Warner Bros. Entertainment on Friday said that starting from May, 2008, it will only release its high-definition movies on Blu-ray discs and will cease to support HD DVD. The decision is a major blow to Toshiba-backed format and could be considered as a huge win for Sony’s Blu-ray.
Executives at Warner Bros. explained that the decision to exclusively support one high-definition format over another was made to avoid confusion on the market of HD movies and allow Warner’s partners among retailers to stock more titles by Warner than previously. For the company itself exclusive support of Blu-ray means potentially higher revenues amid potentially lower production and handling costs.
“Warner Bros.’ move to exclusively release in the Blu-ray disc format is a strategic decision focused on the long term and the most direct way to give consumers what they want. The window of opportunity for high-definition DVD could be missed if format confusion continues to linger. We believe that exclusively distributing in Blu-ray will further the potential for mass market success and ultimately benefit retailers, producers, and most importantly, consumers,” said Barry Meyer, chairman and chief executive at Warner Bros.
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.
“Warner Bros. has produced in both high-definition formats in an effort to provide consumer choice, foster mainstream adoption and drive down hardware prices,” said Jeff Bewkes, president and chief executive, Time Warner, the parent company of Warner Bros. Entertainment.
The major movie studio claims that based on the current market situation the consumers have “clearly chosen Blu-ray”, which is why the company will focus its effort on Sony-promoted format. While currently there are more standalone HD DVD players installed compared to the number of standalone Blu-ray disc players, the latter format is supported by Sony PlayStation 3 video game console, which automatically increases install base of Blu-ray capable devices to around 10 million worldwide. While this is hardly a lot and the video game console can hardly decide the format war on the consumer electronics scene, this may explain why Warner decided to concentrate on Blu-ray releases.
“A two-format landscape has led to consumer confusion and indifference toward high definition, which has kept the technology from reaching mass adoption and becoming the important revenue stream that it can be for the industry. Consumers have clearly chosen Blu-ray, and we believe that recognizing this preference is the right step in making this great home entertainment experience accessible to the widest possible audience. Warner Bros. has worked very closely with the Toshiba Corporation in promoting high definition media and we have enormous respect for their efforts. We look forward to working with them on other projects in the future,” said Kevin Tsujihara, the president of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group.
Blu-ray and HD DVD formats compete for replacing the DVD standard. HD DVD discs can store up to 15GB on a single layer and up to 30GB on two layers. Its competitor, Blu-ray, can store up to 25GB per single layer and up to 50GB on two layers, but Blu-ray discs are more expensive to produce. The HD DVD is pushed aggressively by Toshiba, NEC, Intel and Microsoft, as well as being standardized at the DVD Forum, which represents over 230 consumer electronics, information technology, and content companies worldwide. Blu-ray is backed by Sony and Panasonic, which are among the world’s largest makers of electronics.
Among Hollywood studios Blu-ray has a substantial advantage over HD DVD with support from New Line Cinema, Sony Pictures, Walt Disney, Warner Bros. and Twentieth Century Fox. HD DVD is currently supported by New Line Cinema, Paramount Pictures/Dreamworks and Universal Pictures. Since New Line is controlled by Warner, it may cancel plans to release its movies on HD DVD.