Blockbuster to favour Blu-ray over HD-DVD
By Stevie Smith Jun 18, 2007, 13:22 GMT
American retail behemoth Wal-mart will apparently be favouring the Toshiba-backed HD-DVD format in the ongoing high-definition war, looking to its cheaper hardware price point as a way to loosen those notoriously tight consumer purse strings. However, following on from the shock news that Toshiba has hacked some 44 percent from its US-based HD-DVD player and recorder sales expectations for 2007, leading movie rental giant Blockbuster has this week announced that 1,450 of its national stores will be strictly Blu-ray only.
While neither the Toshiba-backed HD-DVD or the Sony-promoted Blu-ray format can truly lay claim to landing a convincing knockout blow against its market opponent, the past week hasn’t exactly been favourable for Toshiba, and news of Blockbuster’s predominant Blu-ray allegiance isn’t likely to soften the blow suffered by a 2007 sales forecast lowered from 1.8 million units down to 1.0 million.
Blockbuster’s official reasoning for the move comes on the back of consumers with access to both Blu-ray and HD-DVD movie discs throughout some 250 of the company’s nationwide stores opting for Sony’s format over Toshiba’s. The hugely popular rental chain also revealed that limited title choice attributed to HD-DVD also played a sizable part in its HD customers being drawn towards Blu-ray.
"The consumers are sending us a message. I can’t ignore what I’m seeing," commented Matthew Smith, senior vice president of merchandising at Blockbusters, in a related report from the Associated Press news agency. "We intend to meet the demands of our customers and based on the trends we are seeing, we're expanding our Blu-ray inventory to ensure our stores reflect the right level of products."
While he also focused on the strength evidenced by the majority of major movie studios offering their products on Blu-ray and not HD-DVD – with only Universal consistently supplying its films on Toshiba’s format – the HD-DVD Promotional Group subsequently accused Blockbuster of being short-sighted in its decision, intonating that recent Blu-ray rental successes garnered by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s Spider-Man 3 and Casino Royale were barely a clear indicator of what consumers wanted in the long term.
"I think trying to make a format decision using such a short time period is really not measuring what the consumer is saying," said Ken Graffeo, the promotional group’s co-president."
But it’s worth noting that Mr. Smith hasn’t entirely closed the door on HD-DVD. The HD-DVD disc format will still be available via Blockbuster, though that availability with be limited, amounting to the official online portal and around 250 of its stores – less than a quarter of those stocking Blu-ray.
"While it is still too early to say which high-definition format will become the industry standard, we will continue to closely monitor customer rental patterns both at our stores and online, so we can adjust our inventory mix accordingly and ensure that Blockbuster is offering customers the most convenient access to the movies they want, in the format they want," he added.