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Warner Offers Low-Priced Blu-ray Discs To HD DVD Buyers

People still using their HD DVD players will need a Blu-ray player to watch movies on the new discs.

For people willing to pay $4.95 per disc, Warner Bros. is offering to ship the Blu-ray version of any film sold by the movie studio in the now-defunct HD DVD format.

The offer comes more than a year after Warner Bros.' Home Entertainment Group delivered the death blow to HD DVD by announcing that it was dropping the Toshiba-backed high-definition format in favor of Sony's Blu-ray. Warner Bros. accounts for roughly 20% of DVD sales in the United States.

People who were on the losing side of the format war can send the cover art of their HD DVD movie and pay Warner $4.95 a disc to get the Blu-ray version of up to 25 HD DVD titles. The shipping charge is set at $6.95 per order. People still using their HD DVD players will need a Blu-ray player to watch movies on the new discs.

Warner Bros. isn't the first company to offer a break to people who made a bad bet on HD DVD. Best Buy about a year ago handed out $50 gift cards to buyers of HD DVD players. The retailer had planned to distribute more than $10 million in the giveback.

Warner Bros.' promotion comes at a time when consumer reception of Blu-ray appears to be warming. From January through March, Americans bought 9 million Blu-ray movies, nearly double the number sold in the same period a year ago, according to Adams Media Research.

Helping to drive sales is lower prices for Blu-ray disc players, which are available for less than $150. However, The Christian Science Monitor points out that the first quarter of 2008 included the final days of the format war, which left many consumers unwilling to spend money on discs and players until there was a clear winner. Therefore, the second quarter of this year is expected to provide a more accurate year-to-year comparison. Some industry watchers believe the growing availability of movie downloads will have an impact on DVD and Blu-ray sales.

Toshiba gave up the battle against Blu-ray four days after Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, said it would stop selling HD DVD movies and players. Companies that dropped support for the format said it was necessary to eliminate customer confusion over having to choose between two competing and incompatible technologies.

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