Is it over?
Blockbuster’s announcement this week that it will exclusively stock Sony Blu-ray titles in most of its 1,700 stores dealt a major setback to Toshiba’s rival HD-DVD format. Experts said the decision could herald the beginning of the end of the format war for next-generation high-definition video discs.
Blockbuster, the nation’s largest video rental service, has stocked both formats in 250 stores since November as part of the trial run to gauge customer interest in the formats. The company said its customers rented Blu-ray titles instead of HD-DVD 70 percent of the time, according to the Associated Press. Though Blockbuster’s online service and its 250 trial-run stores will continue to stock both formats, the bulk of the retailer’s stores will exclusively carry Blu-ray.
“The fact that Blockbuster will mainly stock Blu-ray titles doesn’t mean the format war is over entirely, but it doesn’t look good for HD-DVD,” said Cynthia Brumfield, president of consulting firm Emerging Media Dynamics.
Blockbuster cautioned against reading too much into its decision.
“While it is still too early to say which high-definition format will become the industry standard, we will continue to closely monitor customer rental patterns both at our stores and online, so we can adjust our inventory mix accordingly and ensure that Blockbuster is offering customers the most convenient access to the movies they want, in the format they want,” said Matthew Smith, senior VP of merchandising for Blockbuster.
But according to an article in Video Business, there are now 1.5 million homes with Blu-ray players (including stand-alone players and PlayStation 3 units), compared with only 300,000 HD-DVD-equipped homes (including stand-alones and Xbox 360 player add-ons)—giving Blu-ray a 5-to-1 advantage.
Retailers are frustrated by the format battle because consumers are reluctant to embrace either format until a victor is declared. Stocking both titles takes up extra inventory space, and there are numerous anecdotal reports of consumer confusion about the rival products.
Blockbuster’s decision raised the possibility that retailers could push the format war to an early conclusion by devoting their shelf space to Sony.
Some users on AVS Forum, a Web chat room focused on hi-def, report finding their local Best Buy or Circuit City stocked with more Blu-ray titles than HD-DVD. Ms. Brumfield said big-box retailers have a little more leeway to continue stocking both formats.
“Big stores can afford to test the waters by stocking both kinds of discs,” Ms. Brumfield said.
A spokesman for Blockbuster’s online competitor, Netflix, acknowledged the battle tends to frustrate consumers, but said the service will continue to carry both formats.
“We like to give our members choice and not make their decisions for them,” said Netflix’s Steve Swasey. “We’re agnostic.”
As for Blockbuster’s claim that 70 percent of its next-generation rentals were from the Sony camp, Mr. Swasey said Netflix’s rental pattern is much more balanced.
“We’re seeing equal traction with both formats,” he said.
Blockbuster Verdict Could End Format War
Jun 21, 2007 • Post A Comment
Is it over?