Preliminary disc sales data from Nielsen VideoScan for the week ending Feb 18 shows Blu-ray in the lead for disc sales since inception -- the first time Blu-ray has surpassed HD DVD in this category.
The numbers, as first reported by Home Media Magazine, show Blu-ray as having now sold 100 units to every 98.71 units of HD DVD since the inception of both formats.
Crippled by a dearth of new releases and what some attribute to the "PS3 Effect," HD DVD has seen its healthy early lead in the high-def format dwindle over the first six weeks of 2007. In fact, as we've previously reported, since VideoScan numbers became publicly available in early January, Blu-ray has led in weekly sales data by a factor of at least 2:1.
Studio comments on both sides of the format war were nothing if not predictable regarding the milestone.
On the Blu-ray side, David Bishop of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has this to say to Home Media Magazine: "Seeing HD DVD in our rear-view mirror is no surprise to us. Blu-ray’s success is something that we have predicted since we first started promoting the new format. It has always been Sony’s position that there would be an inevitable migration from HD DVD to Blu-ray because of several factors, including the technical superiority of Blu-ray, the successful launch of PlayStation 3, the growing availability of BD playback machines and BD-enabled computers from the best consumer electronic brands in the world, as well as the growing number of hit titles being made available on the BD format."
Steven Feldstein at Fox (which also backs Blu-ray) added: "As we noted at CES, the format war is in its final phase. It’s never been a question of if Blu-ray will pass HD DVD, but a matter of when."
Meanwhile, Ken Graffeo from HD DVD backing Universal Studios Home Entertainment attributed Blu-ray's win to the larger number of new Blu-ray titles that hit the market in the first six weeks of the year, and pointed to HD DVD's superior attach rate, which he said remains five times greater than Blu-ray's, saying: "Given that the life-to-date title sales ratios are close to 1:1, and given that Blu-ray has a 5:1 ratio right now on the hardware side due to the PS3, why aren’t Blu-ray software sales outpacing HD DVD by a similar ratio?"
Finally, as you might expect, dual-format supporting studio Warner (developer of the upcoming "Total Hi Def" hybrid disc) struck a more conciliatory tone: "We’re not in this for winning or losing,” said Warner SVP Steve Nickerson. "Both formats are selling well on software."
Unfortunately, without hard sales numbers from VideoScan (only per-format sales ratios), exactly how well the software is selling remains a mystery. Stay tuned... (Thanks to Steve for the tip!)