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Thursday, January 10, 2008
U.S. Retailers Don't See a Clear Winner in HD Format War

Commenting on the recent announcements by Warner Bros, U.S retailers seems to not be convinced that the High definition format war has come to an end.

Reporting from CES, Reuters had a chat with some of the major retailers concerning the future of the HD DVD and the Blu-ray disc formats on the market.

Steve Eastman, Target Corp's vice president of consumer electronics, said that they were not in a position to declare a winner.

"As long as there are two standards competing in public, consumers will stay away, Eastman said. "Until it settles completely I think we're going to continue to see consumers sitting on the sidelines," he added.

Wall-Mart's Gary Severson said that a single format would offer a clearer choice for the customer, especially in the Christmas season. "I don't know if that's going to happen or not," he added.

Looking it from the retailer's side, a single format could be an advantage due to smaller inventory and less resources needed to promote it. At least this was the opinion of Best Buy CEO Brad Anderson, who said that a single format would make it easier for them as retailers to help push it. Representatives of Circuit City also welcomed the idea of any dominant winner. "We are very excited to see progress of any type, and we see this as significant progress," said Circuit City Chief Executive Officer Phil Schoonover at CES.

Even if a winner emerges, Hollywood executives and retailers at CES say consumers still need to be convinced high definition is worth buying. Sales of the blue laser disc movies are still very low compared to those released in the DVD format in the U.S..

"If we were able to have one united message and say: 'Here's high definition TV, here's a high definition DVD, here's the medium to play on it,' it's a much cleaner story to customers that the industry can push, that every retailer can push and the customer goes, 'OK I get it,"' Wal-Mart's Severson said. "Right now they're basically being taught to wait and see what happens," he said.

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