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Target to Solely Carry Blu-ray Players

26 Jul, 2007 By: Thomas K. Arnold

Target will only carry Sony's Blu-ray player, shunning HD DVD players.

In another retail victory for the Blu-ray Disc format, Target Stores said it will carry Sony's $499 Blu-ray Disc player as its exclusive high-definition home video system during the critical holiday selling season and expand its inventory of Blu-ray Disc software.

The Sony BDP-S300 will arrive in Target stores in October as part of a holiday season endcap that also will feature an expanded inventory of Blu-ray Disc movies from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment and Warner Home Video.

David Bishop, president of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and an ardent Blu-ray Disc supporter, said the move delivers another blow to rival next-generation format HD DVD. About a month ago Blockbuster Inc. announced it will carry only Blu-ray Disc software in 1,700 of its company-owned rental stores.

“I think what you're seeing is that retailers are deciding,” Bishop said. “This is the beginning of a trend. Retailers are very impatient now. It's not like DVD sales are in rapid growth mode the way they were three or four years ago. They are flat or in a state of decline, and retailers can no longer wait for us to figure this out."

Target for now does not sell any high-definition disc players in its stores, although a Toshiba HD DVD player is for sale on the Target Web site for $299. Target does carry HD DVD software in its home video sections alongside Blu-ray Disc titles.

In the race for a packaged-media successor to DVD, there is no clear winner. The studios are divided, with Sony, Disney, 20th Century Fox and Lionsgate exclusively releasing films on Blu-ray Disc, Warner and Paramount releasing titles on both next-generation formats, and Universal sticking solely with HD DVD.

Bishop is hoping the Target move will give the format even more of an edge than it already enjoys. Having Blu-ray Disc titles on the endcaps along with the players gives the format a significantly higher software presence at Target than HD DVD, and “will clearly communicate to the consumer” that Blu-ray is the format to buy.

“We think this is a big step in clarifying the decision to the consumer,” Bishop said.

Ken Graffeo, EVP of HD DVD for Universal Studios Home Entertainment, downplays the significance of the Target move.

“All they are announcing is they are merchandising an endcap with Blu-ray, which is normal merchandising at any retailer,” he said. “Just like HD DVD has a dedicated endcap at Best Buy, and a dedicated endcap at Circuit City, and dedicated space and fixturing at Wal-mart.

“Target is not making any statement about the format. They are merely providing an endcap, with a cost associated with it. The question I ask is, knowing that HD DVD is the most affordable high-definition format, it will be very interesting to see how the Sony player will appeal to Target guests.”

Target spokesman Brie Heath said: Target is “simply merchandising Blu-ray hardware as the initial foray into this exciting category. As with all our merchandise, we will track guest feedback and adjust as necessary.

“We are not proclaiming one format versus the other as the preferred consumer technology,” she added. “Software will continue to be available to our guests in both the Blu-ray and the HD DVD formats. Target is committed to providing our guests with exceptional technology solutions. Blu-ray is one of many solutions that our guests will find at Target.”

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