It looks like we could be nearing the end of the debate over which high-definition video format will prevail in the high definition DVD format war. Just a few days before the start of this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, Warner Brothers announced that they will be abandoning the HD-DVD format in May of 2008 and will offer high definition movie titles only on the Blu-Ray format. This could be the tipping point in the format wars that have been raging since the introduction of the competing high definition formats.
Prior to the announcement, Warner Brothers was one of only a few major movie studios that offered movies in both the Blu-ray and HD DVD formats. The coming full-defection to the Blu-ray camp will very likely put one of the first nails into the HD DVD coffin.
Toshiba’s HD DVD format may still be salvageable. They still have exclusive partnerships with Paramount, Dreamworks and Universal Studios, each of which release movies only in the HD DVD format. New Line and HBO will continue release movies in the HD DVD format, but they continue to hedge their bets by also releasing movies using the Blu-ray format. Sony Tristar, Walt Disney, 20th Century Fox and Lionsgate Entertainment are firmly in Sony’s camp.
The fact is that there is very little visual or sound quality difference between Blu-ray and HD DVD. HD DVD players continue to offer a price advantage in the market. While it still costs $400 or more for a Blu-ray player, HD DVD players can be found for just under $200. Blu-ray disks do have a larger disk capacity, but most movies will easily fit on an HD DVD disk, so that factor appears to be insignificant.
So what happened to tilt things in Sony’s favor? It appears that the most significant factor that has helped push Blu-ray sales is the fact that Sony includes a Blu-Ray player with their very popular PlayStation 3 gaming console. That makes it very easy for someone to just pop in a Blu-ray disk when the PlayStation 3 is already hooked up to a high definition television. But if you take the PlayStation 3 sales out of the equation, sales of dedicated Blu-ray and HD DVD players were pretty much neck-and-neck as of the end of 2007 due to a Christmas surge in HD DVD paler sales.
At the Consumer Electronics Show, Toshiba was fighting back with cuts in prices for both players and HD DVD disks. This could swing things in Toshiba’s favor if the prices for HD DVD movies drop to below $20. Right now, most consumers are reluctant to jump into the fray, not only because of the question of which format will prevail, but also due to the high cost for high definition movies.
It will be interesting to see what happens in the next few months. like they say, “It’s not over until it’s over”.