Blu-ray Disc broadens horizons

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Blu-ray Disc is making further inroads into the video rental market. Rentrak Corp. said Monday that it has broadened its revenue-sharing deal with Sony Pictures Home Entertainment to include the high-definition discs, beginning in September.

The deal marks Rentrak's first Blu-ray Disc distribution arrangement and includes more than 80 catalog and new-release titles. It makes it easier for video rental dealers to bring in Blu-ray Disc titles because Rentrak's pay-per-transaction program allows retailers to bring in more copies of new releases with less of an upfront investment. PPT retailers then share a percentage of rental revenue with Rentrak, and the studio, as it comes in.

"This move illustrates Rentrak's market knowledge and foresight to get in on the ground floor of this fast-moving industry trend that will help accelerate consumer adoption of high-definition technology," said Marty Graham, president of Rentrak's PPT division. "Our revenue-sharing model is an effective way to represent a broad range of titles and sets the stage for Rentrak to distribute additional high-definition content from our large roster of studio partners."

SPHE president David Bishop said the deal "is important for the expansion of the Blu-ray Disc format because it provides access to more rental channels for retailers."

The Rentrak deal marks the second big advance for Blu-ray Disc in the rental sector in as many months. Blockbuster Inc. said in June that after testing both Blu-ray Disc and rival next-gen format HD DVD, it would go exclusively with Blu-ray Disc in 1,700 company-owned stores. The 250 stores that were part of the initial test, which began in November, will continue to carry both formats, at least for the time being.

While the studios supporting the two next-generation formats initially focused on consumer electronics stores that also carry hardware, they now are aggressively courting the rental market in the hopes of giving consumers a chance to sample the new technology without having to shell out $25 or more to buy a disc.

"By broadening Blu-ray Discs in the rental market, consumers are given more opportunities to experience this revolutionary technology," Bishop said. "And once they see it, they are going to be hooked."
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