Blu-ray v. HD DVD: Can You Believe This Is Still a Debate?

Blu-ray adoption is gradually killing HD DVD, or at least that’s how it appears. Retail advantages, bigger support base in Hollywood, and a slightly cheaper PlayStation 3 all suggest that the Sony-backed medium will ultimately prevail over Toshiba’s HD DVD.

“We are starting to see the pendulum swing slowly in [Blu-ray’s] direction,” says Chris Roden, analyst with Parks Associates. “Recent retail developments, support from major Hollywood studios, and inclusion of the format in the PlayStation 3 puts the Blu-ray format in the lead.”

Just today, Target announced it will exclusively sell Blu-ray players in lieu of HD DVD ones, at least through the holiday season. In June, Blockbuster said 85 percent of its stores would exclusively offer Blu-ray rentals as they significantly outpace HD DVD rentals the retailer said. HD DVD will still be offered at the other 15 percent of Blockbuster stores and by way of the company’s website.

In Hollywood, five out of the six major film studios along with several independents are supporting Blu-ray. The lone studio not backing the format is Universal, which exclusively supports HD DVD. With the exception of Sony and Disney, many studios release HD movies on both Blu-ray and HD DVD.

But even though deals are being made among the big boys, consumers don’t seem to care. According to one report, less than 10 percent of U.S. consumers are familiar with either HD DVD or Blu-ray. Some Blockbuster stores are even putting up signs saying “don’t rent this movie unless you know you have a Blu-ray compatible DVD player.” People don’t buy things when they are confused.

But what if consumers don’t know what they’re buying? That’s largely the strategy behind the inclusion of Blu-ray into the PS3, and Microsoft offering an HD DVD add-on for its Xbox 360. In an effort to expedite purchases, Sony dropped the PS3’s price to $499 earlier this month. In turn, Microsoft dropped the price of its HD DVD drive on Thursday to $179, also including five free movies with proof of purchase. You do what you can for a shot at the estimated 175 million console gamers.

Despite Blu-ray’s recent in-roads, however, web video, digital distribution and general consumer apathy will likely prolong the Blu-ray vs HD DVD battle. It’s obvious things are a little more complicated than the good ‘ole Betamax vs. VHS days.

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