HD DVD told: 'you're missing the boat'
December 4, 2007 - 10:54AM
Video Ezy and Blockbuster have thrown their support behind Blu-ray, saying HD DVD was "missing the boat" and not taking the Australian market seriously enough.
As both high-definition disc format camps face an uphill battle convincing consumers of the benefits from upgrading their regular DVD players, in-store marketing support from retailers and rental stores is crucial.
Paul Uniacke, managing director of the Franchise Entertainment Group, which owns Video Ezy and Blockbuster in Australia, said the local roll-out of HD DVD had been too slow as its supporters did not see Australia as an important market compared with the US and Europe.
"Without meaning to be disrespectful, it's probably how they see this territory in terms of their bottom line," he said, adding the HD DVD side was quickly "missing the boat".
So far neither format is dominating in Australia but, thanks to the PlayStation 3 games consoles (PS3), Blu-ray has a commanding lead. Both sides are offering bundles with free movies and slashing prices to entice Christmas shoppers - the Toshiba HD-E1 HD DVD player, after a $100 rebate, now costs $499.
According to market-watcher GfK, 2241 stand-alone Blu-ray players have been sold in Australia to date, compared with 609 HD DVD players.
But Sony has moved more than 100,000 units of the PS3, which has a built-in Blu-ray player. Only 2461 add-on HD DVD players for the Xbox 360, which cost $249.95, have been sold so far.
The trend in player sales is consistent with sales of HD movies. More than 102,000 Blu-ray movies have been sold to date, as against just under 18,000 HD DVD movies.
Uniacke said most of the 870 Blockbuster and Video Ezy stores in Australia stocked Blu-ray titles, but most did not stock HD DVD titles.
Blockbuster in the US has supported Blu-ray exclusively for months and, locally, its head of product, John McKay, said Blockbuster would buy only Blu-ray titles "for the foreseeable future".
In an announcement made today, Sony said 40-inch LCD televisions connected to Blu-ray players and PS3s would be installed initially in close to 250 Video Ezy and Blockbuster stores across the country to promote the format.
Michele Garra, chairwoman of the local Blu-ray working group, said the deal was a sign that Blu-ray and high definition generally were hitting the mainstream.
"It has really been driven by the sales of the big-screen displays ... they really are an everyman product," she said.
Liz van Hooven, managing director of HD DVD backer Universal Pictures, acknowledged the format had been slow to take off in Australia but said Uniacke was "just making a generalised point without really knowing the future and the direction that this format is going to take".
She said price would be the deciding factor in the format war and HD DVD players would always start at a lower price point than Blu-ray. Toshiba was set to release two new HD DVD players next year.
Uniacke said the door was still open for HD DVD but the Blu-ray kiosks were "quite large" (1.8 metres high and 1.6 metres wide), so it was highly unlikely HD DVD kiosks could feasibly be installed as well.
"We're not saying that we won't support HD DVD, that's for sure, but they've got a lot of catch-up work and the longer they leave it the more these deals will come across the line."
He said his stores had faced significant difficulty when trying to obtain HD DVD movies and derided Paramount, which recently ditched Blu-ray to support HD DVD exclusively, for releasing the HD DVD version of Transformers a month behind the DVD version.
He said the late releases were harming the format's chances in Australia significantly, but the delays weren't present in the US or European markets.
"The momentum's gone - all of our advertising has been spent in driving the DVD [and] you're not going to put marketing dollars into something that is four weeks behind and has limited hardware [support] in this country," he said.
By contrast, Sony Pictures released Spider-Man 3 on Blu-ray in Australia on the same day it was released on DVD.
The Blu-ray format's early lead was helped by significant delays in bringing HD DVD players to the Australian market. Movie studios were reluctant to put discs on store shelves when the associated players were thin on the ground.
Today, 3 HD DVD players (all Toshiba models) and 11 Blu-ray models are on sale in Australia.
Sony said 156 Blu-ray titles had been released so far and 71 more would be out by the end of February.
A spokesman for Toshiba, the main backer of HD DVD and co-ordinator of the local consortium of HD DVD supporters, was unavailable for comment.This story was found at: http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2007/...530626138.html
By my rough calculations thats about an 83-17 split between blu-ray and HD-DVD. Low numbers but hey, sounds like HD-DVD doesn't really give a shit.