Blu-ray and HD-DVD Region Codes: What to Know

Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD playback restrictions

When you buy a DVD or Blu-ray disc, you assume it will play on your DVD or Blu-ray disc player. However, depending on where you purchased the player or disc, that may not always be the case.

Blu-ray Disc Region Coding

Blu-ray has 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:

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.

Blu-ray Disc Region Code Map
Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Not all Blu-ray Discs are released with region coding. This means you may be able to play a non-region coded disc from another area of the World.

However, keep in mind that select Blu-ray Discs may contain standard resolution supplementary materials (such as the making of, interviews, behind the scenes, deleted scenes, etc.) in NTSC or PAL.

If you are in an NTSC-based country, you may not be able to access 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 if the film or program is in another language, that there are subtitles, or an alternate audio track, included in your language.

Ultra HD Blu-ray and Region Coding

Unlike DVD and Blu-ray, Ultra HD Blu-ray Discs aren't region coded – you should be able to play any Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc on any Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc player.

Although Ultra HD Discs aren't region coded, and you can play Blu-rays and DVDs on an Ultra HD player, the players are still subject to Blu-ray and DVD region code playback restrictions unless 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.

You can play the appropriately region coded Blu-ray and DVD on an Ultra HD Blu-ray player but 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 with regards to region coding is contained in this article for reference. There are still HD-DVD player owners who may need this information, as HD-DVD players and discs are still sold and traded on the secondary market.

When the HD-DVD format was introduced, it was indicated that region coding may be implemented but was never announced, thus HD-DVD titles were never region coded.

However, even though HD-DVDs aren't region coded, if they are from another part of the World, they may not always play on a North American HD-DVD player or vice versa, but most do.

The Reason for Region Coding

The reason for region coding boils down to the money involved in release dates and distribution agreements.

Different Release Dates

In some cases films are released to movie theaters at different times in different parts of the world – the Summer blockbuster in the U.S. may be the Christmas blockbuster overseas.

Films are also sometimes released in cinemas 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 overseas, while still showing in theaters in the U.S. (this can also occur in reverse).

Distribution Agreements

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

Although the film is made by a specific 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.

To preserve the financial integrity of 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 of the disc in that region.

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 no longer important, since the format was discontinued less than two years after its introduction.