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WAL-MART CHOOSES BLU-RAY

The nation's largest retailer decides it will no longer carry rival HD DVD offerings.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has picked Blu-ray over HD DVD in the market battle for the format of high-definition video.

The nation's largest retailer said Friday it has decided to sell only Blu-ray DVDs and hardware in its 4,000 U.S. stores and no longer carry rival HD DVD offerings.

The announcement comes five days after Netflix Inc. said it will stop carrying rentals in Toshiba Corp.'s HD DVD format and instead go exclusively with the rival Sony Corp. technology favored by five major movie studios.

Toshiba and Sony have been vying to set the standard for high-definition DVDs and players. The stakes are high because the winner will also get a boost in sales of DVD players needed to read the new format.

Several large retailers have come down on Blu-ray's side, including Target Corp. and Blockbuster Inc.

"We've listened to our customers, who are showing a clear preference toward Blu-ray products and movies with their purchases," said Gary Severson, head of home entertainment for Wal-Mart's U.S. stores.

Wal-Mart said it will phase out all HD DVD offerings by June. Wal-Mart stores and Sam's Club membership warehouses will continue to sell standard definition movies and DVD players, as well as converter technology.

Sony has taken a considerable lead in the format rivalry in recent months, gaining the endorsement of the Walt Disney Co., Sony Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Warner Bros. Entertainment.

Paramount Pictures, which also owns DreamWorks SKG, and Universal Pictures have opted to release films only in HD DVD.

Many consumers have held off on buying a high-definition DVD player until the dominant format is decided.

Those who have bought, though, prefer the Blu-ray. In mid-January, one week after Warner Bros. picked Blu-ray for future releases, data collected by the NPD Group gave Blu-ray 93 percent of all hardware sales for that week.

FAST FACTS

Blu-ray's backers

Those that have picked Sony Corp.'s Blu-ray over Toshiba Corp.'s HD DVD:

Retailers: Wal-Mart, Target, Best Buy, Blockbuster and Netflix.

Movie studios: the Walt Disney Co., Sony Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Warner Bros. Entertainment

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