MADELEINE BRAND, host:
From NPR News, this is DAY TO DAY.
If you've bought a DVD player anytime recently, you probably know there's somewhat of a format war going on, kind of like the old video fight between Beta and VHS. This time Toshiba's HD-DVD is up against Sony's Blu-ray. Today, score one for Blu-ray.
The movie rental chain Blockbuster is throwing its weight behind that format.
"Marketplace"'s Janet Babin is here. And Janet, why the decision to go with Blu-ray?
JANET BABIN: Well, Madeleine, the company says Blu-ray has proven to be more popular with consumers, so Blockbuster has decided to boost its inventory of Blu-ray discs to 1,700 stores by midsummer.
But you know, it's not really that surprising that Blu-ray rentals are outpacing HD-DVD rentals when you can consider that Blu-ray is the format of choice for most of the movie studios - Fox, Sony and Disney don't offer any movie titles in the HD-DVD format.
BRAND: But what's the difference between the two?
BABIN: I know, and they're hard to say, right? Blu-ray discs apparently offer more space, so - and studios like that because you can put more stuff on them. There's room for like director's cuts and deleted scenes. And for some consumers, that's the whole reason they buy a DVD, so they can get the stuff that they can't see in the theater.
Another difference is picture clarity. Blu-ray beats HD-DVD on that score. But you're going to have to pay more for Blu-ray. The Blu-ray player costs about $550 and the HD-DVD, with rebates now, you can get one for about $250-450.
BRAND: So this move by Blockbuster, is that powerful enough to basically say the war is over, Blu-ray won?
BABIN: Well, it's not quite game over just yet. I spoke to Richard Doherty about this. He's with the Envisioneering group. That's a tech assessment market research firm. And he says it's important to see if other movie rental companies choose one format over the other as well.
Mr. RICHARD DOHERTY (Envisioneering Group): Blockbuster is the number one renter of titles. But they're not alone. And so we think in coming weeks we'll hear of HD-DVD trying to do deals through other retail outlets where they may have a greater percentage of HD-DVD audience, like the game stores, for example.
BRAND: Janet, I'm wondering, though, if this could just be irrelevant, with more people just downloading content online?
BABIN: Yeah, that's a really good point. And I guess it is a real possibility. I mean, think of Netflix. You know, it rents you movies through the mail. I mean that company could save a lot of money if we could just download the movie instead of getting it through the mail. And Netflix did say in January it was going to start distributing movies and TV shows over the Internet.
But you know, Madeleine, the movie studios love this physical product. I mean they're still hoping that high-def will somehow be able to energize this faltering DVD market. And you know, it's a pretty big market. Some estimate the home DVD market is worth $24 billion. So it's definitely worth fighting for. So I imagine we're going to see this fight over format play out.
BRAND: All right. Thank you, Janet. Janet Babin of Public Radio's daily business show, MARKETPLACE. That's produced by American Public Media.
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