Breaking: Blu-ray Gets Warner Bros. Movies Exclusively, HD DVD Left Relying on Low Price

Blu-rayAccording to Warner CEO Barry Meyer, this move is a “strategic decision focused on the long term and the most direct way to give consumers what they want,” and he also mentions that “the window of opportunity for high-definition DVD could be missed if format confusion continues to linger.” Warner movies will be released on both next generation formats (HD DVD and Blu-ray) until May 2008, but the studio will then go exclusively with Blu-ray.

This announcement had been rumored for some time, so its not a huge surprise. But it is a bit of a reality check for the HD DVD camp (including myself) now that Blu-ray has six of the eight major US studios—Warner, Fox, Disney, Lion’s Gate, MGM, and Sony; only Paramount and Universal are left backing HD DVD.

And Warner Bros. press release wasn’t too bad with only one major falsehood: “Consumers have clearly chosen Blu-ray.” No, consumers have clearly chosen the plain ol’ DVD and have decided to wait out the format war. They may, however, now choose Blu-ray, though the war is still not over. HD DVD is trying to promote some unique features all while having a price significantly lower than Blu-ray. As a quick recap, the lowest price I’ve found for a Blu-ray player is $279 compared to HD DVD’s $174 (that deal came with 10 free movies and was good enough to make me choose a team; and let’s not forget the earlier $99 Wal-Mart deal).

But of course there are more factors than just movie selection and price. The HD DVD format is still more pro-consumer (unlike Blu-ray, HD DVD does not have any region codes/restrictions, allowing you to purchase and play the same HD DVD movies anywhere around the world). And speaking of movie selection, you can get a lot of movies that are “Blu-ray Only” in the U.S. from European online retailers in the HD DVD format. But that little nugget of information is probably useless to the average consumer.

The dominant facts remain: Blu-ray has the superior selection in the U.S. and HD DVD has the superior price. So the next battle of the format wars is likely to revolve around these two criteria. Which is more important to the consumer? We’ll see.

Press Release:

(January 4, 2008 – Burbank, CA) – In response to consumer demand, Warner Bros. Entertainment will release its high-definition DVD titles exclusively in the Blu-ray disc format beginning later this year, it was announced today by Barry Meyer, Chairman & CEO, Warner Bros. and Kevin Tsujihara, President, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group.

“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,” said Meyer. “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.”

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 Officer, Time Warner Inc., the parent company of Warner Bros. Entertainment. “Today’s decision by Warner Bros. to distribute in a single format comes at the right time and is the best decision both for consumers and Time Warner.”

“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,” said Tsujihara. “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.”