Sunday, January 13, 2008

Blu-ray Wins!

Warner Brothers Backs Blu-ray.
Universal No Longer Exclusive to HD DVD.

The fight is over. Hooray hooray hooray.

Last week Warner Brothers picked sides. Blu-ray.

There are alternate stories going around why.

Warner Brothers blamed gas prices and the economy:


LAS VEGAS (Reuters) - Fears of a deteriorating U.S. economy and falling DVD industry sales helped drive Warner Bros's decision to back Sony's Blu-ray next generation DVD format exclusively, a top executive told Reuters on Monday.

Hollywood's biggest seller of home movies tipped the balance of power on Friday in favor of Sony (6758.T: Quote, Profile, Research) in a fight for the next generation of DVDs between the electronics giant and Toshiba Corp. (6502.T: Quote, Profile, Research), developers of the HD DVD format.

"We've typically been recession proof," Warner Bros Entertainment Group President Kevin Tsujihara said in an interview at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

"But the thing that we saw in the fourth quarter...was gas prices beginning to affect sales. And since we're considered an impulse purchase, it's beginning to impact us," he said.

Tsujihara said the company needed to quickly erase consumer and retailer confusion over dueling DVD formats before economic conditions deteriorated.

Warner executives said the consortium of companies backing Blu-ray, including five of the seven big Hollywood Studios, could spend more than $50 million in 2008 to convince consumers to upgrade, or more than the amount spent by the backers of both HD DVD and Blu-ray in the 2007 holiday season.
That's the official word.

Here's the unofficial word...
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

by Don Lindich

Warner Bros. publishes on both HD DVD and Blu-ray and found the "format war" was not only slowing the adoption of high-definition discs, but also hurting their regular DVD sales -- clearly an untenable situation for them. They wanted to bring the format war to a quick close by picking a side.

If they chose HD DVD, studio support would be roughly equal but would likely go HD DVD's way eventually, as Warner is the biggest producer of high-definition discs. If they chose Blu-ray, studio support for Blu-ray would be lopsided and the war would end more quickly.

When rumors started flying publicly, I e-mailed Jim Noonan, a Warner Bros. vice president, who immediately replied that they had not decided to change their policy. A WB executive in New Zealand issued an even stronger public statement denying imminent changes.

Obviously, they had decided to change -- they just didn't know the direction. Given their long partnership, Warner gave Toshiba an opportunity to lure a Blu-ray studio to HD DVD, in which case they would go HD DVD exclusive and give HD DVD a clear studio advantage. A deal was nearly secured with Fox, which had been having trouble with Blu-ray disc production due to the lack of manufacturing infrastructure. At the 11th hour, Fox went to Sony with its concerns and received a reported $120 million payout to stay with Blu-ray.

With no studio joining them on the HD DVD side, Warner's hand was forced and it went with Blu-ray, receiving a reported $500 million for doing so.
Now add that to Variety's story.

Daily Variety has confirmed that Universal's commitment to backing HD DVD exclusively has ended. And Paramount has an escape clause in its HD DVD contract allowing it to release pics on Blu-ray after Warner Bros.' decision to back that format exclusively.

Neither studio is ready to throw in the towel immediately, however. On Thursday, Universal broke its silence about the matter to say that it plans to keep supporting the format for the time being, a pledge Par made earlier in the week. And in any case, U is committed to a series of HD DVD promotions in coming months.

Should Toshiba concede defeat on the format, the decision to drop HD DVD would be made for both studios. But Toshiba doesn't appear ready to do that. At the Consumer Electronics Show, the manufacturer reaffirmed its commitment to the format, noting strong sales during the fourth quarter and indicating it would continue marketing its hardware through 2008.

But retailers may force the HD DVD camp's hand: They're unlikely to keep devoting premium shelf space to a dying format, and at this point, the odds are not in HD DVD's favor. With Warners' defection, only Par and U remain in the HD DVD camp; Sony, Disney, Fox, Lionsgate remain ardent Blu-ray backers. Warner sister companies New Line and HBO are also shifting allegiance to Blu-ray.

Last summer, Blockbuster also threw its weight behind Blu-ray, though some HD DVD discs remain in stores.
Bottom line?

It's over. As fast as Universal can finish up its contracted commitment, it's all Blu-ray, all the time.

If you've been waiting to see what kind of DVD player to buy, you need wait no longer. (Just don't forget to buy a Region-Free player, so you can can get a DVD which is released only in England, or in Australia.)