuster will continue to rent HD-DVD titles in the original 250 locations and online.

Most industry analysts are predicting this decision will help Blu-Ray win the format war. With Sony's new Blu-Ray player debuting at $499 and an impending drop in price for PS3 looming -- thanks to lower costs to make Blu-Ray players -- HD-DVD is in some trouble.

The North American HD DVD Promotional Group told the Associated Press that Blockbuster's decision was shortsighted and skewed by the success of films released by Blu-ray studios in the first three months of the year.

"I think trying to make a format decision using such a short time period is really not measuring what the consumer is saying," said Ken Graffeo, co-president of the group.

3 comments:

Clayj said...

Langston, this Format War isn't over until Universal starts supporting Blu-ray or until something bigger than this Blockbuster move happens.

I do (reluctantly) agree that Blu-ray will probably win in the long run for no other reason that it has broader studio support... but your readers should understand WHY Blu-ray has more studio support. One simple reason: Blu-ray has much stronger DRM (Digital Rights Management) built in than HD-DVD does... and DRM is never something that's supposed to benefit you, the consumer. DRM is designed to benefit the studios.

Anonymous said...

Clayj, you think BR will win out only because it has broader studio support due to DRM? How about the ultimate capacity where HD-DVD trails BR. And how about Target announcing they won't sell HD-DVD players, although they don't currently anyway?

HD-DVD has taken a couple of standing counts in this fight. One more blow and it'll be over.

Anonymous said...

I don't think Blu-Ray will win until Blu-Ray disc writers are as available on PCs as DVD-writers and (now) HD-DVD writers. Just a thought... comments?