Blockbuster selects Blu-ray HD disc for store rentals

Blockbuster said last week that it would rent only Blu-ray discs when it expands the HD section in 1450 retail stores next month. The decision means the rental giant will not expand its offerings of the rival HD-DVD discs, Blu-ray’s major competitor in a continuing format war.

Blockbuster’s choice was seen as a major setback for the HD-DVD format. The retailer said its decision was not an endorsement of Blu-ray, but rather a reaction to customer choice.

Blockbuster has been renting both Blu-ray and HD-DVD titles in 250 stores since late last year and said it found that consumers were choosing Blu-ray titles more than 70 percent of the time.

“The consumers are sending us a message. I can’t ignore what I’m seeing,” Matthew Smith, senior vice president of merchandising at Blockbuster, told the Associated Press. Blockbuster said it will continue to rent HD-DVD titles for now in the original 250 locations and online.

The consumer choice was helped in large part due to the lopsided availability of titles in Blu-ray, Smith added. All major studios except one are releasing films in Blu-ray, with several, including Walt Disney, releasing exclusively in Blu-ray.

Only Universal Studios, which is owned by General Electric, exclusively supports HD-DVD. Warner Bros., a division of Time Warner, and Paramount Pictures, owned by Viacom, release films in both formats.

The launch of Sony’s PlayStation 3 game console, which comes standard with a Blu-ray drive, also helped give the format momentum, Smith said.

It’s not yet known whether Blockbuster’s decision will influence other retailers in their choice of which format to support. The incompatible formats have been in a format war for more than a year.