Is The Format War Over?

If you claim your disc format the winner of the format war, does it become true? High-Def Digest reports that Sony is seizing the marketing initiative with respect to the Neilsen Videoscan ratings and other indicators that showed Blu-ray as releasing and selling twice as many titles in January as HD DVD and will now market Blu-ray as the clear winner of the format war.

Sony exec David Bishop was quoted in Video Business as saying that for consumers, "now it is safe to make a choice... No more fence sitting is needed... We have a critical mass of content, we have the biggest mass of consumer electronics companies in the world supporting this format."

While time will certainly tell if this proclamation is mere marketing hubris, there's no question that Blu-ray is once again the format to beat with more studio and hardware support. Blu-ray leaped into '07 with big announcements from its exclusive supporting studios Disney, Fox, Lion's Gate, MGM and Sony. And of course, there are vast and growing numbers of PlayStation3 consoles growing the hardware install base.

Countering BD's exclusive studios on the HD DVD side is Universal, which made a strong announcement that it would release over 100 HD DVD titles on 2007. HD DVD's other supporting studios, Warner and Paramount, are mostly Switzerland, focusing on issuing their new releases on both formats. We'll see if Universal by itself can counter the output of BD's five exclusive studios enough to keep the race close. And even then that's in regard to the sheer number of titles released, not an indication of whether Universal's catalog can outsell the format that has Pixar and Pirates on its side.

And indeed, while HD DVD's supporters might point to Blu-ray's big January merely as a reflection of Blu-ray's releasing more titles, that's the point entirely. Blu-ray has more studios and it wouldn't be surprising if more titles are released on BD (and therefore sold) in perpetuity. If January's ratios of 2:1 are maintained or even extended throughout this year, will HD DVD still be a viable format? While some have prognosticated that this format war might last years, at least in terms of two formats being available, 2007 might be the year that decides the actual winner.