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Blu-ray Wins Q1

22 Apr, 2007 By: Thomas K. Arnold

Of the high-definition discs consumers bought in the first quarter of this year, 70% were Blu-ray Discs and just 30% were HD DVDs, according to sales figures provided by Home Media Magazine's market research department.

Blu-ray took the lead in February, and its percentage of total sales accelerated to the point that, in March, the format accounted for nearly three out of every four high-def discs sold.

What's more, when given the choice, consumers are going with Blu-ray. Warner Home Video released The Departed the same day, Feb. 13, on both formats. Between then and March 31, consumers bought 53,640 copies of the film on Blu-ray Disc and 31,590 units on HD DVD, according to Home Media Magazine's market research, based on studio estimates and Nielsen VideoScan point-of-sale data.

Research also shows that eight of the 10 top-selling high-definition titles in the first quarter of this year were on Blu-ray Disc. At the top of the list is Sony Pictures Home Entertainment's Casino Royale, which, in the first three months ended March 31, sold through to consumers an estimated 59,680 units. The Blu-ray Disc edition of The Departed finished second, while the HD DVD version of the film placed third.

Between Jan. 1 and March 31, consumers bought nearly 1.2 million high-definition discs, 832,530 Blu-ray units and 359,300 HD DVDs, according to Home Media Magazine market research. Since inception (HD DVD launched in mid-April 2006, while Blu-ray got rolling two months later, in late June), more than 2.14 million high-definition discs have been purchased by consumers — 1.2 million Blu-ray Discs and about 937,500 HD DVDs.

In March, consumers bought 335,980 Blu-ray Discs and 119,570 HD DVDs.

“All this data points to the irrefutable facts that the consumers are voting with their dollars and adopting the revolutionary technology of the Blu-ray Disc,” said Bob Chapek, president of Buena Vista Home Entertainment. “With such beloved titles as Pirates of the Caribbean on the horizon, these numbers will only do one thing: grow.”

“Breaking the 1 million-unit mark is a significant milestone for Blu-ray because it represents rapidly growing consumer acceptance for this revolutionary platform,” added David Bishop, president of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. “I am confident that the numbers will increase, and more critical benchmarks will be reached to ensure Blu-ray's position as the leading high-definition format.”

“Practically, Blu-ray launched this past November, and in just over one business quarter has rocketed to a significant lead,” noted Mike Dunn, president of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. “Consumers are clearly choosing Blu-ray as their high-def format of choice, and telling us so at retail cash registers.”

Observers aren't surprised by the disparity, noting that Blu-ray Disc enjoys the support of five of the six major studios, while HD DVD is supported by only three of the six. Three studios — Buena Vista Home Entertainment, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment — are exclusively in the Blu-ray camp, as is mini-major Lionsgate, while Paramount Home Entertainment and Warner Home Video support both formats. Universal Studios Home Entertainment is the only major studio to release titles only in the HD DVD format, which backers claim is easier and cheaper to produce.

All three HD DVD studios wielded weak release slates in the first quarter of the year; behind The Departed, the next-biggest-selling HD DVD was Batman Begins, which had been released in October 2006. Batman Begins sold 16,980 HD DVDs in the first quarter of this year, but factoring in its initial sales, the title stands at 44,590 units, not far behind Casino Royale.

Blu-ray supporters were quick to hail the widening gap between Blu-ray and HD DVD titles.

“It's exactly what we've said all along would happen — the strong support for Blu-ray among movie studios and equipment manufacturers means that consumers have more choices when it comes to players and titles,” said Andy Parsons, chair of the Blu-ray Disc Association's U.S. Promotion Committee. “And they're choosing Blu-ray by an ever-increasing margin.”

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