Best Buy, Netflix Choose Blu-Ray

While the Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike has turned our television screens into vessels of reality TV lately, there is always DVD, right? To an even greater extent, there is also this great revolution happening in DVD that takes us from a world of standard definition to the glorious quality of high definition. And up until recently, this revolution has been a civil war amongst studios, some siding with Microsoft, Toshiba and HD-DVD and others backing Sony and its Blu-ray format.

Recently Warner Brothers jumped ship from HD-DVD to releasing their films exclusively on Blu-ray, shifting the balance of power to Sony, Disney, Apple and the Blu-ray format. The announcement even forced HD-DVD to limit their presence at CES.

Well today another heavy blow was dealt to the HD-DVD side, as both Netflix and Best Buy, the nation’s largest consumer electronics retailer joined Wal-Mart, announcing their exclusive support of the Blu-ray format. As many speculated a few weeks ago on the heels of the WB announcement, it may be the retailers that ultimately decide when it is HD-DVD’s time to go the way of the BetaMax. Apparently that time is now.

Netflix made their announcement in an email to members, saying “In order to provide the best selection of high-definition titles for our members, we have decided to go exclusively with Blu-ray as well.” They will continue to have HD-DVD titles available for the next few months, but will ultimately phase them out of their selection by they end of the year.

In a statement released today by Best Buy, president of retail North America Brian Dunn had this to say: “Consumers have told us that they want us to help lead the way. We’ve listened to our customers, and we are responding. Best Buy will recommend Blu-ray as the preferred format. Our decision to shine a spotlight on Blu-ray Disc players and other Blu-ray products is a strong signal to our customers that we believe Blu-ray is the right format choice for them.”

Beginning in early March, Best Buy will prominently showcase all Blu-ray hardware and software products in their retail stores and online channels in North America. They will continue to carry a “limited” amount of HD-DVD products, but have decided to give full support to Blu-ray. No word was given on how long it will take Best Buy to fully eliminate HD-DVD from its assortment, but estimates say that it could happen by the end of the summer.

This leaves Universal Studios and Paramount hanging in the balance as the last major supporters of HD-DVD. We can probably expect to see something from them in the next few days, with some kind of concession speech from Toshiba being the next logical step. For consumers, this is the best possible news. At least we have a winner. For HD-DVD investors and enthusiasts though, this is just the culmination of a ride filled with inevitability. No one should be surprised by now.