Why Warner Bros. Swapping HD DVDs for Blu-ray Discs Won’t Work

HD-DVD vs. Blu-rayWarner Brothers had come up with a slick promotion to get some much needed buzz around Blu-ray. My consensus: great idea but flawed execution. Here’s how it works (and why it won’t work):

You send in the cover art sleeve (keep the disc) and the UPC from your HD DVD movies. And for $4.95 per movie, plus $6.95 S&H per order, you’ll be sent back brand new Blu-ray copies of any movies you have in HD DVD. There are a few restrictions (only 1 copy per movie and only up to 25 movies per household) but nothing really that prohibitive.

At first glace, it seems like a decent offer, especially for someone like me who bought an HD DVD player with 10 movies included for under $200. But why is Warner Brothers trying to make anything off of this? At best, they should be giving away these movies under these circumstances (to owners of the HD DVD versions) and, at worst, they should sell them at cost (which is likely quite a bit less than $5 per disc). Here’s why:

I’ve been interested in Blu-ray for sometime now. And I have blogged about my HD DVD decision mistake quite a bit along with my interest in eventually switching to Blu-ray. That is, if the format wars of online movie distribution don’t get resolved first. So any incentive to do this (like this one from Warner Bros.) gets me interested.

But I would go out and buy (or order via Amazon) a Blu-ray player right now — on the spot — if this offer were closer to pocket change. As it is, it’s still a significant cost to switch to Blu-ray (albeit at a lower cost than yesterday) with this extra $60 needed.

And me, combined with the much larger volume of switchers if this were free, being a Blu-ray customer for the next who knows how many years, with a Blu-ray Netflix account, is worth more to Warner Bros. than the short term $60. Actually, they’d get much less than $60, since only some of my movies are Warner Bros. which ties into the other reason this won’t work well.

Part 2 of the failed execution is not making this a much bigger deal by joining forces with Paramount and Universal and having them offer the same thing. If these companies really want Blu-ray to take off, these are the kinds of promotions they’re gonna have to start doing together.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still thinking about making the switch. But it’s not the impulsive, easy decision it should be (for me, and anyone else who made the bad HD DVD discretionary purchase and is not thinking of discretionary spending in a bad economy) for this to really help Warner Bros. in the long run.

My barometer for Blu-ray player pricing (the Amazon Blu-ray store) tells me that most players can’t get under the $200 price mark with the cheapest at $159. All this despite Engadget predicting earlier this year that the market would be flooded with $150-or-less players.

And even if I pay less than $150, that doesn’t mean I’m willing to give up the two most important features which are absent in my current crappy HD DVD player (but were present in my older regular DVD player — hate it when moving forward in one way is moving backward in two other ways): it needs to boot up fast and remembers where I left off in a movie (if I turn it off and then turn it back on).

So, nice try, Warner Bros. You got me thinking. But you need me to be decisive.