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Another day, another studio claims exclusivity in the HD format wars

In the latest saga in the long-running HD DVD vs. Blu-ray battle, Warner Bros. Entertainment has struck a blow to the former camp. The company announced today that it will soon become Blu-ray exclusive with regards to high-definition DVD titles.

According to Warner Bros., the move to support only Blu-ray is a strategic decision aimed at giving consumers what they want.

"The window of opportunity for high-definition DVD could be missed if format confusion continues to linger," said Warner Bros. Chairman and CEO Barry Meyer. "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."

According to the Warner Bros. press release, Warner Home Video will stop releasing HD DVD movies in late May 2008. To add salt to HD DVD’s wounds, Warner Home Video is going to stagger the launches of further HD DVD titles until the late-May cut off period -- standard DVD and Blu-ray movies will be released first, then the HD DVD titles will be released after a "short window."

"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," added Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group President Kevin Tsujihara. "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."

The move by Warner Bros. comes four months after Paramount and DreamWorks announced their decision to go HD DVD exclusive. The move prompted "Transformers" executive produce Michael Bay to go on a rampage. "I want people to see my movies in the best formats possible. For them to deny people who have Blu-ray sucks! They were progressive by having two formats. No Transformers 2 for me," exclaimed Bay in late August.

Bay later stepped up his "war talk" in early December and accused Microsoft of sabotaging both HD DVD and Blu-ray. "That is why Microsoft is handing out $100 million dollar checks to studios just embrace the HD DVD and not the leading, and superior Blu Ray," said Bay in December. "They want confusion in the market until they perfect the digital downloads. Time will tell and you will see the truth."

Updated 1/4/2008
Toshiba has formally responded to the Warner Bros./Blu-ray announcement:

Toshiba is quite surprised by Warner Bros.' decision to abandon HD DVD in favor of Blu-ray, despite the fact that there are various contracts in place between our companies concerning the support of HD DVD. As central members of the DVD Forum, we have long maintained a close partnership with Warner Bros. We worked closely together to help standardize the first-generation DVD format as well as to define and shape HD DVD as its next-generation successor.

We were particularly disappointed that this decision was made in spite of the significant momentum HD DVD has gained in the US market as well as other regions in 2007. HD DVD players and PCs have outsold Blu-ray in the US market in 2007.

We will assess the potential impact of this announcement with the other HD DVD partner companies and valuate potential next steps. We remain firm in our belief that HD DVD is the format best suited to the wants and needs of the consumer.





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