Saturday, January 5, 2008

My thoughts on the HD DVD vs. Blu-ray format war

I have been a relatively quiet supporter of HD DVD since the release of the Xbox 360 HD DVD player. Most of my favorite movies and TV shows were available on HD DVD. The fact that Battlestar Galactica was available exclusively on HD DVD sealed the deal for me.

Signs seemed good for HD DVD. Most movies/shows that were available on both formats were typically selling better in HD DVD according to's top 100 'Bestsellers in DVD' list. I usually use Panet Earth as the benchmark for HD format performance. If you haven't viewed this show in HD then you haven't experienced HD! For months, the HD DVD version was outselling the Blu-ray version. Within the past week or two, the Blu-ray version has jumped slightly ahead of the HD DVD version. I should also note that the regular DVD version has continuously outsold both.

But back to the 'Bestsellers in DVD' list. Just before Christmas, launched a 'Buy One, Get One Free' sale for HD DVD discs from a list. That put about 10-15 HD DVD discs in the top 100 DVDs list. It seemed like things were looking good for HD DVD because there were only about five Blu-ray discs in the list.

However, has now launched a 'Buy One, Get One Free' sale for Blu-ray. As of this posting, Blu-ray currently has 34 titles listed in the top 100 discs from all formats, whereas HD DVD only has three titles in the top 100. For the first time (that I am aware of), Blu-ray titles are even outselling regular DVD titles. The first four Harry Potter movies in Blu-ray format are the top four titles in the list.

Yesterday, Warner Bros. Entertainment announced that they were going to drop HD DVD support at the end of May 2008 and move exclusively to Blu-ray. Until that date, they will release HD DVD titles after the standard DVD and Blu-ray releases.
"Warner Home Video will continue to release its titles in standard DVD format and Blu-ray. After a short window following their standard DVD and Blu-ray releases, all new titles will continue to be released in HD DVD until the end of May 2008."
There was a follow-up announcement which stated that New Line Cinema was also switching to Blu-ray exclusively. At this time, it is unknown whether HBO will follow suit.

In response to this announcement, the HD DVD Promotions Group has decided to cancel Sunday's CES Press Conference.

Even though I have been an HD DVD supporter, I view these recent events as a welcome defeat. Sure, I hate to think about the money I spent on HD DVD discs. But I had only purchased a few 'must-have' titles because I was waiting to see how things turned out in the "format war". But I have really enjoyed watching HD DVD titles from Netflix over the past 1 1/2 years so I have no regrets.

If the HD DVD Promotions Group really wants to do what is right for the consumers, they should take this opportunity to end the format war. They should release the final two major studios (NBC/Universal and Paramount) from their exclusivity contracts, or let those studios buy their way out of the contract. I wouldn't be surprised if those studios had a clause in the contract for scenarios such as this.

I had high hopes for HD DVD, but in the end I really just wanted one format to be decided upon so I didn't waste a lot of money on dead technology. I just ordered my first four Blu-ray discs from's 'Buy One, Get One Free' sale. Guess which ones.

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