HD-DVD wants Blu-ray investigated.

In a story from Wall Street Journal, it looks like "European antitrust regulators are stepping up their probe into possible anticompetitive practices in the format war over high-definition DVDs."

At the heart of all this is "The European Commission, the European Union's executive body, appears to be particularly interested in the activities of the Blu-ray group because of its dominance in Hollywood."

They want to investigate "whether improper tactics were used to suppress competition and persuade the studios to back their format."

The spokesman for the commission, Jonathan Todd, "confirmed that it had sent letters to the studios in mid-June trying to establish whether they have restrictive agreements to use one or the other of the standards."

The proponents of HD-DVD have "had some success in its partnership with Microsoft Corp.'s Xbox 360 videogame consoles and by offering lower-priced machines, the Blu-ray camp has gained the upper hand in Hollywood, with more studios backing its format."

However, the folks behind HD-DVD have "been lobbying the commission to draw attention to Blu-ray's tactics in the movie capital in a bid to force more studios to put their product on HD-DVD, according to people familiar with the situation. One issue the Commission has raised with some studios is statements made at the Consumer Electronics Show in January in Las Vegas about the exclusivity of studios to Blu-ray, according to people familiar with the situation."

While Blu-ray does appear to be beating HD-DVD in the format war things are "expected to reach a fever pitch in the fourth quarter of this year. The run-up to the Christmas period is traditionally the most important period for DVD sales. There is a lot at stake: Whichever camp wins the battle stands to make huge profits from selling both players and DVDs."

Despite this talk of big sales and press releases claiming a certain portion of the market, the reality is "the market for next-generation DVDs of either stripe is tiny so far, though. Through June, Blu-ray had sold about 1.8 million discs, compared with 1.3 million for HD DVD, according to consultancy Adams Media Research."

However, currently "Blu-ray discs are outselling HD-DVDs at a rate of about two to one, says Tom Adams, president at Adams Media. But that doesn't mean HD DVDs can't reclaim the advantage if more studios start releasing movies in both formats."

The feeling is that "once either format hits about two million homes, it will create a large enough incentive for any studio not releasing titles in that format to reconsider, Mr. Adams says."

Lastly, "many consumers say the difference in quality between the new DVDs and the old ones isn't as impressive as the difference between VHS tapes and DVDs, prompting them to drag their feet on replacing their equipment. In addition to buying new players, consumers need expensive high-definition televisions to play the new discs."

Evan Jacobs at Movieweb
Evan Jacobs