Are Blu-ray and HD-DVD Discs Region Coded?

Blu-ray Disc Region Code Map

Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

When you by a DVD or Blu-ray disc, you automatically assume that it plays on your DVD or Blu-ray disc player. However, depending on where you purchased your player and where you purchase your discs, that may not always be the case.

Blu-ray Disc Region Coding

Blu-ray has instituted a Region Coding scheme which affects whether you can play certain discs on your player. However, it is more logical than the DVD Region Code structure.

For Blu-ray Discs, there are three regions, designated as follows:

Region A: U.S., Japan, Latin America, East Asia (except China).

Region B: Europe, Africa, Australia, New Zealand

Region C: China, Russia, India, Remaining countries.

However, despite the provisions for Blu-ray Disc region coding, many Blu-ray Discs are released without region coding. In this case, then you may be able to play a non-region coded disc that is released in another area of the World.

However, keep in mind that many Blu-ray Discs also contain standard resolution supplementary materials (such as the making of, interviews, behind the scenes, deleted scenes, etc.) that may be in NTSC or PAL. If you are in an NTSC-based country, you may not be able to access any material in the special features section of the Blu-ray Disc that is recorded in the PAL format (see a list of PAL countries). Also, make sure that if the film or program is in another language, that there are subtitles, or an alternate audio track, included in your language.

Region Coding and Ultra HD Blu-ray

With the arrival of the Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc format, questions have arisen as to whether region coding has been instituted on Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc movie releases. The good news that the answer is no. Unlike Blu-ray Discs and DVDs, you should be able to play any Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc on any Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc player.

On the other hand, there still is a bit of bad news. Although region coding is not a factor in playing Ultra HD Blu-ray discs, and you can play Blu-rays and DVDs on an Ultra HD player, these players are still subject to Blu-ray and DVD region code playback restrictions unless the specific Blu-ray or DVD discs are region code free, or you purchase an Ultra HD Blu-ray disc player that is region code free for Blu-ray and DVD playback.

Also, keep in mind that although you can play the appropriately region coded Blu-ray and DVD on an Ultra HD Blu-ray player, you can't play an Ultra HD Blu-ray disc on a standard Blu-ray or DVD player.

HD-DVD and Region Coding

HD-DVD was officially discontinued in 2008. However, information on HD-DVD and its comparison to Blu-ray, which regards to region coding, is still contained in this article for historical purposes, as well as that there are still HD-DVD player owners may need this information, as HD-DVD players and discs are still sold and traded on the secondary market by format enthusiasts and collectors.

When the HD-DVD format was introduced, It was indicated the possibility region coding would be implemented, but such a system was never announced. As a result, HD-DVD disc titles were never region coded.

However, just as with Blu-ray, even though HD-DVDs are not region coded, if they are from another part of the World, they may not necessarily play on a North American HD-DVD player or vice versa, but many do.

The Reason for Region Coding

The reason for region coding boils down to the money. Here are the specifics: Films are released to the movie theater at different times in different parts of the world.

For example, the Summer blockbuster in the U.S. may end up being the Christmas blockbuster overseas.

By the same token, there are many major films that are sometimes released in Europe or Asia before they are released in the U.S. If that occurs, the DVD or Blu-ray version of the movie may be out in the U.S. while it is still showing in theaters overseas or vice versa.

However, even if there is no conflict between movie theater release dates for a specific film around the World, the DVD or Blu-ray Disc version may still be region coding to preserve disc distribution rights.

In other words, although the film is made by a particular studio for worldwide distribution, that same studio may assign the Blu-ray or DVD distribution rights to different media companies in different parts of the World. For example, Media Company "A" might have the distribution rights for the U.S., while Media Company "B" might have the distribution rights in the UK or China.

In order to preserve the financial integrity both theatrical and disc distribution of a particular film, region coding is implemented to restrict the importation of discs from one region to another that would affect the profits of the legal distributor that disc in that region.

Obviously, although this important for DVD and Blu-ray Discs, since HD-DVD never had a major impact on the market, the fact that what discs there are (about 200 were made) not region coded is not important at this point, since the format was discontinued less than two years after its introduction.