Movie rental giant Blockbuster this week announced that it will roll out Blu-ray Disc movies for rental in 1,450 Blockbuster video shops in the US. But is this is a decisive victory for Blu-ray Disc over HD-DVD?
Blockbuster's decision to nail its colours to the Blu-ray mast followed a pilot programme launched in late 2006, in which Blockbuster offered selected titles for rental and sale in 250 stores.
Seven months later, Blockbuster says it sees a clear enough trend among its customers to pinpoint Blu-ray Disc as its HD (high definition) format of choice. A smack in the face for HD-DVD, then, but there is some hope for Blu-ray's rival.
"This was a move that was driven by Blu-ray rentals outpacing HD DVD rentals 70 percent to 30 percent," says Blockbuster spokesperson Randy Hargrove.
"In our online rentals, it's favouring Blu-ray as well. We're not looking at this as a format endorsement; we're looking at this as following the demand of our customers.
"In the future, if that means adding more HD-DVD titles, we'll do that as well."
Blockbuster will continue to offer both Blu-ray and HD-DVD for rental and sales in the 250 stores that participated in the pilot program. However, the 1,450 additional video shops coming on board with Blu-ray will offer the discs for rental only (at least for now). Rentals still comprise the majority of Blockbuster's business: first quarter global rentals revenue was $961 million, as compared with movie sales of $105 million.
Both Blu-ray and HD-DVD will continue to be available through Blockbuster's online service - a world that is free of the space constraints that brick-and-mortar stores face. Likewise, for now this is a US-only initiative: Blockbuster in Canada, for example, has been offering both Blu-ray and HD DVD in about 75 stores, and "they will continue to monitor the marketplace," says Hargrove.