Monday, January 14, 2008

Gear: HD Format War Update

The HD movie world is very much in flux after the recent announcement that Warner Bros. would move from HD format neutrality to Blu-ray exclusivity. A quick rundown on the news of the last week:
  • HBO and New Line Cinema follow Warner to Blu-ray exclusivity. (This was not unexpected given that these are sister studios to Warner and also distributed by Warner.)
  • BBC Home Video, despite also being a sister studio to Warner, announces that they will continue to be format neutral, citing stronger sales of their Planet Earth series on HD-DVD.
  • Rumors swirl early last week that Paramount is interested in exercising an escape clause in their HD-DVD exclusivity agreement to switch to Blu-ray. The clause reportedly allows Paramount to back out in the event that a major studio switches to Blu-ray exclusivity.
  • Further rumors indicate Universal's exclusivity agreement with HD-DVD will expire shortly and they are considering a switch to Blu-ray.
  • Both Paramount and Universal publicly state their on-going support for the HD-DVD format.
  • Toshiba slashes the MSRP on their HD-DVD players. Street price for their entry-level, 1080i HD-A3 is now as low as $127, while the step-up, 1080p HD-A30 can be had for $164.
For now, HD-DVD is still standing. But things are looking increasingly desperate, and even the slightest bad news could be the final bell for HD-DVD. Paramount and Universal were hardly forceful in their public support of HD-DVD and nothing prevents them from backing out in the future. At this point, perception is reality. If people perceive HD-DVD to be dead, they won't buy and the format will be dead.

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