Netflix, the online DVD rental leader, said this morning that it believes the high definition format war has ended and the company will move toward stocking the Blu-ray format exclusively.
Citing the decision by four of the six major movie studios to publish high-def DVD titles only in the Sony-developed Blu-ray format, Netflix said that as of now it will purchase only Blu-ray discs and will phase out by roughly year's end the alternative high-def format, HD DVD, developed by Toshiba.
Since the first high-definition DVDs came on the market in early 2006, Netflix has stocked both formats. But the company said that in recent months the industry has stated its "clear preference" for Blu-ray and that it "now makes sense for the company to initiate the transition to a single format."
"The prolonged period of competition between two formats has prevented clear communication to the consumer regarding the richness of the high-def experience versus standard definition," said Ted Sarandos, chief content officer for Netflix. "We're now at the point where the industry can pursue the migration to a single format, bring clarity to the consumer and accelerate the adoption of high-def. Going forward, we expect that all of the studios will publish in the Blu-ray format and that the price points of high-def DVD players will come down significantly. These factors could well lead to another decade of disc-based movie watching as the consumer's preferred means."
Added Mr. Sarandos: "From the Netflix perspective, focusing on one format will enable us to create the best experience for subscribers who want high- definition to be an important part of how they enjoy our service."
While only a portion of Netflix subscribers have elected to receive high- def DVDs, a majority of those subscribers have chosen Blu-ray over HD DVD. As part of the transition to Blu-ray, the company said it will acquire no new HD DVDs but that its current HD DVD inventory would continue to rent until the discs' natural life cycle takes them out of circulation in the coming months.
When Warner Home Video announced last month that by the end of this year it will release high-def titles exclusively in the Blu-ray format, it joined fellow major studios Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment and Buena Vista Home Entertainment in endorsing Blu-ray. Currently, the two remaining majors, Paramount Home Entertainment and Universal Studios Home Entertainment, publish in the HD DVD format.
Blockbuster began to favor Blu-ray in June of last year at its brick and mortar stores, while still continuing to offer HD DVD titles through its online rental service.
[Previously: Big Blue Backs Blu-ray Today]