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Warner Bros. Trading HD DVDs for Blu-rays

Posted on Monday, April 27th, 2009 11:32 AM

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If you're new to high definition home video, you may not know that as recently as January 2008, there were two formats competing for the attention of consumers: HD DVD and Blu-ray.

The format war started three years ago with the release of HD DVD, followed by Blu-ray two months later. The battles that ensued between the two formats featured quite a bit of posturing by hardware manufacturers and movie studios, and it caused a lot of angst and consternation among consumers that cared about such things. HD DVD got an early lead due to lower prices for both hardware and software, and due to general disorganization on the part of the Blu-ray camp.

Warner Bros. was one of the leaders in providing their movies on HD DVD first, and then Blu-ray. Other studios chose sides or, like Warner Bros., offered their titles on both formats.

Fast forward to January 2008, and Warner Bros. rocked the high definition home theater world when they blindsided everyone by announcing that they would drop the HD DVD format completely by May 2008. That announcement tipped the scales and led to the end of the HD DVD format less than two months later.

During that turbulent period when the industry and enthusiasts were scrambling to figure out what was going to happen, I wrote a series of Journal articles on the issue. As it became obvious in late January 2008 that the HD DVD format was really done, I suggested that the hardware manufacturers and movie studios could take some steps to win over movie enthusiasts.

One of those suggestions was to offer trade-ins of HD DVD movies for their Blu-ray counterparts:

Warner Bros. should offer to trade HD DVDs for Blu-rays

From the perspective of the movie studios, I definitely feel like Warner Bros. betrayed consumers. They were quoted as denying any change in plans as recently as mid-December. Not too many people are going to believe that they didn't know what was up by then. Maybe that's just business as usual in the board room, but they have a large contingent of people unhappy with them that they are hoping will buy their movies from them.

Warner Bros. could gain an incredible amount of goodwill by exchanging discs for consumers. They could even partner with a big box retailer to perform the exchanges for them, as the retailer would gain from getting people in the door and they would have the chance to market to those people and perhaps persuade them to buy more Blu-ray hardware and software while they were there.

Customers get immediate gratification without dealing with the delays and hassle of mailing discs, Warner Bros. doesn't have to deal with fulfillment (not a strong suit of the WB store at this point in time), and retailers get customers walking in the door. I don't see how the cost of such a program wouldn't be outweighed by the direct and indirect benefits.

Here we are, 15 months later, and the studio is doing just that!

Turn this...... into this!
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix on HD DVD Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix on Blu-ray

Last week, Warner Home Video announced that their Red2Blu program will allow owners of Warner Bros. movies to send in the cover art from the HD DVD (not the disc) and pay an upgrade fee and a shipping and handling fee, and they will receive the Blu-ray equivalent in about 4-5 weeks.

The upgrade fee is $4.95 for most titles, but does go up to $9.95, $14.95, and $19.95 for certain box sets, like the Harry Potter 1-5 Limited Edition Giftset. The shipping and handling fee is $6.95 for any number of discs up to the 25-disc limit for this offer.

The titles that qualify for this promotion will probably change as time goes on, and Warner Home Video is reserving the right to end the promotion at any time. They do say that it will end on December 31, 2009 if not earlier. That means that if you have any Warner Home Video releases on HD DVD and you are interesting in taking advantage of this promotion, don't wait!

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