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Warner is Blu!

Jan 4th, 2008
Format Agnosticism is Over

We reported a while ago that insiders were claiming that Warner Home Video was going to declare exclusively for Blu-ray Disc. We also reported that Warner denied the legitimacy of those rumors. Well, apparently the leak was true.

In a statement by Warner Bros. Chairman and CEO Barry Meyer and Warner Home Video President Kevin Tsujihara, "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. 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."

Time Warner Inc. President and Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bewkes added, "Warner Bros. has produced in both high-definition formats in an effort to provide consumer choice, foster mainstream adoption and drive down hardware prices. 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."

Tsujihara continued, "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. 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."

Warner explained that it would continue to release content on HD DVD until the end of May, but the release of any HD DVD versions will lag DVD and Blu-ray Disc releases.

This is a huge development that easily surpasses Paramount and DreamWorks’ decision to accept a financial incentive to go HD DVD-exclusive for eighteen months. Warner has a vast library and accounts for nearly twenty percent of DVD sales in the States. But with standard definition DVD on the decline – sales dropped nearly five percent in 2007 – the resolution of the format war is critical to the studios’ ability to sell their catalogs to us all over again. Prolonging the format war puts at risk studios’ cash flow.

I can’t vouch for what ultimately motivated Warner's choice, but I suspect the greater sales of its BD releases compared to its HD DVD releases likely had something to do with it rather than a perception that BD was the superior looking format. Frankly, I don't care as long as quality prevails. Now, if only Warner would switch over to the AVC video CODEC, we’d be treated to the best of the best.