Monday, January 07, 2008

Warner Drops HD DVD for Blu-ray Exclusivity

Warner announced at CES that they would be dropping HD DVD support later this year, and going Blu-ray exclusive. Earlier, I wrote a post on the High-Def format war, and explained why I was siding with HD DVD. Warner's announcement instantly cascaded through the entertainment industry. Toshiba canceled their CES presentation, and the sky fell. It's still largely uncertain what their reaction will be when the dust settles. Back in 2006, Sony took a risky step and included Blu-ray with their Playstation 3 gaming console. It cost them lots of money and market-share in the video game business, but it turns out to be paying off for them in the retail movie business, and that success is giving their console sales a boost.  

My predictions:
 In six months Blu-ray will have 70% studio support, leaving the rest to HD DVD. In another year, Paramount and Dreamworks will be contractually free to support Blu-ray, and if they do so exclusively Universal will most likely be forced to release their movies on Blu-ray. It's still possible that the HD DVD camp will hold out, and that everyone will end up with dual-format players in the future in order to play the two kinds of discs. I would place this likelihood at about 15%. The most likely scenario is that by 2010, at least 95% of movies released in High-Def in most of the world will be Blu-ray (whether or not they also support HD DVD), and consumers will only need one kind of player (except for China).  

So, how does this affect me?
I'm going to go dual-format, eventually. I already have an HD DVD player, and I don't regret that purchase (the free movies included would have paid for the player at $20 each). HD DVD exclusive titles will continue to come out for two more years at the very least (from Universal, if not Paramount & Dreamworks), and I will be able to play them. HD DVD (and dual-format) players will continue to be sold. I am in no danger of being stuck with movies that I can't play. (Failed formats rarely die completely. I have an uncle with a rather large collection of LaserDiscs.) Upon hearing the news and its fallout, I came to the conclusion that I will buy a Blu-ray player at some point this year. I will wait for a reasonably-priced Profile 1.1 (or 2.0) player. There were some interesting candidates unveiled at CES. I no longer have any qualms about buying Blu-ray movies when they're worth it (and when I don't mind waiting to watch them), since I will be able to play them soon. I will probably not be buying the DVD version of any newly released movie, since it will come out in High-Def. I just signed up for Netflix, which will give me access to DVDs of movies released on Blu-ray that I don't feel like waiting for. This should also tend to decrease my movie purchases overall. I actually had three Blu-ray movies already, sitting behind my HD DVDs: there was a buy-two-get-the-third-free mail-in offer through Sony, and a buy-one-get-one-free deal at, so I the two movies and sent in the proofs-of-purchase figuring that I could sell the movies if I ended up not getting a player. $20 for Fifth Element, Patriot, and Open Season on Blu-ray was a good deal. I picked up the first four Harry Potter movies for $40 at (they were having a buy-one-get-one-free sale), and sold the DVDs on for a combined $25. Where movies are available in both HD DVD and Blu-ray, I am likely to go for the best deal, taking into account what's valuable to me (taking price into account):
  • HD DVD Combo discs are valuable because I can lend them out, bring them to other people's houses, and rip them to my hard drive (but Netflix mitigates this last point slightly)
  • Blu-ray is valuable because the format will almost certainly be with us for a long time
  • HD DVD is valuable to me for the same reasons I originally wished to support it: it is also by far the easier format to rip once I have a drive (but again, Netflix).
I have no problem whatsoever ripping movies that I own to my hard drive. Currently, I'm up to 'P'.


  1. I see you are feeling Blu about the news also, although your writing sounds a little less perturbed than mine, haha.

    Are you still going to consider the PS3 as an option or are you definitely going with a standalone? I think unless I find a player at least half the price of a PS3, I might as well get a PS3. Although I don't even know what I'd play on the PS3 right now. Either way, I'll probably hold out until the end of the year.

  2. That's a good question. I know the PS3 is a perfectly viable option: it just got upgraded to Profile 1.1, and will almost certainly be upgraded to 2.0 once they finally figure out what that is going to entail.

    The problem is that I don't really have that much interest in the gaming capabilities of the PS3. So far, the only game that catches my attention is Heavenly Sword, and I hardly have time to play my Wii, let alone another system. Plus, the games aren't cheap.

    There is the attractive option to boot Linux on it, though, which has not escaped my notice. It would certainly be a faster way to finish ripping my movies. I've been at it since November, but I'm probably going to be done by then.

    I expect, though, that by mid-2008, when Warner officially makes its switch, and the market is theoretically going mainstream, that the players will dip down to the $200 range, which is much more reasonable than $400.

    $400 is just too much to enter the market. If the other Profile 1.1 players stay in the $350 range, then I might just spring for the PS3.

  3. Do you listen to CNET's Buzz Out Loud?

  4. Nope. My info on this subject tends to come from Ars Technica and

    Is that a good podcast?

  5. Actually their is a clause in Paramount's comtract that will allow them to go to Blu-Ray now if they want. They deny that they will do this however.

  6. When I wrote this post, Paramount had not yet made any statement, and they were assumed to be contractually still on board with HD DVD until at least 2009.

    No one in the news has actually seen the language of the contract. The article you linked to says that, "Paramount, which is owned by Viacom, is understood to have a clause in its contract with the HD DVD camp that would allow it to switch sides in the event of Warner Bros backing Blu-ray, according to people familiar with the situation."

    I don't doubt that such a clause exists, but it may be trickier than the speculation implies for them to simply drop HD DVD.

    In any case, it doesn't alter my behavior.

  7. Buzz Out Loud is a fantastic podcast, in my opinion. Fun to listen to, even when I don't understand some of the more technical things. I think it would be right up your alley.