UPDATE: Two rival Blu-ray studios which prefer to remain nameless tell me they’ve caught Paramount / DreamWorks in a “big ass, fat, stupid lie” regarding press releases about the numbers of just released Transformer HD-DVD units sold. Paramount and DreamWorks are denying this– though a Par exec does admit that some of the info is correct but also claims it’s incomplete. (See below.) Remember my reporting on why this matters? Paramount received $50 mil from the HD-DVD side to, among other things, release the Transformers DVD on October 16th exclusively in what was widely recognized as the losing high-def format. So Paramount Home Entertainment shouted from the roof rafters how Transformers was the best selling Day One and Week One high-def title on either format since their inceptions, selling over 100,000 HD-DVDs its first day of release and over 190,000 HD-DVDs in its first week.
But these rival Blu-ray studios aren’t buying it. “Off the record, yes, you’re onto something,” a second Blu-ray studio told me just now. “Paramount may need to ‘transform’ their numbers once the final tally comes in.”
“You’d think anyone even remotely associated with DreamWorks would know better after the SEC investigation into Shrek 2 DVD sales reporting,” the first Blu-ray studio source says. “In an overreaching effort to make a press claim – the #1 high def title position for any format – for Transformers, they’ve gone beyond exaggeration. Here’s the dumb lie: they’ve claimed to sell 100K in one day and 190K in one week. Exact point of sale data from 3 retailers that make up 62% of the high-def market show sales of 73K units for the week. Being very generous, they could possibly reach 125K-130K, which would barely set a record for HD-DVD. And they couldn’t have flooded rental stores since Blockbuster doesn’t stock HD-DVD. It’s an outrage. They think they can say whatever they want and that no one will call them on it. They need to be called on it.”
One Blu-ray studio then provided me with 3rd party substantiation: an internal email from Nielsen’s Videoscan giving the point-of-sale data which Paramount isn’t disputing:
Week Ending 10/21/07 = 89,871 Units (First Week sales as reported in VideoScan First Alert)
300 HD-DVD/DVD Combo Pack
Week Ending 8/5/07 = 56,191 Units (First Week sales as reported in VideoScan First Alert)
Week Ending 8/5/07 = 107,351 Units (First Week sales as reported in VideoScan First Alert)
So I contacted bigwigs at Paramount and DreamWorks and received a flurry of responses from on high. Execs claimed to have checked and double-checked their figures and “everything we said is 100% accurate,” I was told. But a top Par exec just told me this by way of explanation for the discrepancies: “What they’re saying to you is factually correct that the top 3 accounts sold 74,000 units. No disputing that. The mistake they’re making is they’re underestimating the units sold by nontraditional retailers like Amazon.com, Netflix, and Blockbuster Online.”
Paramount may claim that as a public company it can’t release misleading financial information. But one of the Blu-ray studios told me later today, “Par’s assertion of Amazon, Netflix and Blockbuster Online being underestimated is patently untrue as both Amazon and Blockbuster are included in the Nielsen reporting — and they know it. If those 3 outlets accounted for even 30K copies, it would be record-setting for them, yet Par would still be significantly off the 190,000 number.” Meanwhile, everybody to a person at Paramount / DreamWorks chalked this latest controversy up to HD-DVD vs Blu-ray battling.
I’m sure there’ll be more as newer and even more desperate moves are made by both sides. After all, Hollywood for a long time was lopsided in favor of Blu-ray when 7 of the 8 major movie studios (Disney, Fox, Warner, Paramount, Sony, Lionsgate and MGM) supported Blu-ray, and 5 of them (Disney, Fox, Sony, Lionsgate and MGM) released their movies exclusively in the Blu-ray format. At first only Universal was exclusively HD-DVD, but then Paramount and DreamWorks Animation came onboard in mid-August, and everyone’s wondering which way Warner will lean.