Warner Pulls Support For HD DVD and Backs Blu-ray 
Home Theater News Blu-ray Software News
Written by Jerry Del Colliano   
Friday, 04 January 2008

In a massive blow to the HD DVD camp, mega-studio Warner Brothers, which has been releasing titles on both Blu-ray and HD DVD formats, said today in a release that they will be only supporting Blu-ray going forward. The news comes days before the start of the Consumer Electronics trade show in Las Vegas, which is a frequent battleground for HD formats and technologies.

Warners’ support of Blu-ray adds to the growing list of the format’s supporters, including Disney, Sony, Fox and others. The news has been speculated for weeks on enthusiast forums without any formal confirmation.

Warners claims in their release that their decision will end the format war. However, Microsoft, Toshiba and others behind the HD DVD project likely will not go down easy. Warners also suggested that they were concerned about consumer confusion in the marketplace, yet they were the main culprit for releasing titles in both formats.
The next few days will be critical to see who, if anyone, will jump off the HD DVD bandwagon. Consumers and enthusiasts do not want additional players in their system in order to enjoy HD video content, and will therefore likely adopt Blu-ray if there is a Hollywood consensus for the format. With massive price drops during the holiday season and the familiar “DVD” moniker for consumers, HD DVD did sell significant numbers of players. Blu-ray still has the edge in terms of software sales, mostly helped by Sony Playstation 3 units already installed in the marketplace.

Before people break out the champagne, it’s important to point out that all isn’t perfect in the world of Blu-ray, even with increased studio support. Blu-ray players are more expensive than HD DVD machines and their connectivity is poor at best, with a pathetic HDMI copy-protected interface. The connection is so low-grade that most players don’t even come equipped with an HDMI cable in the box, yet it’s the only way one can get 1080p video from the machine. Additionally, the BD Java system used for extra features and navigation in the newer discs is the cause for many players to hang up and/or need upwards of 120 seconds to load a movie, which will not fly with mainstream consumers who are used to the quick loading speed of traditional DVDs.

If Warners is looking to stick a fork in HD DVD and truly finish off the format war, they should consider offering a trade-in policy for players. Consumers who buy a new Blu-ray player and/or trade in an HD DVD player should receive free discs. Too many consumers are still bitter from the VHS vs. Beta battle from the late 1970s. The studios need to make sure early adopters feel that their support hasn’t been taken for grated.

Other battles that need to be won before the format war is officially over would include luring major record labels to release high-resolution music on Blu-ray, as well as getting adult content providers to support Blu-ray. There is no denying the impact pornography had on the historical success of VHS and later with DVD. If we are to get down to one HD disc format in Blu-ray, then that format will next need to beat out the reigning champion of video discs – the mighty DVD – for video disc supremacy.

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