Sony's Blu-ray format moved closer to a victory over Toshiba's HD DVD Monday as online movie-rental service Netflix said it will buy only Blu-ray discs. It expects to phase out the HD-DVD format by the end of the year, noting that four of the six major movie studios now publish high-definition movies only in the Blu-ray format.
"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 high-def."
A Clear Preference
Since the first high-definition DVDs came on the market in early 2006, Netflix has stocked both formats. But the company said that in recent months the industry has stated its clear preference for Blu-ray and it makes sense to transition to a single format.
"Going forward, we expect that all of the studios will publish in the Blu-ray format and that the price points of high-def DVD players will come down significantly," Sarandos said. "These factors could well lead to another decade of disc-based movie watching as the consumer's preferred means."
While only a portion of Netflix subscribers have elected to receive high-def DVDs, the company said most have chosen Blu-ray. Netflix now stocks more than 400 Blu-ray titles but will continue to rent its current HD-DVD inventory until the discs' natural life cycle takes them out of circulation in the coming months.
When Warner Home Video announced last month that it will release high-def titles exclusively in the Blu-ray format by the end of the year, it joined fellow majors Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment and Buena Vista Home Entertainment in endorsing Blu-ray. Currently, the two remaining majors, Paramount Home Entertainment and Universal Studios Home Entertainment, publish in the HD DVD format.
"It's not surprising that Netflix would make this decision," said Phil Leigh, a senior analyst at Inside Digital Media. "When four of the six studios decided on Blu-ray, that was an indicator that things were going to gravitate toward Blu-ray as a standard."
It was not possible to continue with two standards indefinitely, Leigh continued, especially with disc sales picking up and high-definition television becoming mandatory for broadcasters next year.
"HD DVD is on its way to becoming marginalized," Leigh said. "I expected HD DVD to go a little further, but it's time to settle on a standard."