Happy Blu year?

Recently released independent sales tracking from Nielsen's VideoScan has shown that Blu-ray Disc has nearly caught up to HD DVD in total number of discs sold since launch, and that the Sony-backed format outsold HD DVD at a rate of better than 2:1 in the first two weeks of January. While this is certainly too short a window to draw conclusions from, there are some significant reasons that this news bodes well for Blu-ray.

HD DVD aimed to develop a big lead by launching early and establishing a foothpold in the market, and it indeed launched a few months in advance of Blu-ray in Spring of 2006. While Toshiba's first-generation HD DVD players were universally derided for ergonomic issues, the picture and sound quality was universally praised. Although Blu-ray software started shipping in June, the first BD player didn't show up until August, and that Samsung player was widely panned for poor image quality that turned out to be due to a faulty setting in one of its chip sets. Although a Panasonic player started shipping in small quantities late in the fall, Blu-ray didn't really launch until PS3 was released on November 17th.

Although the window of sales cited by the VideoScan numbers is small, it leaves little doubt that whatever lead HD DVD attained in Blu-ray's lumbering march to market has evaporated. Blu-ray has cut the gap in total software sales in impressive time, even considering the staggering number of players the PS3 has wrought by itself. Information purported to be taken directly from Amazon (at www.eproductwars.com/dvd) shows that the total number of software titles available now has HD DVD narrowly ahead with Blu-ray ahead in many of its individual sales categories.

CES 2007 was loaded with scores of new title announcements from BD exclusive studios, including compelling smash hits like Pixar's Cars and both Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Since CES HD DVD's single exclusive studio, Universal, announced that it will counter with 100 titles in '07 with the most significant being day and date with DVD releases of Alfonso Cuaron's Children of Men and The Good Shepherd.

Also announced at CES was marketing data prepared by Fox that showed its findings that Blu-ray titles would be outselling HD DVD by a ratio of 4:1 by the end of the the first quarter of 2007. While some regarded this a biased and partisan boast, the VideoScan numbers show that as of January 14th Blu-ray was closing in on a 3:1 advantage. And this is two months in front of Casino Royale's exclusive Blu-ray release. Time will tell if Universal's output will maintain parity or be too little, too late.