Brian.oco 0 Posting Whiz

Warner Brothers certainly has a lot of weight to throw around the consumer technology - and their latest move landed squarely on increasingly frustrated HD-DVD providers.

In a move that signals a tectonic shift in the consumer video industry, Warner Bros. Entertainment announced last week that it will release its high-definition DVD titles exclusively in the Blu-ray disc format, most likely starting later this year. The news came straight from the top -- from Barry Meyer, Chairman & CEO, Warner Bros. and Kevin Tsujihara, President, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group.

“Warner Bros.’ move to exclusively release in the Blu-ray disc format is a strategic decision focused on the long term and the most direct way to give consumers what they want,” Meyer said in a statement. “The window of opportunity for high-definition DVD could be missed if format confusion continues to linger. We believe that exclusively distributing in Blu-ray will further the potential for mass market success and ultimately benefit retailers, producers, and most importantly, consumers.”

The news is a huge public relations boost (not to mention financial windfall) for blue-ray technology providers.

Evidently, Warner Home Video was getting tired of straddling both the traditional DVD and Blu-ray worlds, and decided to take a definitive stand. For the short term, Warner will continue to release its titles in standard DVD format and Blu-ray. After a short window following their standard DVD and Blu-ray releases, all new titles will continue to be released in HD DVD until the end of May 2008.

“A two-format landscape has led to consumer confusion and indifference toward high definition, which has kept the technology from reaching mass adoption and becoming the important revenue stream that it can be for the industry,” said Tsujihara. “Consumers have clearly chosen Blu-ray, and we believe that recognizing this preference is the right step in making this great home entertainment experience accessible to the widest possible audience. Warner Bros. has worked very closely with the Toshiba Corporation in promoting high definition media and we have enormous respect for their efforts. We look forward to working with them on other projects in the future.”

I'm not so sure that consumers have "clearly chosen" Blu-ray - studies show that HD-DVD is just as popular among the general population. But by just saying consumers have chosen Blu-ray -- and by extension, Warner Brothers, too, then the announcement has given Blu-ray a major marketing chip with a full-committment from one of the world's most dominant media companies.

I'd look for other media companies to follow suit.