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Best Buy kicks HD DVD while it's down

The biggest electronics store in the U.S. says it will recommend Blu-ray Disc over rival format HD DVD.

Already starting the week off on a bad note, HD DVD's day just keeps getting worse.

Starting next month Best Buy says it will prominently display Blu-ray players and discs in its stores and recommend the format over rival HD DVD, according to a Reuters report.

"Because we believe that Blu-ray is fast emerging as that single format, we have decided to focus on Blu-ray products," Brian Dunn, Best Buy's president and chief operating officer, said in a statement Monday.

It's not an exclusive arrangement since Best Buy says it will still continue to offer HD DVD. But having Best Buy's valuable endorsement in the form of Sunday circulars, front-and-center store kiosks, and staff recommendation seems to be the icing on the cake for a Blu-ray victory in the format war, and potentially the death rattle for HD DVD.

Earlier Monday, online movie rental service Netflix announced it would phase out its offering of HD DVD discs by the end of the year. Netflix's position likely will have less of an immediate impact on the format battle since its business depends on people who have already made a decision on which format they support. In other words, Netflix availability isn't the reason most consumers will lay down $400 for a video player.

But Best Buy is different. It's the nation's largest consumer electronics store, and in a situation where consumer education is one of the biggest battles, much of the actual fighting of the format war needs to be won at the sales level. When someone looking to upgrade to HD video goes in to a store and asks their friendly sales associate which format they recommend, the answer is going to have a serious impact.

Update, 4 PM PT: The HD DVD Promotional Group responded with a statement that's strikingly similar to the one issued earlier in the day: "We have long held the belief that HD DVD is the best format for consumers based on quality and value, and with more than 1 million HD DVD players on the market, it's unfortunate to see Netflix make the decision to only stock Blu-ray titles going forward. While the Best Buy announcement says they will recommend Blu-ray, at least they will continue to carry HD DVD and offer consumers a choice at retail."