End of format war in sight as Best Buy backs Blu-ray

By Matthew Henry

SYDNEY: In a move which will significantly bolster Blu-ray’s growing lead in the high definition disc format war, the USA’s largest consumer electronics retailer, Best Buy, has announced it will recommend its customers buy Blu-ray players over HD DVD.

While not yet committing to stock Blu-ray hardware exclusively, the retailer, which operates over 1,200 stores, said it will recommend the Sony-backed format over Toshiba’s HD DVD.

Best Buy president and chief operating officer, Brian Dunn, said customer feedback suggested the retailer needed to take a role in leading the market towards a single format to end confusion, which is stifling sales.

“We believe that Blu-ray is fast emerging as that single format, we have decided to focus on Blu-ray products,” said Dunn.

“Our decision to shine a spotlight on Blu-ray Disc players and other Blu-ray products is a strong signal to our customers that we believe Blu-ray is the right format choice for them,” he said.

Best Buy’s Blu-ray endorsement follows hot on the heels of online movie rental chain Netflix’s announcement overnight that it will also recommend or stock only Blu-ray titles from now on.

Netflix, the world’s largest online movie rental service, has been stocking both HD DVD and Blu-ray since early 2006, but said its decision was based largely on Warner Bros recent decision to release its titles exclusively on Blu-ray Disc.

The move tipped the balance in Blu-ray’s favour with four out of six major studios now Blu-ray-only.

"The prolonged period of competition between two formats has prevented clear communication to the consumer regarding the richness of the high-def experience versus standard definition," said Netflix chief content officer, Ted Sarandos.

"We’re now at the point where the industry can pursue the migration to a single format, bring clarity to the consumer and accelerate the adoption of high-def.”

Netflix predicted that all studios will publish in the Blu-ray format and that the price points of high-def DVD players will come down significantly.

A quick end to the format war would also help DVD rental chains fight off potential upstarts in HD movie download services.

“These factors could well lead to another decade of disc-based movie watching as the consumer’s preferred means,” commented Sarandos.

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