Blockbuster picks Blu-ray for movie rentals

Blockbuster Inc. announced on Monday that it would rent only Blu-ray discs and not HD DVDs, in its 1,700 company-owned stores.

Blu-ray is extending its early lead in the high-def video wars.

Blockbuster Inc. announced on Monday that it would rent only Blu-ray discs, and not HD DVDs, in its 1,700 company-owned stores. That's supposed to take effect by mid-July.

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The company said the decision was based on Blu-ray rentals "significantly outpacing" HD DVD rentals, and added that both formats will be available through its Web site.

While the dueling formats are technically somewhat similar, Blu-ray enjoys the advantage of being backed by more film studios (Sony, 20th Century Fox, Buena Vista, and Lionsgate) vs. HD DVD, which counts NBC Universal as its strongest supporter. Warner Home Video and Paramount have said they'll release movies in both formats. In addition, Blu-ray discs can store more data.

Blu-ray discs also enjoys the advantage of being playable in every Sony Playstation 3 game console, though of course not everyone with one actually watches movies on it. Recent estimates by the HD DVD Promotion Group put Blu-ray titles at 1.5 million sold so far and HD DVD at 1.2 million. It estimates that there are 1.3 million Blu-ray players (1.2 million of which are PS3s) and 150,000 stand-alone HD DVD players.

Earlier this month, Sony lowered the price of its standalone Blu-ray player to $499, still a few hundred dollars more than Toshiba's rival HD DVD player.

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