The donnybrook between the rival high definition DVD formats took a strange turn today when Viacom announced that Paramount and DreamWorks Animation Each Declare Exclusive Support for HD DVD:
Paramount Pictures, a unit of Viacom Inc. (NYSE: VIA and VIA.B) and DreamWorks Animation SKG (NYSE: DWA), each announced today that they will exclusively support the next-generation HD DVD format on a worldwide basis. The exclusive HD DVD commitment will include all movies distributed by Paramount Pictures, DreamWorks Pictures, Paramount Vantage, Nickelodeon Movies and MTV Films, as well as movies from DreamWorks Animation, which are distributed exclusively by Paramount Home Entertainment.
The companies each said that the decision to distribute exclusively in the HD DVD format resulted from an extensive evaluation of current market offerings, which confirmed the clear benefits of HD DVD, particularly its market-ready technology and lower manufacturing costs. Paramount Home Entertainment will launch its exclusive HD DVD program with the release of the blockbuster comedy hit “Blades of Glory” on August 28th and follow with two of the biggest grossing movies of the year “Transformers” and “Shrek the Third”. These three titles alone represent more than $1.5 billion in box office ticket sales worldwide.
Both studios had previously supported both formats and executives of both claimed that it was low prices and “market-ready technology” that drove the HD DVD choice. Gizmodo observes that with this switch, studio support for the two formats is basically even.
This changes the playing field since the rival Blu-ray format had been showing a lot of strength lately (particularly with Blockbuster’s announcement of Blu-ray only support) and prices had been dropping across the board for both formats. I guess it’s really not over until the fat lady sings.
Update: Ars Technica has more on the technical reasons for the switch including the better Internet connectivity requirements for HD DVD players, but the skeptical will note that the two studios will be reportedly be getting up to $150 million in financial incentives for their decision.