Warner's HD DVD shift may hurt sales


Warner Home Video's defection from the HD DVD camp may have put a damper on hardware sales.

In the week after the studio's surprise early-January announcement that after May it will only support the rival Blu-ray Disc format, sales of HD DVD players ground to a virtual halt, giving Blu-ray hardware a whopping 93% sales advantage, according to data from The NPD Group.

According to raw retail data collected by NPD, consumers bought just 1,758 HD DVD players the week of Jan. 12, down from 14,558 players the week before. In contrast, consumers bought 21,770 Blu-ray Disc machines, up from 15,257 the previous week.

NPD would not confirm nor deny the actual sales figures, saying they are proprietary. (A copy of the report was provided to The Hollywood Repoter by a third-party source.)

But analyst Stephen Baker confirmed the weekly market share shift, with the caveat that it's too soon to tell whether this or the start of a long-term trend.

"It's always very dangerous to make long-term assumptions based on one-week sales data," he said.

Baker said while the Warner defection may have impacted HD DVD player sales, other factors may also have come into play, including an aggressive promotion by Sony and Sharp in which HDTVs were bundled with Blu-ray Disc players.

"And we haven't seen the results of Toshiba significantly dropping the price of their set-top players [later in the month]," Baker said. "One week just doesn't give us enough data points to say something is going on for the long term. It only tells me in one week something happened."

NPD tracks point-of-sale data from major U.S. retailers who collectively account for about two-thirds of consumer electronics hardware sales.