Blockbuster Taps Blu-ray Over HD DVD

Although Blockbuster Inc.’s ubiquitous influence on the world of DVDs has lessened dramatically in recent years due to new competition such as Netflix, the movie rental chain’s June 18 announcement that it would begin renting and selling only Blu-ray Disc titles in a majority of about 1,700 outlets likely represents a short-term blow to HD DVD proponents. (Blockbuster still has more than 4,000 U.S. outlets, in all.)

In making its move, Blockbuster said about 70 percent of its rentals of next-gen discs fall into the Blu-ray camp, and it sees this as a sign from consumers that the marketplace has already made its choice in the format battle. It arrived at this conclusion despite the fact that only a small percentage of homes own Blu-ray or HD DVD players. HD DVD backers argue that the video chain’s decision is premature and ignores the long-range picture, according to the Associated Press.

Blockbuster does not distinguish between how many of its Blu-ray rentals to date are movie titles, compared to PlayStation 3 games. Those figures could be significant for either side. Each of the estimated 2.6 million PS3 game modules sold so far in the U.S comes with an internal Blu-ray drive. Yet HD DVD, for its part, seems to be winning in the standalone category. Sony has acknowledged it has sold less than 100,000 standalone Blu-ray units in the United States, to date, while HD DVD standalone sales apparently have been around 150,000, according to Investor’s Business Weekly. What this might portend, if anything, will not be known for awhile, especially since no one knows exactly how many PS3 owners are using their Blu-ray drives to rent or purchase Blu-ray movie titles.

Blockbuster, headquartered in Dallas, said it plans to continue renting HD DVD titles online and in the original 250 locations where they are currently offered. While most Hollywood studios release their movie, concert and TV titles in Blu-ray, a majority of them currently release their content in both formats, as well.