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The HD format war continues, as Blu-ray takes the slight edge

The latest sales numbers appear to indicate that Blu-ray has taken the lead over HD DVD in terms of title sales since inception. According to Nielsen VideoScan First Alert data, cited by Home Media Magazine, Blu-ray has racked up a slight lead in unit sales -- 100 units to every 98.71 units of HD DVD.

Up until the recent market stats released by Nielsen VideoScan, HD DVD held the lead in overall titles sold. Some attribute HD DVD’s previous lead to the format’s head start and less expensive players. Blu-ray Discs experienced a considerable surge in sales following the holiday season, eclipsing HD DVD sales numbers by two to three times.

The launch of the PlayStation 3 helps explain Blu-ray’s increased pace, though Ken Graffeo, head of HD DVD affairs at Universal Studios Home Entertainment—an HD DVD-only supporter—isn’t convinced in Sony’s console sway. “Given that the life-to-date title sales ratios are close to 1:1, and given that Blu-ray has a 5:1 ratio right now on the hardware side due to the PS3, why aren’t Blu-ray software sales outpacing HD DVD by a similar ratio?” he asked. “In fact, HD DVD players continue to have an attach rate (life to date) that is more than five times that of Blu-ray players.”

Another facet to Blu-ray’s recent success could simply be due to greater availability of new titles. The current selection of movies on Blu-ray and HD DVD are neck-and-neck, but Blu-ray has released more titles as of late. According to Home Media Magazine, there have been 35 Blu-ray releases to 19 for HD DVD, many of which have been costlier HD DVD/DVD combo discs.

“Seeing HD DVD in our rear-view mirror is no surprise to us,” said David Bishop, worldwide home entertainment president, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. “It has always been Sony’s position that there would be an inevitable migration from HD DVD to Blu-ray because of several factors, including the technical superiority of Blu-ray, the successful launch of PlayStation 3, the growing availability of BD playback machines and BD-enabled computers from the best consumer electronic brands in the world, as well as the growing number of hit titles being made available on the BD format.”

While executives of either HD DVD or Blu-ray exclusive studios thump their chests, movie studios such as Warner and Paramount appear happy to sell movies to the faithful on both sides. “We’re not in this for winning or losing,” said Steve Nickerson, SVP of market management for Warner Home Video. “Both formats are selling well on software.”