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HD DVD Ahead Slightly in HD Race in Europe

3 Jan, 2007 By: Erik Gruenwedel

An IPSOS survey in France, Germany and the United Kingdom conducted for the HD DVD Promotion Group from August to September last year found that 65% of respondents were familiar with next-generation high-definition format HD DVD, compared to 35% for rival format Blu-ray Disc.

The Blu-ray Disc Association has not conducted a European survey, but similar surveys carried out for the Blu-ray Disc Association in the United States and Japan indicated equal, if not superior, preferences for Blu-ray compared to HD DVD.

According to Screen Digest, a future Blu-ray survey in Europe likely will focus on the format's noted interactive features and menu, which apparently factored highly among Japanese respondents.

The IPSOS survey found that from 56% to 61% of respondents would likely purchase HD DVD, compared to 32% to 36% who would purchase Blu-ray when told the names of the studios and consumer electronics manufacturers supporting each format.

The study also found that from 26% to 28% of French respondents would purchase Sony's PlayStation 3 game system specifically for the Blu-ray drive, compared to less than 20% in Germany and the United Kingdom. Among likely buyers (early adopters), however, interest between the two formats was nearly equal, with 54% favoring HD DVD, compared to 51% for Blu-ray.

Compared to launches in the United States and Japan, high-def video in Europe has been lagging due to universal issues involving confusion between the formats. This has stalled hardware and software launches to March 2007 (at the earliest) and even Christmas 2007, according to the report.

With the delayed launch of Sony's PlayStation 3 until March 2007 came a major setback to Blu-ray backers who saw the game console as integral to the format's adoption in Europe.

The end of 2006 found just one Blu-ray player available in key European markets, with eight titles released initially and another 41 bowed by the end of the year.

With two HD DVD players on the market and more than 50 titles, the HD DVD format has jumped to an early lead in what has been essentially a non-starter for both formats.Blu-ray proponents, however, contend their format will carry the day due to the clear advantage in both studio and consumer-electronics-manufacturing support.

Screen Digest reported that the high-def format likely will be driven by new releases — not catalog — a factor it believes could propel Blu-ray due to the “heavyweight” support by Buena Vista Home Entertainment, Lionsgate, Paramount Home Entertainment, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment and Warner Home Video.

The report likened the comparatively slow consumer adoption of next-generation packaged media in Europe to the original launch of DVD, which boasted just 200,000 DVD players sold by 1998. That figure jumped to 1.5 million units in 1999.

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