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Blockbuster takes Blu-ray side

In a move seen as a blow to the HD DVD camp, backed by Toshiba and Microsoft, Blockbuster has decided to stock next-generation DVD titles in the Sony-backed Blu-ray format.

The video rental chain said more customers prefer Blu-ray DVD format to its rival HD DVD, and it will expand its inventory of the high definition discs to a total of 1,700 stores up from 250, by mid-July. Blu-ray rentals are "significantly outpacing HD DVD rentals", Blockbuster said in a statement last week.

Blockbuster is not pulling the plug on the competing format yet. HD DVD movies will still be available in the original 250 stores and online. In the UK, 50 stores stock HD DVD, 490 have Blu-ray.

David Bishop, president of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, which backs Blu-ray, said he hoped the Blockbuster announcement would speed the end of the format war. And he predicted that other major retailers would follow suit as they reacted to Blu-ray's stronger sales.

A Mizuho Securities analyst suggests it may be too early for the Blu-ray camp to celebrate, though. While Blu-ray may be a step closer to becoming the de facto standard HD in the home video market, he reckons HD DVD is well-positioned in PCs.

Others downplayed the effect of the Blockbuster move, saying that the Dallas company no longer carry the same clout in the video industry as it used to. Also, Blockbuster hedged its support for Blu-ray by saying it would reverse course if consumers started asking for more HD DVD movies.

According to Ken Graffeo, an executive vice president at Universal Studios Home Entertainment, factors such as drops in the price of DVD players could influence which next-generation format consumers ultimately embraced much more than the number of titles available for rent at Blockbuster, which is still minuscule..

Story filed 24.06.07

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