Blu-Ray To Offer 5 Free Movies with Players

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The battle between competing HD DVD and Blu-ray high-definition disc formats has been quiet for a little while, but the Blu-ray camp has just fired things up again, announcing that as of July 1, consumers who buy a qualifying Blu-ray disc player will be eligible to receive five Blu-ray movies from a list of 20 popular Blu-ray titles—for free.

Dubbed the Blu-ray Disc Promotion, the program will run from July 1 to September 30&mdashand the www.bluraysavings.com site will go live when the promotion launches. Consumers who purchase a qualifying Blu-ray player from Panasonic, Philips, Pioneer, Samsung, or Sony—and that apparently includes the Sony PlayStation 3—will be eligible to select five free free titles from a list of new releases and “fan favorites,” including Babel,Black Rain,Blazing Saddles,Chicken Little,The Corpse Bride,The Devil’s Rejects,The Guardian,Hart’s War,Invincible,The Italian Job,Kiss of the Dragon,The Last Waltz,The Omen [2006], Pearl Harbor,The Phantom of the Opera,Resident Evil: Apocalypse,Species,Stealth,Stir of Echoes,The Transporter 2, and Underworld: Evolution.

The Blu-ray Disc promotion is apparently a response to the HD DVD Promotion Group’s offer of five free HD DVD titles with the purchase of qualifying HD DVD players, which runs through July 31. The Blu-ray camp has been calling the high-definition format war all but over, claiming consumers prefer Blu-ray titles to HD DVD when the same content is available in both format. The HD DVD camp points out that sales of HD DVD players are outpacing sales of standalone Blu-ray players…of course, that omits the Blu-ray drives included in Sony’s PlayStation 3 gaming console, which itself hasn’t been selling as well as Sony had hoped. However, neither the sales of HD DVD nor Blu-ray titles have been large enough to truly declare a format war is underway, let alone decisively resolved one way or the other.

Expect the Blu-Ray Disc Promotion to be heavily hyped through the coming months: indeed, the main thing the Blu-ray Disc Association seems to want people to know is how much they’ll be advertising this promotion, rather than providing details of what players may qualify for the promotion, and how customers can determine if they’re eligible for free movies. And early adopters of Blu-ray technology—the so-called “true Blu” might not be happy about this latest promotion. After all, early Blu-ray adopters paid top dollar—and didn’t get any free movies—to embrace Blu-ray technology.

In related news, Warner Home Video’s Dan Miron (VP of sales, planning, and operations) informed industry isiders at the Entertainment Supply Chain Academy conferencein Los Angeles that Warner would not be offering titles in its Total HD format until 2008. Originally announced back in January 2007, Warner’s Total HD combines HD DVD and Blu-ray formats on a single disc, offering HD DVD content on one side and Blu-ray content on the other. Warner had initially planned to launch Total HD titles in the second half of 2007, but now says titles won’t launch until 2008, when Warner expects to have 10 to 20 titles available for roll-out. The chance for market success of Warner’s Total HD format is unknown: on one hand, it might appeal to users who can’t make up their minds whether to buy into HD DVD or Blu-ray; on the other hand, it might serve to dilute distinctions between the format, prolonging consumer confusion. Or, as Miron’s announcement may portent, the format may never reach consumers at all.

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