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An Open Letter to Toshiba, Paramount, and Universal

Jan 28th, 2008
It’s time

You fought the good fight, but the time has come.  The interests of the consumer and the motion picture industry will be better served by conceding and declaring Blu-ray Disc the winner of the format war.  It’s time to desist and cease all hostilities.

The Warner announcement is having a dramatic effect on the market.  HD DVD owners are abandoning their players in numbers disproportionate to the populations of the installed bases for the two formats.  As of January 26th, HD DVD players outnumber Blu-ray Disc players on eBay by 4.4:1. And immediately after the Warner announcement was made, weekly retail HD DVD player sales dropped 88% from 14,558 units to 1,758 units, despite very substantial price cuts.

Many HD DVD player owners also seem hesitant to invest more cash in what they perceive as a failing format. Nielsen VideoScan numbers for the week ending January 20th show that 85% of HD disc sales were Blu-ray Discs and only 15% were HD DVDs.  Things didn't improve the following week; for the week ending January 27th, 83% of HD disc sales were Blu-ray Discs and only 17% were HD DVDs.  And for two weeks running, ten out of ten best selling high definition discs were on Blu-ray. 

In a Home Media Magazine survey, the publication asked, “Will Warner siding with Blu-ray make you convert to high-definition faster?” As of the morning of January 26th:

32.4% answered “Yes”
5.1% answered “No”
43.9% responded to “I have already converted to Blu-ray”
9.9% responded to “I converted to HD DVD and will stick it out”
8.6% responded to “I had converted to HD DVD, but will convert to Blu-ray”

85% of respondents have or will be embracing Blu-ray Disc as their HD disc format of choice, leaving 10% in a state of limbo and 5% biding their time.  That consumers have made their choice would seem to be an understatement.

Toshiba has slashed player prices to provoke sales, and I can fully understand the company’s need to clear existing inventory before the possibility of changing its stance.  And I appreciate the loyalty of the HD DVD-exclusive studios as they express their continued support.  But this war has gone on long enough.

Mainstream consumers need an end to the uncertainty so they, too, can begin to enjoy the wonders of high definition video and audio with no fear of making a misguided investment.  Pacific Media Associates assessed the HD-ready display market and concluded that in 2008 prices will drop by nearly 16% and the installed base will grow by 40% to 113 million displays.  Those buyers deserve a clear and unambiguous choice of high definition disc format.  And the motion picture industry, for years dependent on the profit center of disc sales, need to sell their back catalogs – perhaps for the last time – to consumers who wish to experience films the way their directors intended.

Ladies and gentlemen, lay down your swords.