Warner Bros. Entertainment said Friday it will release movie discs only in the Blu-ray format, becoming the latest studio to reject the...
LOS ANGELES — Warner Bros. Entertainment said Friday it will release movie discs only in the Blu-ray format, becoming the latest studio to reject the rival HD DVD technology and further complicating the high-definition landscape for consumers.
Warner Bros. was the only remaining studio releasing high-definition DVDs in both formats.
It is the fifth studio to back Blu-ray, developed by Sony. Only two support the HD DVD format, developed by Toshiba.
Both formats deliver crisp, clear high-definition pictures and sound. But they are incompatible with each other, and neither plays on older DVD players, which means consumers seeking top-quality playback face a dilemma.
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Warner said it decided to go with Blu-ray because consumers have shown a stronger preference for that format than HD DVD.
“The window of opportunity for high-definition DVD could be missed if format confusion continues to linger,” Warner Bros. chairman and Chief Executive Barry Meyer said in a statement.
The company said sales of Blu-ray discs in the U.S. generated $169 million last year, while sales of discs in the HD DVD format totaled $103 million.
About 60 percent of Warner Bros.’ sales of U.S. high-definition discs were Blu-ray titles and the other 40 percent were HD DVD, said Kevin Tsujihara, president of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group.
Outside the U.S., the divide was far wider, with Warner’s Blu-ray discs outselling titles in HD DVD in Britain and Japan, among other markets, Tsujihara said.
Sales of set-top high-definition disc players in the fourth quarter of 2007 also factored into the company’s decision.
The company saw an acceleration in sales of Blu-ray players at the end of the quarter, particularly in December, Tsujihara said.
“We always viewed set-tops as the most significant indicator” of consumers’ format preference, he said.
There are some differences between the formats. Blu-ray discs can hold more data — 50 gigabytes compared with HD DVD’s 30 GB — but the technology’s new manufacturing techniques boosted initial costs.
HD DVDs, on the other hand, are essentially DVDs on steroids, meaning movie studios can turn to existing assembly lines to produce them in mass.
Warner Home Video will continue to release new titles in HD DVD until the end of May.
Pali Capital analyst Rich Greenfield said in a Web posting Friday that he expects the HD DVD format to “die a quick death, versus a prolonged format war.”
“While we still expect overall consumer spending on DVDs to decline at least 3 percent in 2008, the risk of an even worse 2008 DVD environment has most likely been avoided by Warner’s early 2008 decision,” Greenfield wrote.
The North American HD DVD Promotional Group, a trade association that promotes the HD DVD format, did not have an immediate comment Friday.
Calls to representatives for Toshiba, Sony and the Blu-ray Disc Association were not immediately returned.
Blu-ray got a big boost in June when Blockbuster announced it would stock only Blu-ray titles as it expands its high-definition offerings.
Target stores decided in July to sell only Blu-ray DVD players.
Among the other major studios that have decided to go with Blu-ray: Walt Disney, Sony Pictures, 20th Century Fox and MGM.
Paramount Pictures, which also owns DreamWorks, dropped its support for Blu-ray and said it would start distributing films exclusively in the HD DVD format.
Universal Pictures also releases films only in HD DVD.