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Universal Unveils Blu-ray/DVD Flipper Discs - Starting in January with "Bourne" Movies

Posted on Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009 11:51 AM and updated on Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009 1:11 PM

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Universal Studios Home Entertainment has announced that it will be releasing Blu-ray/DVD combo discs in January 2010, starting with the three Jason Bourne movies, The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy, and The Bourne Ultimatum, starring Matt Damon. The new combo discs are double-sided, with the high definition Blu-ray version of the release on one side, and the standard definition DVD version on the other.

We have always maintained that it is a great idea for movie studios to offer DVD versions of movies along with the Blu-ray version. This provides consumers with the ultimate in flexibility in playing the movie in the highest quality possible when a Blu-ray player is available, but also be able to play the movie in other DVD players, such as those in secondary rooms, vehicles, and portable devices. Disney has been a big proponent of including a DVD version of the movie with their Blu-ray releases and other studios have experimented with the idea as well.

Double-sided discs were used in a limited fashion in the DVD industry, as well as the HD DVD industry, which was a competitor to the Blu-ray format until January 2008. Universal was one of the studios that announced that it would be releasing 90% of its HD DVD's in a combo format, which contained HD DVD and DVD sides on the same physical disc. At the time, this was a competitive advantage for the format, because it was believed that Blu-ray discs were not able to be manufactured in a similar fashion. The approach was not without its difficulties, however, and the HD DVD format lost the high definition format war before the technique had the chance to be fully implemented on a long-term basis.

Is Universal's flipper-disc plan better than Disney's two-disc approach?

I don't think so. Time will tell how reliable these combo discs will be, but the idea seems like a solution without a real problem. Is it cheaper to make a combo disc that is essentially two discs glued together than it is to just include the DVD (which is being produced in high volume already for the DVD-only release) in the same package? I find it hard to believe, but it must, because why else would Universal be doing it?

Having the DVD version of the movie share the same physical disc introduces problems with handling that having separate discs avoids. Do you want your high definition disc subjected the handling that ensues from taking the movie into a vehicle or being transported with a portable DVD player, especially in the case of kids' movies?

Pricing for these combo releases has not been announced yet, even though the titles are scheduled to go on sale January 19, 2010. If this approach raises the price of the titles, Universal will have a tough road to travel. Unfortunately, the Bourne movies are not available on Blu-ray individually (only as a 3-movie box set), so a direct comparison of price cannot be done.

It's also curious that they decided to do this with catalog releases instead of a new release. I think it's safe to assume that most people who are buying the Blu-ray version of a movie they like that was released before the advent of the Blu-ray format probably already have the DVD version. They are not going to be happy if they believe they are being charged extra for something they already have.

If they decide to do a combo disc release of their first new-release title after the January 19th date, Jennifer Aniston's Love Happens, maybe we'll get to see how their approach works from a pricing and consumer-reaction standpoint.

I like the two-disc approach used by Disney and other studios, and when I review Blu-ray releases, it always factors into the value provided by the package. While the standard definition version is still available in Universal's approach, it doesn't rank as highly in my book.

Source: Universal Studios Home Entertainment Press Release

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