Support grows for Sony's Blu-ray high-def DVDs

Prospects for a resolution to the high-definition DVD format war seemed to come into sharper focus on Monday as Best Buy bby and Netflix nflx separately announced plans to promote Sony's sne Blu-ray format over Toshiba's HD DVD.

Best Buy, the No. 1 consumer electronics chain, said that beginning in early March it will provide more shelf space and marketing for Blu-ray players and software than it will for similar HD DVD products.

"We're trying to be a customer advocate," says Mike Vitelli, Best Buy's senior vice president for home solutions. "Consumers want some clear direction. We're stepping out and giving them that recommendation."

The change was based on the company's view that "there are more lines pointing to the blue side" in the battle with HD DVD, Vitelli says.

Home video rental service Netflix reached a similar conclusion: It has stopped buying HD DVD discs.

"We expect that all of the studios will publish in the Blu-ray format and that the price points of high-def DVD players will come down significantly," Ted Sarandos, Netflix's chief content officer, said in a statement.

Blockbuster bbi said last year that most of its stores would offer just Blu-ray discs for high-def rental.

Toshiba's Jodi Sally said in a statement that the company, which recently slashed prices for HD DVD players, "will continue to study the market impact and the value proposition for consumers."

Many consumers who want high-def home video have stayed on the sidelines while Hollywood studios and consumer electronics companies pushed the incompatible formats.

Blu-ray supporters — including Disney dis, Fox, Lionsgate lgf and Sony's film studio — say their discs can pack substantially more digital data that can be used for bonus features and games.

HD DVD's camp — including Universal, Paramount, DreamWorks Animation dwa and Microsoft msft— say that its format is more versatile and stable.

Blu-ray got a big boost last month when Warner Bros., the No. 1 home video distributor, said it would offer just high-def movies and TV shows in that format beginning in May.

Studios in the Blu-ray camp accounted for about 66% of all video sales and rentals in 2007.

Toshiba's strategy to win customers with low-priced players is "a Hail Mary (pass)," says NPD entertainment analyst Russ Crupnick. "It's a format that's not going to be supported much longer."

Blu-ray supporters say that the latest announcements mean the format war is all but over.

"Everyone's tired of it," says Andy Parsons, chairman of the Blu-ray Disc Association's promotions committee. "Both (companies) pointed to consumer preference. It's dictated by market forces."

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