Warner Bros. Confirms Blu-ray Exclusivity

By: Sharudin Rahmat

Warner Bros. has announced that they will be supporting Blu-ray exclusively. The decision, according to their statement, was chiefly because of strong consumer liking for the format.

"In response to consumer demand, Warner Bros. Entertainment will release its high-definition DVD titles exclusively in the Blu-ray disc format beginning later this year, it was announced today by Barry Meyer, Chairman & CEO, Warner Bros. and Kevin Tsujihara, President, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group.

"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," said Meyer. "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."

Variety is reporting that Warner sister company New Line has announced that it too plans to shift to Blu-ray exclusivity. For the moment both Warner Bros. subsidiaries, HBO and New Line, remain format-agnostic, though it's widely expected that they will follow Warner Home Entertainment's exclusive use of the Blu-ray format. However, the studio's declaration that it would drop HD DVD support does not extend to titles released by New Line, HBO or the BBC, according to Warner Home Entertainment President Kevin Tsujihara.

Blu-ray is a high-density optical disc format for the storage of digital information, including high-definition video. The name "Blu-ray" is derived from the blue-violet laser used to read and write this type of disc. The Blu-Ray Disc Association, a group of leading companies representing consumer electronics, computer hardware, and motion picture production, developed the format.

Warner Bros.' decision is a huge development in the Blu-ray disc versus HD DVD format war currently raging on because Warner Bros. was always considered the big fish to be landed by one side or the other. Consumers were lobbied hard by both sides during Christmas as dirt-cheap Toshiba HD DVD players were advertised heavily by Wal-Mart for $98.97 while the higher priced Blu-ray players were also discounted by electronics retailers (though not nearly as much).

The change will take effect from May 2008. Executives at Warner Bros. explained that the choice to solely support one high-definition format over another was made to avoid uncertainty on the market of HD movies and allow Warner's partners among retailers to stock more titles by Warner than previously. Warner Bros.' move to exclusively release in the Blu-ray disc format is a tactical decision focused on the long term and the most direct way to give consumers what they want.

Tsujihara says the studio took no pay-offs to exclusively back Blu-ray. He emphatically denied reports that the studio had received anywhere from $250 to $500 million in exchange for dropping its HD DVD format support in a post-announcement conference call. Warner's only incentive to drop its HD DVD format, according to the exec, was to ensure growth of the "category" and the long-term health of the industry.

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