Few corporations have the sort of influence on the movie
industry that that Blockbuster Inc. has, and the rental juggernaut is about to
exert its influence on the high-definition format war. Blockbuster will be
taking sides with its announcement that it plans to rent only Blu-ray Disc
movies in 1,450 stores next month, according to the Associated
This news comes as a significant blow to HD DVD, which is
currently fighting against Blu-ray Disc for market dominance. Blockbuster has
been renting both high-definition formats in more than 250 stores in the U.S.
and Canada since late last year, and claims that its consumers were choosing
Blu-ray movies more than 70 percent of the time.
"The consumers are sending us a message. I can't ignore
what I'm seeing," Matthew Smith, senior vice president of merchandising at
Blockbuster, told the AP.
Blu-ray Disc has been ahead of HD DVD title sales since the
beginning of 2007, though that some attribute that not to one format being more
popular than the other, but rather more new titles have shipped for Blu-ray
Disc this year. The greater availability of titles for Blu-ray contributed to
Blockbuster’s decision to pick only one next-generation format.
"When you walk into a store and see all this product
available in Blu-ray and there is less available on HD DVD, I think the
consumer gets that," added Smith.
The North American HD DVD Promotional Group viewed
Blockbuster’s move as short-sighted and skewed by the early success that
Blu-ray enjoyed thanks to its stronger release schedule.
"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, co-president of the group.
Blockbuster said that it will continue to rent HD DVD titles
at its original 250 pilot stores for high-definition movies, though it is unclear
if it will continue to carry new releases or rent out its existing inventory.