Time Warner made the surprising announcement late last week to drop support for HD-DVD in order to exclusively release its titles on Blu-ray beginning May this year. Until then the studio will continue to deliver HD-DVD releases, after the "standard" DVD and Blu-ray editions of course.
The HD-DVD format scored some exclusive partners back in August 2007 with Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks Animation, inspiring director Michael Bay's eyebrow-raising rant against what he deemed was Microsoft's conspiracy to undermine next-gen optical disc format market altogether. Admittedly, Bay was a proponent of Blu-ray from the start.
It's interesting to note it was not until Time Warner made an exclusivity announcement of its own that analysts both professional and armchair alike began to foresee any sort of outcome in the next-gen optical disc format "war", saying much of the studio's clout:
"We expect HD DVD to 'die' a quick death, versus a prolonged format war," Pali Capital analyst Rich Greenfield told investors in a note.
"I have not seen anyone give up in this fight. Every time one shoe drops and you think 'Oh, it's over,' the other side comes up with something else," said Stephanie Prange, Home Media Magazine editor in chief.
The battle has confused consumers, she confirmed, but many people don't see the need for high-definition anyway, she added.
The studio's decision certainly caught the HD-DVD consortium off guard, as the format's group of backers suddenly canceled any meetings and press conferences previously scheduled for this weekend's Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Meanwhile, HD-DVD developer Toshiba stands firm behind its format. Though it was as surprised as anybody with Time Warner's decision, the company reminds supporters and naysayers that its solution still has majority (year-to-date) market share:
"We were very disappointed with Warner Brothers' announcement," [Toshiba America Consumer Products president Akiyo Ozaka] said. "Sales of HD DVD were very good last year, especially in October to December."
"It's difficult for me to believe when all the pundits declare that HD DVD is dead," [Toshiba marketing executive Jodi Sally] said. "Clearly, the events of the last few days have led many of you to that conclusion. We have been declared dead before. The reality is we ended 2007 with a majority of the year-to-date market share."