The Sopranos - Season 6 Part 2 [Blu-ray] courtesy HBO Home Video
HBO has joined the parade to Blu-ray after Warner Bros, its distributor, announced on Friday that they were dropping HD-DVD in May 2008. The Warner Bros announcement could be the event that ends the war between high-definition formats. HD-DVD has the exclusive support of Universal and Paramount/DreamWorks, while Blu-ray has Fox/MGM, Warner Bros, Disney, Sony and Lionsgate. Warner Bros, which holds about 20 percent of the market, was a huge win for the Blu-ray group, and leaves Blu-ray with roughly 75 percent of the HD market. The Warner Bros decision has influenced New Line, along with HBO, to make the switch to Blu-ray, but BBC Home Video is bucking the trend and "will evaluate the marketplace before committing to one format" (according to the studio); the studio has four high-definition releases planned for 2008, available on both formats, and has sold more copies of Planet Earth on HD-DVD. Recent notable Blu-ray releases include The Simpsons (Fox), Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (Disney), 3:10 to Yuma (Lionsgate) and Resident Evil (Sony). TV releases on both formats include Planet Earth ( HD-DVD, Blu-ray), Battlestar Galactica Season 1 (HD DVD), Star Trek: The Original Series Season 1 (HD-DVD), Heroes Season 1 (HD-DVD), Prison Break Season 1 (Blu-ray), Rescue Me Season 3 (Blu-ray), Weeds Seasons 1 and 2 (Blu-ray), Masters of Horror (Blu-ray), Nip/Tuck Season 4 ( HD-DVD, Blu-ray), Smallville Seasons 5 and 6 ( HD-DVD, Blu-ray - Season 5 HD-DVD only), and The Sopranos ( HD-DVD, Blu-ray), though support for the Warner and HBO titles will be pulled in the near future.

Many consumers have been hesitant to jump into the HD market because they feared buying the "wrong" format, having flashbacks of choosing the failed Beta format over VHS in the '80s. Warner Bros cited consumer confusion as a major factor in their decision to join the Blu-ray group, and effectively kill HD-DVD. But is HD-DVD really dead? It still has the support of Universal Studios Home Entertainment, which has recently had success with The Bourne Ultimatum on HD-DVD, and Paramount/DreamWorks, which saw Transformers fly off store shelves. The studios have been adamant that they will continue to support HD-DVD, though rumors on the Internet could lead you to believe otherwise.

The Warner Bros announcement didn't magically render HD-DVD players inoperable (I checked mine, just to be sure), and fans of the format can still enjoy the many movies that will play on them, but the opportunity for the format to grow has been severely hampered by recent events, and the momentum is clearly with Blu-ray (which outsold HD-DVD every week in 2007). It's likely that sales of HD-DVD players will slow down, while sales of Blu-ray players (and the PS3, since it plays Blu-ray movies as well) will increase, but consumers with HD-DVD players shouldn't panic and sell off everything they have. The player still works, although the available titles for the format will shrink in the months to come. It's also unlikely that HD-VMD, a third HD format, will be able to get the support of the Hollywood studios.

What do you think? Will the decision by Warner Bros to drop HD-DVD and release exclusively on Blu-ray changed your attitude towards the HD formats? Are you more likely to buy a Blu-ray player now that the format has overwhelming support from the Hollywood studios? - Gord Lacey