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Blu-ray Tips Scales

23 Feb, 2007 By: Stephanie Prange

Blu-ray Disc has now outsold HD DVD.

The scales tipped in favor of Blu-ray Disc the week ended Feb. 18, according to preliminary data.

Since the inception of both formats, the Sony-backed Blu-ray disc has now sold more units than its Toshiba-backed HD DVD competitor, according to Nielsen VideoScan First Alert data.

Buoyed by a rush of titles this year, Blu-ray has racked up a slight lead in unit sales — 100 units to every 98.71 units of HD DVD — since the inception of both formats, according to First Alert data.

HD DVD had a headstart on Blu-ray sales because of its earlier launch. However, in late December, following the Nov. 17 launch of Sony's Blu-ray-enabled PlayStation 3, the Blu-ray Disc began to catch up in unit sales, according to Nielsen VideoScan data.

Blu-ray has the advantage of more major studio support. All of the majors, save Universal Studios Home Entertainment, support the format. Buena Vista Home Entertainment, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, Lionsgate and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment exclusively support Blu-ray.

Ken Graffeo, the executive in charge of the HD DVD effort for Universal Studios Home Entertainment, said, “Given that the life-to-date title sales ratios are close to 1:1, and given that Blu-ray has a 5:1 ratio right now on the hardware side due to the PS3, why aren't Blu-ray software sales outpacing HD DVD by a similar ratio?

“In fact, HD DVD players continue to have an attach rate (life to date) that is more than five times that of Blu-ray players.”

Graffeo added Blu-ray has simply released more titles. Indeed, industry newsletter The DVD Release Report shows that, in 2006, there were 129 Blu-ray titles released to HD DVD's 140. However, so far this year, through Feb. 16, the Blu-ray suppliers have released almost double the number of HD DVD titles. There have been 35 Blu-ray releases to 19 for HD DVD, many of which have been HD DVD/DVD combo discs.

Blu-ray backers have long listed studio support as a major advantage in the format war. At this year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, supporters predicted the format would take the lead in unit sales this year, and Buena Vista Home Entertainment president Bob Chapek announced, “Game over.”

The confidence hasn't wavered.

“We see that the consumer is voting with their dollars with a clear preference for Blu-ray,” Chapek said. “This clear, objective measure shows the writing is on the wall.”

“Seeing HD DVD in our rear-view mirror is no surprise to us,” added David Bishop, worldwide home entertainment president, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. “Blu-ray's success is something that we have predicted since we first started promoting the new format. It has always been Sony's position that there would be an inevitable migration from HD DVD to Blu-ray because of several factors, including the technical superiority of Blu-ray, the successful launch of PlayStation 3, the growing availability of BD playback machines and BD-enabled computers from the best consumer electronic brands in the world, as well as the growing number of hit titles being made available on the BD format.”

“As we noted at CES, the format war is in its final phase,” said Steven Feldstein, SVP of marketing communications at 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. “It's never been a question of if Blu-ray will pass HD DVD, but a matter of when.”

Meanwhile, an executive for Warner Home Video, which supports both Blu-ray and HD DVD, noted both formats were still in play.

“We're not in this for winning or losing,” said Steve Nickerson, SVP of market management for Warner Home Video. “Both formats are selling well on software.”

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