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HD DVD Offers Contrary Survey

Responding to the Blu-ray Disc Association’s recent consumer survey on high-definition optical disc formats, HD DVD backers issued results from a consumer survey they commissioned, showing HD DVD to be the format of choice among most respondents, but nearly half also said they would not purchase a player of any kind if studios remain split between formats.

The independent survey, which was commissioned in part by Warner Home Video, was conducted by Ipsos-Vantis in May 2005 to quantitatively evaluate preferences for HD DVD alone, Blu-ray alone, HD DVD and Blu-ray in the market simultaneously and HD DVD with a delayed Blu-ray launch.

The survey targeted 3,019 respondents, comprised of 1,027 HDTV owners, 996 HDTV intenders and 996 non-HDTV owners. All were said to be either early DVD adopters (purchased a DVD player prior to June 2000) or members of the early DVD majority (purchased a player between June 2000 and June 2002). The latter represented two-thirds of the sample.

Steve Nickerson, Warner Home Video’s market management senior VP, said the survey was commissioned to get an accurate-as-possible assessment of player sales volumes in one to two years, and to find out consumer sentiment about the different formats.

The Ipsos survey showed 47 percent of respondents supported HD DVD compared to 30 percent for Blu-ray, assuming full support from all content providers. Consumers were also told that functions and benefits of each format weighed almost equally.

Nickerson suggested the combination of “HD” and “DVD” in the format name influenced the DVD-familiar respondents.

“Supporters of Blu-ray Disc have been playing up the power of the brands that support their format,” Nickerson said. “But what this shows us is that ‘DVD’ is as powerful or maybe even more powerful than any company brand. People see HD DVD as an extension of DVD and a part of high definition.”

Nickerson said he had no explanation for the dramatic differences between the HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc commissioned surveys.

“We weren’t looking to make a case for anything in our study,” Nickerson said. “We were looking to find out what the consumers thought.”

Among DVD early adopters in the HD-DVD-commissioned survey, 55 percent of respondents said they intend to purchase an HD DVD player, while 45 percent said they intended to purchase a Blu-ray Disc player. Among DVD early majority members, 41 percent said they intend to purchase an HD DVD player, while 16 percent said they would purchase a Blu-ray Disc device.

Among respondents that were shown only one format, without reference to the other, 17 percent said they would “definitely buy” HD DVD and 29 percent said they would “probably buy” a unit. This compared with 10 percent who said they would “definitely buy” Blu-ray, and 18 percent said they would “probably buy” a Blu-ray product.

In a group that was shown both formats at the same time, 28 percent said they liked HD DVD “extremely well” and 34 percent said they liked it “very well,” while 16 percent said they liked Blu-ray “extremely well” and 28 percent said they liked Blu-ray “very well.”

The survey also showed a strong consumer preference for HD DVD hybrid discs that would combine high-definition and standard-definition DVD.

“The prospect for Blu-ray was quite good when compared to the first year-and-a-half of DVD sales,” said Nickerson. “But the prospect for HD DVD is 30 percent higher than that and the prospect for HD DVD when we test the hybrid concept is 46 percent higher than Blu-ray Disc.”

Nickerson said the survey shows that with extensions onto the DVD format, “early majority and perhaps people from the mass market get into the product faster.”

However, the survey did not take into account the recently approved single-sided hybrid Blu-ray/DVD format disc developed by JVC.

Nickerson said WHV will introduce hybrid disc titles in the first wave of HD DVD releases later this year.

In the event of a format war, prospects change significantly.

When respondents were told that two formats are in the market, assuming that machines will support all formats in the same way as today’s DVD players, 47 percent of respondents said they would buy HD DVD, 30 percent said they would buy Blu-ray and 23 percent said they wouldn’t buy anything.

But when told that equipment would only play back certain movies on certain hardware, respondents elected to stay away in greater numbers, with 45 percent saying they wouldn’t buy anything, while 39 percent selected HD DVD and 16 percent selected Blu-ray.

Nickerson said the results, not surprisingly, show that unification is the best scenario for all parties.

“I think in some people’s minds the unification effort is dead,” Nickerson said. “But there are people in companies on both sides that still understand one format is the best way to go, and those people have not given up the quest for unification, and we [WHV] would be among those.”

However, Nickerson said that WHV understands the urgency of bringing a format to market quickly to support the growing ranks of HDTV owners, and “we are working very hard to make sure we have product in the market if unification does not come to pass, and make sure that that product is out as quickly as possible.”