Blu-Ray attracts suspicion from EU regulators

3 Jul 2007

Sony may have lost the Betamax/VHS video format war in the Eighties, but its attempts to win over Hollywood with Blu-Ray as the new high-definition DVD standard have been so successful that the European Commission (EC) is investigating the matter for anti-competitive practices.

Blu-Ray was developed by the AACS Licensing Administrator group, which includes industry leaders like Sony, Warner Brothers, Disney, Intel and Microsoft, and Sony’s gaming console, the PlayStation 3, comes standard with the high definition drive.

The Blu-Ray Disc Association (BDA) has recently signed deals with all but one of the Hollywood studios, Universal, giving it support by Tinseltown heavyweights Sony Pictures, Disney, MGM and Twentieth Century Fox.

The European Commission has demanded access to all files, communications and papers held by Hollywood studios relating to their exclusive deals with the BDA, in an effort to determine if any anti-competitive practices have been carried out in order to secure the transactions.

Although HD-DVD players are selling more than their Blu-Ray counterparts due to a lower retail price, figures from analysts VideoScan suggest that Blu-Ray discs are outselling the HD-DVD two-to-one.

The Blu-Ray dominance in Hollywood has led the EC to send a letter to the various studios last month, inquiring as to the nature of their licensing agreements.

Because Sony Pictures, Disney. Twentieth Century Fox, Lions Gate Corp and MGM are all tied in exclusively to Blu Ray, this barely gives HD-DVD a look-in on new movie releases, with Universal as the only card in its hand.

On top of this, Blockbuster Video, which operates in Ireland under the Xtravision brand, announced on June 19th that it would stock the Blu-Ray format only in the majority of its outlets.

By Marie Boran