RIP HD DVD: 2005-2007

Is the high definition format war finally over? Some news from Warner Bros means a good day for Blu-ray, and probably curtains for HD DVD...

A HD DVD player

A late announcement at the back end of Friday UK time has pretty much signed, sealed and delivered the next generation format war. Warner Bros, the last of the format neutral studios, has confirmed that it’s moving to Blu-ray exclusivity by the end of 2008, leaving just Universal and Paramount producing titles for HD DVD. Given that Paramount only went HD DVD exclusive themselves reportedly thanks to some hefty dollars being primed under their nose, this is pretty much game, set and match for the next generation format war.

While the studio will release HD DVD titles in the near future, by the back end of the year – and by the time The Dark Knight rolls around – it will be a Blu-ray only studio. Faced with the might of Fox, Disney and Sony (and its MGM subsidiary) in the opposing corner, as well as Warner (the most successful seller of HD discs to date), it’s a fight that HD DVD can no longer win, unless one of those studios is lured over. And that’s not going to happen.

Expect Paramount to go Blu-ray again when their rumoured exclusivity deal lapses, and expect Universal to follow suit last of all.

A sad day, this. Blu-ray, replete with draconian region coding, was our least favoured format. But heavy chequebooks and the fact that Blu-ray discs have been outselling HD DVD for some time meant the writing was on the wall.

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Here’s the full news release from Warner:

Warner Bros. Entertainment to Release its High-Definition DVD Titles Exclusively in the Blu-Ray Disc Format Beginning Later This Year

January 04, 2008

In response to consumer demand, Warner Bros. Entertainment will release its high-definition DVD titles exclusively in the Blu-ray disc format beginning later this year, it was announced today by Barry Meyer, Chairman & CEO, Warner Bros. and Kevin Tsujihara, President, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group.

“Warner Bros.’ move to exclusively release in the Blu-ray disc format is a strategic decision focused on the long term and the most direct way to give consumers what they want,” said Meyer. “The window of opportunity for high-definition DVD could be missed if format confusion continues to linger. We believe that exclusively distributing in Blu-ray will further the potential for mass market success and ultimately benefit retailers, producers, and most importantly, consumers.”Warner Home Video will continue to release its titles in standard DVD format and Blu-ray. After a short window following their standard DVD and Blu-ray releases, all new titles will continue to be released in HD DVD until the end of May 2008.”Warner Bros. has produced in both high-definition formats in an effort to provide consumer choice, foster mainstream adoption and drive down hardware prices,” said Jeff Bewkes, President and Chief Executive Officer, Time Warner Inc., the parent company of Warner Bros. Entertainment. “Today’s decision by Warner Bros. to distribute in a single format comes at the right time and is the best decision both for consumers and Time Warner.”

“A two-format landscape has led to consumer confusion and indifference toward high definition, which has kept the technology from reaching mass adoption and becoming the important revenue stream that it can be for the industry,” said Tsujihara. “Consumers have clearly chosen Blu-ray, and we believe that recognizing this preference is the right step in making this great home entertainment experience accessible to the widest possible audience. Warner Bros. has worked very closely with the Toshiba Corporation in promoting high definition media and we have enormous respect for their efforts. We look forward to working with them on other projects in the future.”

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