Here’s another punch thrown in the ongoing Blu-ray vs HD-DVD format war. Tomorrow at 8 am, Wal-Mart is offering a “secret sale” of a Toshiba HD A2 HD-DVD player for a rock-bottom price of $98.87 (and $15 HD movies…) Best Buy fought back and dropped the price of its identical Toshiba player to $99.00. I hear it sold out online nationwide within five hours. As one tipster told me, “Cheap prices like this will crown the champ.” But Hollywood studios think they will anoint the king with their content.
Certainly consumers who’ve had no intention of dropping a dime for either format DVD player may reconsider now. Plus, more crazy HD-DVD discounts are coming later this holiday season. So I asked some studios in the Blu-ray camp what they think about this deep discounting. “The initial target for high-def discs are not consumers simply seeking the lowest price. After all, the whole appeal here has to do with quality of image,” an insider told me. “We’re talking about people who’ve already spent several thousand dollars on an HD flat screen TV and high-end sound system. So if you spend that much and want to upgrade to a high-def disc experience, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to jump on the cheapest player out there.” The Blu-ray camp also questions whether selling at a loss is an HD-DVD “desperate measure” in recognition of the power of the competition which still has the advantage in terms of studios, players, titles and storage capacity. “This seems to be little more than a one-off stunt (and one which has not precipitated much in the way of media coverage thus far). Maybe their next move will be an Abbie Hoffman-esque ‘Steal this HD-DVD player’.”