Ever since the launch of the PlayStation 3, high-definition movie
retail sales have steadily tipped towards
Blu-ray Disc’s favor. Throughout 2007, sales of Blu-ray Disc
movies typically doubled those of HD DVD.
Although software sales are a good measure of a format’s
popularity, not every consumer chooses to purchase a movie he or she
wishes to enjoy on any given evening or weekend. Those who don’t
see the sense in spending $20 to $30 for a single viewing usually
turn to rental options.
For HD DVD hardware owners, rental options became more limited
after Blockbuster announced in June 2007 that it would carry
only Blu-ray Disc movies in most of its brick and mortar outlets.
Besides turning to independent rental shops, fans of the format
resorted to online rental services such as Blockbuster By Mail and
Early last week, Netflix announced that it would also cease
stocking new HD DVD titles and would concentrate on Blu-ray Disc
as being the high-definition format of choice. Meanwhile, Blockbuster
customers that it would continue to stock titles new and old on
HD formats for its mail rentals.
“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 Ted
Sarandos, chief content officer for Netflix. “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
Netflix did not disclose, however, its own customers’ rental
preferences between the two competing high-definition formats.
Zip.ca, Canada’s largest online movie rental company, shared
with DailyTech its shipment numbers over the last 18 months –
with particular focus on high-definition rentals.
Unsurprisingly, HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc rentals combined account
for less than 0.87 percent of all shipments by Zip.ca since mid-2006.
4,232,693 standard definition DVDs were shipped to Zip.ca
customers over the last 18 months, making the 19,495 HD DVD and
17,611 Blu-ray Disc shipment totals appear virtually insignificant.
Zip.ca’s director of communications Shelagh O’Connor explained
that the company has shipped more HD DVD than Blu-ray Disc due to the
former format’s stronger start. “HD DVD came out of the gate
stronger than Blu-ray,” O’Conner wrote, “but since December
(when we shipped almost equal amounts of each) Blu-ray has outshipped
HD DVD in the past two months and is gaining momentum.”
The Canadian rental firm’s statistics for 2008, however, show a
clear shift towards Blu-ray Disc. In January, Zip.ca customers rented
2,712 Blu-ray Discs and 2,262 HD DVDs. The trend became even more
apparent in the first half of February, with 1,684 Blu-ray Discs
compared to 1,024 HD DVDs.
Even with the evident change in consumer preference in action,
Zip.ca says that it has no plans to follow in Netflix’s footsteps
of dropping HD DVD. “It is Zip's mission to provide customers with
ALL the titles released in ALL three formats - DVD, Blu-ray, and HD
DVD,” Richard Anderson, president and CEO of Zip.ca, told
will continue to do that so long as there is reasonable demand for
each of them.”
“Having said that, we decided at the beginning of this year that
Blu-ray is in the process of becoming consumers' preference between
the two hi-def formats,” Anderson continued. “We did so based
partly on external industry trends and data, fortified by our own own
customer data, which has shown HD DVD's early rental lead steadily
eroded over the last 12 months, with Blu-ray emerging as our
customers' preference in recent months, and with seemingly-strong
momentum towards a widening preference.”
While Zip.ca has no intention of leaving its HD DVD customers out
in the cold, the company is already bolstering its Blu-ray Disc
inventory in expectance of a high-definition format resolution and
growth. “As such, we are now aggressively over-investing in Blu-ray
inventory – meaning buying more than we need, strictly speaking,
right now, in the belief that it will have a long and growing
demand,” added Anderson.