2008: Warner Bros. Drops HD DVD Support, Blu-Ray Becomes New DVD
Sometimes a decision of one defines the future of the whole industry. Warner Bros.' decision to choose Blu-ray technology as the primary high-definition home entertainment format for the future caused all the other market players to switch to Blu-ray from HD DVD.
Despite of the fact that the Blu-ray disc had larger storage capacity than HD DVD, back in 2006 - 2007, during the war between the high-def formats, it was not something that played a critical role. HD DVD had its own advantages, most important of which was price and finalized specification. The most important factor for any format or platform aimed at consumers is support from content owners.
Among major Hollywood studios HD DVD was exclusively supported by Universal Pictures, whereas Sony Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox and Walt Disney exclusively backed Blu-ray. Paramount Pictures and Warner Bros., as well as studios controlled by the two companies, remained format neutral and released both BD and HD DVD. In a bid to establish leadership of their formats, Sony and Toshiba had to provide incentives to "convert" studios into exclusive supporters.
In mid-2007, after it transpired that HD DVD was winning the game in Europe, Paramount decided to become HD DVD exclusive (for some $150 million in incentives), which provided a huge benefit to the format in the form of highly-popular “Transformers” movie. In September '07 Walt Disney approved HD DVD 51GB disc specification at the DVD Forum and Twentieth Century Fox started talks with Toshiba and Microsoft regarding becoming HD DVD exclusive provided that Warner Bros. also becomes HD DVD exclusive. All-in-all, Warner Bros. became the key for rivaling parties to win the format war, which meant that the prize will go to the highest bidder.
Various rumours around the Internet claimed that the Blu-ray disc Association provided “incentives” worth $500 - $620 million to Time Warner, the parent company or several studios, including Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema, but Time Warner denied those allegations. Another rumour suggests that Warner’s Blu-ray exclusivity would only last till Q1 2009 and that the company got $450 million for that.
At the Consumer Electronics Show 2008 Warner dropped the bomb onto the HD DVD by announcing plans to become Blu-ray exclusive starting May '08, which left Toshiba only with Paramount and Universal as the backers of the format. Several weeks after Warner’s announcement, Toshiba itself said it would cease manufacturing of HD DVD, which marked the end of the format war as well as HD DVD technology.
Perhaps, there was a lot of rationale to support Blu-ray instead of HD DVD since capacities of BD and its improved bandwidth eventually enabled such things as stereo-3D supporting Blu-ray 3D as well as 7.1-channel DTS HD Master Audio. But everything was a result of a decision by one company.