Updated below: Online movie renter Netflix (NSDQ: NFLX) is switching over to Blu-ray exclusively, following four major movie studios in selecting the Sony (NYSE: SNE) technology over the HD DVD format marketed by Toshiba. Netflix has stocked both formats since they became available in 2006. “From the Netflix perspective, focusing on one format will enable us to create the best experience for subscribers,” said Ted Sarandos, chief content officer for Netflix, in a statement.
Not many Netflix customers currently order high-def DVDs in either format. Of those who have ordered those discs, most have tended to go for the Blu-ray versions. One of the main reasons consumers have tended to avoid adoption of hi-def DVDs has been the high price, but also the lack of a clear standard. With the scales tipping more heavily toward Blu-ray, more movie buyers and renters are expected to feel more comfortable with the technology — especially if that means that prices will come down on players and discs. (Prices already have dropped dramatically for HD DVD players.) Netflix will phase out the use of HD DVD by the end of the year. As part of the transition to Blu-ray, Netflix will not acquire any new HD DVDs, though renters will still have access to existing titles in that format for the next few months.
The stalemate between Toshiba’s HD DVD, which still has Paramount Pictures, DreamWorks and Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) in its corner, and Sony Electronic’s Blu-ray, which enjoys backing from Sony Pictures Entertainment, Disney (NYSE: DIS), 20th Century Fox and Lionsgate, was broken early last month when Warner Brothers Entertainment decided to select only Blu-ray for its hi-def home video releases. Universal is still hedging its bets. A few days after WB announced its choice, Universal ended its exclusive relationship with Toshiba, opting to make its movies available for both players. Release
Updated: Best Buy, the second biggest DVD retailer after Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT), is also choosing Blu-Ray. Beginning next month, it will showcase Blu-ray hardware and software products in its retail and online channels in the U.S., but it will continue to sell HD DVD products. Meanwhile, Wal-Mart says it is still undecided on choosing a side.