Well, there goes the high-definition format war. Warner Bros., which lays claim to the biggest film library of them all, has announced that it is dropping support for HD DVD and will support Blu-ray exclusively come May 2008. The news comes a day after I convinced fellow blogger Josh Horowitz to lay down cash for a Toshiba HD DVD player, and a month after I purchased my own unit (the saving grace is it was pretty cheap and it's still good for upconverting regular DVDs).
The decision more or less dooms the HD DVD format which was launched in 2005 by Toshiba and Microsoft (who back it through their Xbox 360 console), and which now counts Paramount, DreamWorks and Universal as its only exclusive supporters (and since Universal isn't under a contract, it has the ability to switch to Blu-ray should it wish to). Blu-ray, on the other hand, will have Sony (who created it), Fox, Disney, WB, New Line, Lionsgate and MGM. The news will hopefully mean a price drop for Blu-ray players which have traditionally been more expensive than their HD DVD brethren. Read Warner and Toshiba's respective press releases after the jump.
OFFICIAL WARNER BROS. PRESS RELEASE:
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."
OFFICIAL TOSHIBA RESPONSE:
Toshiba is quite surprised by Warner Bros.' decision to abandon HD DVD in favor of Blu-ray, despite the fact that there are various contracts in place between our companies concerning the support of HD DVD. As central members of the DVD Forum, we have long maintained a close partnership with Warner Bros. We worked closely together to help standardize the first-generation DVD format as well as to define and shape HD DVD as its next-generation successor.
We were particularly disappointed that this decision was made in spite of the significant momentum HD DVD has gained in the US market as well as
other regions in 2007. HD DVD players and PCs have outsold Blu-ray in the US market in 2007.
We will assess the potential impact of this announcement with the other HD DVD partner companies and evaluate potential next steps. We remain firm
in our belief that HD DVD is the format best suited to the wants and needs of the consumer.