Sony Encouraged by Blockbuster Picking Blu-ray

TOKYO ~ Sony Corp. has hailed US movie rental leader Blockbuster’s decision to expand inventory of its Blu-ray format, giving it a new edge in the battle to set the standard for next-generation DVDs.

Japanese electronics makers have invested heavily in the future of DVDs but failed to agree on a single standard, with Sony and Panasonic pushing for the Blu-ray format with a competing camp led by Toshiba promoting the rival HD DVD.

Blockbuster Video gave the nod to Blu-ray this week in a battle often likened to the VHS-Betamax war of the 1980s for videocassette supremacy.

“The availability of movie titles is very important. The move by Blockbuster is definitely positive,” said Daichi Yamafuji, spokesman for Sony Corp. in Tokyo.

Dominance win over HD DVD could help restore some luster to Sony’s reputation for innovation after the company that brought the world the Walkman fell behind other companies such as Apple with its iPod hit music player.

Blockbuster Inc. said it would offer exclusively Blu-Ray at 1,450 stores that will carry next-generation DVDs.

It will continue to offer both formats online and at the first 250 stores that featured the next-generation discs.

In the test period at the 250 stores, Blu-ray rentals significantly outpaced HD-DVD rentals, Blockbuster said.

“We intend to meet the demands of our customers, and based on the trends we’re seeing, we’re expanding our Blu-ray inventory to ensure our stores reflect the right level of products,” Matthew Smith, senior vice president of merchandising for Blockbuster, said in a statement.

However, he added that “it is still too early to say which high-definition format will become the industry standard.”

Earlier this month, Sony slashed the price of its Blu-Ray player for the North American market in a bid to compete with rival electronic companies.

Sony is also suffering from a huge operating loss in its video game division as its PlayStation 3 faces tough competition from rivals Microsoft and Nintendo.

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