Last week I wrote about HD DVD and characterizing it as "The Little Engine That Could." Many of my colleagues believe that this is wishing thinking on my part. They believe -- and probably rightly so -- that Blu-ray Disc will eventually succeed over HD DVD. It doesn't matter that picture quality (in my estimation) is better than Blu-ray because as well all know, it's not a deciding factor. In the last format war between VHS and Betamax, Beta had a superior picture quality over VHS. Beta didn't succeed for several factors including the backing of RCA, who at the time owned more than a 25-percent share of the entire CE market.
Today, there are different factors at play. First and foremost, 7 out of 8 movie studios are backing Blu-ray. While it's true that Warner Bros. and Paramount produce discs in both formats and Universal backs only HD DVD, the rest of the movie business is behind Blu-ray. This includes Disney, Fox, MGM and Sony Pictures (Columbia/TriStar). This is formable.
Some interesting stats were released this week. According to Home Media Research (a division of Home Media Magazine), Blu-ray high-definition movie discs outsold films on the rival HD-DVD format by 2-to-1 in the United States in the first half of 2007. Home Media stated that total sales of Blu-ray discs totaled 1.6 million units from Jan. 1 through July 1, compared with 795,000 HD-DVD discs sold in that period. Reportedly, an estimated 3.7 million high-definition discs have been sold to date, including 2.2 million in Blu-ray and 1.5 million in HD-DVD through the end of July, according to Home Media. On the other hand, according to NPD Group, HD DVD set-tops dominated the market in the second quarter, with a 61% market share, compared to 36% for Blu-ray.
Even though entry-level Toshiba HD DVD players are priced at $299, entry-level Blu-ray players are not less than $499. On top of that, sales of Sony's PS3 (while lackluster in terms of game console systems at 1.6+ million units) do further the inroads of BD as each PS3 includes an integrated Blu-ray player.
A few weeks ago, I tried unsuccessfully to obtain a breakdown of high-definition disc sales from Warner Bros, who announced spectacular disc sales for films like "300" and "The Departed." However, based on the number provided by Home Media Research, it would seem that the tide might be shifting towards BD. According to Steve Nickerson, senior vice president, market management at Warner Home Video, reported sales of about 190,000 Blu-ray units of the film, versus 97,000 in HD-DVD since July 31.
Another problem for HD DVD occurred in June 2007. Blockbuster Inc, the largest U.S. provider of home movie entertainment, announced that it plans to line its shelves with Blu-ray DVDs in lieu of HD DVD saying Blu-ray rentals were "significantly outpacing" HD-DVD rentals. While it will continue to stock HD DVD titles at a handful of stores, the majority of Blockbuster outlets will only carry Blu-ray titles.
While there's still a shortage of Sony and Panasonic Blu-ray players at retail, it's expected that the companies will have product on retailers' shelves by the beginning of the 4th quarter. And, from recent discussions with other manufacturers like Sharp/a> and others, we can expect to see more BD player introductions at the upcoming C.E.D.I.A. Show next month. So, this critical 4th quarter will tell if HD DVD is "The Little Engine That Could," or the next technology exhibit at the Smithsonian.