Blu-ray? HD DVD? You CAN Choose!

An article in the Wall Street Journal last week shed light on a little-known fact about the high definition DVD market. Both sides in the conflict make a big deal about which Hollywood studios have exclusive agreements for US distribution in one format or the other, with the Blu-ray camp stressing the number of studios on their side.

As it turns out, you may not have to choose format based on the allegiance of a particular studio. Movies are sold to distributors for other markets — such as Europe – where they are free to determine what format they will offer. As a result, you can get HD DVD versions of titles that are available “exclusively” in Blu-ray, and the other way around. Just go to a European Web site, such as Amazon’s UK operation. You can order online and get the disc shipped to you here, though you’ll pay the extra shipping costs. There apparently are also gray market resellers who make these titles available in the USA. Note that HD DVDs do not have the restrictive “region codes” that are a part of standard DVDs and Blu-ray discs.

The Journal article also makes another interesting point: “most major high-definition titles available overseas seem to reflect a switch to HD DVD, rather than the reverse.” I’ll grant that the numbers of titles and unit sales are too small to use as decisive evidence, but I’ll take it as one more data point to indicate that I was right to pick HD DVD as the format that will win in the end.