format. The UK high street chain made the announcement earlier today, citing poor Christmas sales figures for current HD DVD titles.
Blu-ray Discs reportedly outsold their HD DVD rivals by a ratio of ten-to-one in Woolworths stores over the Christmas period. And company execs are hailing renewed interest in the Sony PlayStation 3 as the main catalyst for change.
HD DVD on the rack
"Sales figures clearly show that the market is moving towards one format of high definition DVD," said Woolworths DVD buyer Steven McGunigel.
"The main reason is the success of Sony's PlayStation 3 machine. Because it plays Blu-ray discs, there are over three quarters of a million homes in the UK that can view the new high definition format. There is nowhere near that number of HD DVD players around.
"Switching to Blu-ray only will provide one clear offer to customers in the format they want to watch high-definition movies in."
A sign of things to come?
Woolworths is, of course, only a very minor player in terms of its influence on the HD market. But what this does show is that some retailers are being dramatically proactive when it comes to the HD war. It's also possible that some shops might be scared of a customer backlash against retailers when one of the formats eventually throws in the towel.
If you went out and spent £400 on an HD DVD player and a load of movies at Woolworths, only to find the format was exterminated two months later, you'd be pretty peeved too.
The flip side is that Woolworths says it will still allow consumers to buy HD DVD titles on its website. So while it's giving its customers a gentle nudge in the direction of Blu-ray, it can't resist taking the money of those who still insist on buying HD DVDs.
HD DVD just won't stay down
The HD DVD camp's response to Woolworth's news was typically bullish. Toshiba's HD DVD spokesperson, Olivier Van Wynendaele, released a defiant statement to the press this afternoon.
"We have been hugely successful in expanding the number of consumers owning HD DVD players," he said. "Consumers can now pick-up an HD DVD player for less than £150, around half the cost of other HD formats. Even before pricing reached this level, HD DVD represented more than 60 per cent of the overall standalone high definition market.
"Just as importantly for movie retailers, HD-DVD has always enjoyed greater software sales per player than any other HD format. In fact, HD DVD owners have already bought around 3.5 movies each, compared to less than one movie sold per Blu ray device.
"While we're disappointed by Woolworths' decision, it is extremely early to spot which format will eventually win. As the figures I mention show - where consumers have a choice, they choose HD DVD.
"We're confident that HD-DVD's affordability, fantastic choice of movies, great consumer experience and upcoming promotions will help it continue to strengthen its share of the market."
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