A COUPLE of months ago, the battle over which of the two competing high-definition formats would replace the DVD seemed to be drawing to a close. Blockbuster, the world's largest video-rental chain, announced that, in future, it would stock only Blu-ray discs in its 1,450 local branches. After all, two out of three customers had been renting Blu-ray titles. Henceforth, HD DVD versions would be available only at Blockbuster's 250 main stores and through its online service.
Many considered the announcement decisive. In the 1980s, when the video war raged over two rival video-cassette standards, the decision by America's video-rental chains to stock only one format tipped the balance in favour of Matsushita's cheaper and longer-recording VHS standard. Within a few years, Sony's Betamax had disappeared from the shelves.