It's likely that HD-DVD early adopters won't have any high-def discs to watch when the players become available on March 28. That's the word from retailing giant Wal-Mart and Warner Home Video, as reported in a couple of interesting stories highlighted by the enthusiast DVD Web site The Digital Bits. Trade publication Video Business is reporting that Wal-Mart's Web site is no longer taking preorders for the discs. A quick Google search seems to confirm that assertion: you can find several first-gen HD-DVD titles (such as Million Dollar Baby, Training Day, and GoodFellas). Clicking through yields a Product Not Found page, but the always handy &oId=&ontId=&tag=blog">Google cache indicates they were previously available (only $25.48!).
Home Media Retailing follows up with more information. According to an article dated Sunday, March 12, Warner Home Video division president Ron Sanders is quoted as saying, "[Warner] is still coming out with an initial slate, but we may be a week or two later; we just don't know." The article goes on to mention that Wal-Mart and Best Buy pulled ads for HD-DVD titles because of the indeterminate delivery dates and because Warner has yet to set a suggested retail price for the discs. The bottom line is that the first HD-DVD player, the $799 , is still on track to hit stores on March 28--but buyers may be stuck using it to play standard DVDs for at least a couple of weeks, until Warner and other studios shore up plans for the initial wave of titles.
In more positive HD-DVD news, Netflix is making good on its promise to support the nascent high-def optical disc format. We were able to verify a report on Hackingnetflix.com (linked on digg.com) that Netflix users can toggle their account to receive the HD-DVD versions of movies they choose--when and if, of course, HD-DVD versions are available. Netflix plans on supporting Blu-ray discs as well, once they become available later in the spring.
We're working on a quick guide to HD-DVD and Blu-ray that should be up by the end of the week. In the meantime, let us know if this latest news has you leaning toward HD-DVD or Blu-ray--or if you'll be sticking with good ol' DVD in the meantime.