Back in August, our headline was "Paramount Ditches Blu-ray"
. Prior to that, Paramount and Warner Brothers were the two major studios that supported both Blu-ray Disc AND the HD DVD high definition formats simultaneously. Paramount moved to the HD DVD side at the time, joining Universal in exclusively supporting that format. Since then, Warner has remained on both sides of the fence, releasing titles for both camps, while continuing their mainstream support of good ol' "standard" DVD as well.
Just a short time ago today Warner issued a press release (you can read it in full
in Gord's blog at TVGuide.com) stating that they are preparing to discontinue their support for HD DVD and go Blu-ray only (where hi-def is concerned) "in Response to Strong Consumer Preference for
There was no mention in the press release of whether this transition includes studios which Warner only distributes for, such as New Line Cinema, the BBC (makers of Planet Earth
, or HBO (which owns The Sopranos
). For now we assume that each studio is going to make independent decisions, but is very likely to follow Warner's lead. Nor do we know if Warner will continue restocking already-released HD DVD titles for Smallville
, but it's probably safe to assume that they'll try to sell off any existing stock that might be sitting in warehouses.
The change won't happen immediately; Warner has already publicly announced certain film titles (such as Twister
) for HD DVD for release as late as May 2008, and they are committing in this press release that "all new titles will continue to be released in HD DVD until the end of May 2008." However, they will not necessarily ship them to be on shelves in time for the same street date as DVD or Blu-ray editions: in the press release they allude to the HD DVD editions arriving "after a short window." Based on my own past retail experience, I would guess that this possibly amounts to Warner resisting the higher cost of express air-shipping the HD DVD titles, and freighting them to retailers by "slow boat" and road shipments, instead.
While this development does not affect any upcoming announced TV-related titles from Warner (correction: Justice League - The New Frontier: Special Edition on HD DVD
could be affected), a change of this magnitude could easily shift how other studios view the future of shows released in the HD DVD format...notably Paramount with Star Trek
, and Universal and their hi-def releases for Heroes
and Battlestar Galactica
. The 2nd Season of Star Trek
for hi-def was originally being scoped for a March release, then got pushed back
to an unspecified time in the summer; could Paramount have been hedging their bets in case something like this happened?
I'd like to call your attention to a great editorial by Jeff Kleist
(a longtime friend of TVShowsOnDVD), which was posted the other day over at The Digital Bits. He uses his previous experience of working as a DVD buyer at a major retailer to examine why no retailer will support both formats for very much longer. Based on my own retail experience (over 10 years in management), I agree 100% with Jeff's analysis...and this new change at Warner is likely to accelerate things.
Warner's announcement means that 70% of the output of major studios - Sony, Warner, Disney, Fox, MGM, and Lionsgate - now support Blu-ray Disc exclusively. Plus there is good "Master" support from smaller studios such as Starz/Anchor Bay and BCI (with Blu-ray releases Masters of Horror
and plans for He-Man and the Masters of the Universe
, respectively) as well. And while the landscape of TV-on-Hi-Def releases hasn't changed very much since I posted a list in late November
, it's bound to be affected going forward. Let's face it: TV-on-DVD has become a major source of income for the studios; once they consolidate their film titles for hi-def, you'll see a ton of TV Shows come your way in crisp, pretty 1080P. That February 2009 changeover for broadcasts is going to be a pretty good bullseye of a deadline for studios to ramp up their home video support of TV-on-Hi-Def, I would think. So now we know which way the wind is blowing.
Or is that Bluing?