Monday, August 20, 2007

Paramount Abandons Blu-ray for HD DVD

Will the latest decision in the high-definition DVD format war finally tip the scales? It’s a doozie: Paramount Pictures has opted to go the way of HD DVD, leaving Blu-ray high and dry, and giving HD DVD another notch in its belt.

This could represent a big blow to the Blu-ray format: Paramount distributes movies from a number of big names: DreamWorks Pictures, Paramount Vantage, Nickelodeon Movies, and MTV Films, as well as movies from DreamWorks Animation, which are distributed by Paramount Home Entertainment, and, of course, Paramount Pictures. The first titles under this exclusive partnership are highly-anticipated releases: Blades of Glory (with funnyman Will Ferrell); Transformers; and Shrek the Third.

Paramount has, up until now, been one of a few studios to back both formats: the only studio remaining in such a position is Warner. Additionally, HD DVD has support from Universal, HBO, and New Line Home Entertainment, plus software support from HP, Intel, and Microsoft, and hardware support from companies like Toshiba and Onkyo. The rumour mill has also recently been pointing toward the North American adult film industry leaning toward HD DVD as its format of choice. However, this isn't to say that Blu-ray support is suffering: the format has plenty of big names behind it, including Disney, Fox, Sony, Lionsgate, and MGM, plus a slew of hardware manufacturers, like Samsung, Sony, and Hitachi, the latter of which just introduced the world’s first high-definition Blu-ray camcorder.

On the retail side, decisions have been just as evenly skewed: in the U.S., Blockbuster announced that it would sell movies in both formats, but only rent in Blu-ray (this was later confirmed to not be the case in Canada); while Wal-Mart said it would add low-cost HD DVD players to its mix. Most recently, Target (often pronounced by humorous Canucks as “tar-jhay”) said it would offer Sony Blu-ray players exclusively this holiday season, although it would continue to offer software titles in both formats.

It looks to me that, although companies are one by one taking sides (whether via open admittance, or a subtle indication of which way they might, or might not, be leaning), the scales remain pretty much evenly weighted. Sure, each week, something happens to tip it ever so slightly one way, but I think we’re still far from a clear winner in this race.

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