One Road almost comes to a close, while another opens up 4 paths! WB goes Blu-Ray Exclusive; Followed by Digital Playground 3 days later; New Line & HBO Video dump HD-DVD

Since Friday’s WB announcement, I have been upset, confused, and feel like I just lost one of my good friends. I fell in love with the HD-DVD format since going neutral in March 2007, previously having joined the hidef DVD ranks with Blu-Ray in November 2006. To me it wasn’t about the PIP, HDi, or any of the interactivity but the premise that the HD Group was in this to convert SD-DVD consumers to a superior product for far less costs than their competitor was offering. Comparing SD-DVD to hidef DVD is like night and day comparison, that you are going to be impressed from the visuals to the sound departments.

In 2006 Toshiba brought to the table a complete format with lower hardware prices hoping that they could lure some of the SD-DVD market into the HD-DVD market. But somewhere along the lines they failed to capitalize on cheaper hardware and a complete spec over their competitor. With successes comes failures and even though Toshiba has owned the hardware sales market for HD-DVD they failed in the areas which are important. They didn’t market the product as well as they should have, they didn’t match Sony’s BOGO for BOGO strategy, and Paramount hasn’t fully lived up to expectations in their short few months contract.

Warner Brothers attributed to the second largest amount of releases on HD-DVD in 2007, not too far behind from Universal. With this announcement come Friday, many HD-DVD supporters just gave up and started fire selling their players, HD-DVD’s on eBay are at an all-time high, and even web sites like HighDefDigest.com which have message boards with Selling/Trading forums have lit up. Too many panicked, and yours truly was one of them, but instead of completely offloading my collection I did a few things differently. I feel like I have invested a lot in HD-DVD, but I decided that I would sell off all of my Warner discs and then replace them with their Blu-Ray counterparts. I am a very picky person when it comes to movies and no way is my Harry Potter collection going to have 5 HD-DVD’s and 2 Blu-Rays when the final movies release. Thanks to F.Y.E. and Circuit City with their gracious holiday return policy, I was able to offload a bunch of sealed HD-DVD’s from Warner giving me credit back that I used towards getting the Blu-Ray counterparts. Then I proceeded to sell my A2 since I already have an A3, figuring that I might as well try to get something out of the A2.

Do I blame anyone for selling their entire collection? No. They are trying to get what they can from a format that will be dead in a few months to a year+. This will allow some to buy into Blu-Ray; others will decide to completely wait this “Daytime Soap Opera” out. This day and age, we don’t want too many components in our entertainment racks since it looks like clutter.

I refuse to sell off my Universal and Paramount library, and will only replace these movies when Universal makes the jump to BluRay. As each title gets re-released for the BluRay format, at that point than I replace the HD-DVD. Universal has to be one of my favorite studios and if they decide to stick this war out I respect them for it. If and when Universal and Paramount find themselves to the BDA doorstep, it could take any where from 1-3 years for them to change the codec’s on their currently released library for Blu-Ray. It is rather hard going back to SD-DVD once you have been in the hidef DVD market. I have some mixed feelings about even making future HD-DVD purchases, but I plan to only purchase Universal and Paramount releases based on the movie as they release.

Digital Playground Entertainment (porn distributor) was once HD-DVD exclusive has gone Blu-Ray exclusive. I don’t find this as a huge hit as say Warner Brothers or a Paramount jumping over here in 2008, and it’s not like the 80’s where porn was hard to find so VHS was the way to get it. Now people of all ages are downloading it off of the net for free. But DPG is still a business that sees money in this market and going BD exclusive does hurt HD-DVD.

New Line Cinema and HBO Home Video have also confirmed their decision to go Blu exclusive. Now this is just as a big of a hit to HD-DVD as losing Warner, because New Line has a huge catalogue of titles and while HBO HV has only released The Sopranos Season 6 on both formats, they also have nice back catalogue of TV dramas that can’t be ignored. While this might not be so huge stateside, Constantin (Germany) goes Blu Ray as of last night. If studios overseas are finding their way to go Blu, the trouble for HD-DVD is getting worse.

Weinstein Company stopped HD-DVD production/distribution of movies with their last release in July. Many were speculating that the jump to BluRay was almost a certainty. In the wake of all this, it’s been 7 months with no announcements on their stance and even further you would think if they had intentions to go Blu Weinstein would have jumped on the bandwagon this past week with everyone else. Weinstein is still a mystery to all this.

With losing 4 studios in one week stateside and 1 overseas, that is a huge amount of software that they will be losing out on, so what does the HD-DVD group and Toshiba do next?

I believe that should Toshiba concede (as much as I hate saying this) so that the remaining studios go BluRay to cut down on the confusion alone between both formats. Then their next goal under the BDM umbrella should be to convert the SD-DVD market to BluRay and work on defeating the Digital Movie Downloads market. I personally prefer to own the physical product when it comes to movies. I think that Toshiba would provide some good competition on the hardware side against the other BD CE’s, lighting a fire to get better quality BluRay player on the market.

It is a shame on one end of the spectrum, but on another this Warner announcement is a blessing in disguise when you leave out your bias for either format at the door. This has also caused so much concern and doubt in people’s minds that their afraid to move on (not everyone) with HD-DVD purchases and even worse, HDM. I am hoping within the next week, giving the HD Group some time to regroup and get their strategies together, that they announce their intentions for consumer’s sake.

The big question marks are if Universal jumps ship and Paramount’s supposed contract “escape” clause. I am so glad that Warner didn’t drag this out another year, imagine spending even more money on a format that would lose eventually.