Some Clarity for High-Definition Optical Format

With Warner Bros.’ ‘shocking’ decision to exclusively back the Blu-Ray camp, it seems like the entire internet is quaking at death knell of HD-DVD. As of May of this year, only Universal and Paramount Pictures studios will be exclusively backing the HD-DVD format. Currently, Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema support Blu-Ray as well as HD-DVD. Although the announcement of exclusivity is only for Warner Bros., it’s very likely that New Line Cinema will soon follow suit as it is a subsidiary of Time Warner as well.

I think many people expect that a single format will eventually win out; however, the move by Warner Bros. seems to have hit the HD-DVD group where it hurts. Just days before CES 2008, the North American HD-DVD promotion group has canceled their scheduled conferences at the electronics show, undoubtedly to avoid the negative questions swirling over the viability of HD-DVD caused by the current situation. Meanwhile, Toshiba has issued an official press release, stating their shock. The wording of the statement also seems to imply there were certain monetary contracts between Toshiba and Warner Bros. There’s been speculation that the Blu-Ray camp may have offered significant payment to Warner Bros. for choosing their format exclusively, but this has been denied by Warner Bros.

To be honest, I haven’t the least bit of interest in which eventually wins. I’m just waiting until one does so that I can buy a player and/or a PC drive without second guessing whether I made the correct choice or not. Certainly, some of these movie studios also want to end the competition, so that consumers like myself don’t hesitate because of uncertainty over the outcome of the format war.


7 Replies to “Some Clarity for High-Definition Optical Format”

  1. I heard about this recently as well… Needless to say it caused quite the stir in the gaming community, seeing as Sony and the PS3 is behind Blu-ray and Microsoft and the 360 is behind HD-DVD.

    The question I have is: how much longer DVD will dominate the market? Blu-ray and HD-DVD replication is, according to my knowledge, still quite expensive and therefore expensive for the consumer to buy. I personally find it difficult to see the differences between HD formats and DVD format, and I would imagine the incremental changes you can see at the moment are not worth the money to the average Joe, especially looking at a replication cost of $1.45/disc (HD), $1.59/disc (BR) and $0.50/disc for a DVD. (Pro Action Media)

  2. In terms of sales, while HD-DVD and Blu-ray are boasting about hundreds of thousands of units sold, DVD is quietly wracking up millions upon millions of units. So in terms of unit sales, DVDs won’t be replaced for quite a while yet. For the companies, the increase in replication costs aren’t really something to be concerned with. Although there is a 200%+ difference in the costs you quoted, we’re still talking in the dollar range. Meanwhile, a quick check of pricing at stores shows DVDs are $20-24 for a movie, while Blu-ray and HD-DVDs are averaging around $30. For the producer, the high-def formats are probably actually making a higher margin, assuming only production costs, and not R&D.

    For the consumer, I think most would be wiling to spend the extra $5 to $10 more for the disc; however the main roadblock is the $1000 HDTV and $300-400 player to be able to view that $30 movie. But with the US TV broadcasting to go digital by 2009, lots of HDTVs will find their way into peoples’ homes. And remember, when DVDs were first introduced, the players were very expensive as well. Just DVDs, Blu-ray/HD-DVD players prices will drop.

    As for you not really seeing the difference between HD and standard definition, I’m not sure what to say. I was quite content with DVD quality media at point as well, but now I’m looking at 720p as the new baseline quality for my media from this point on. Perhaps it’s time for a new TV/monitor? 😉

  3. I’ll throw in my two cents in backwards order.

    First of all, even though the TV signal is going to be going digital in 2009, I don’t see everyone immediately dropping their analog boxes and going for digital TVs and tuners. I know my parents, as well as lots of other families that simply don’t care for buying a new TV will just get a digital to analog signal converter. But then again, those people aren’t the ones investing in the latest and greatest HD video.

    When comparing HD-DVD and BD player costs though, HD-DVD still comes out on top. $100 USD players vs. $300 USD players in the respective camps, which one are you going to choose? It’s sad that the format wars are going to be decided by exclusives because given a fair chance, market forces would favour HD-DVD.

    HD-DVD was technically superior up until recently. They were both able to fit the movie and all the extras on the disk, even with HD-DVD’s smaller capacity. What HD-DVD had over BD was internet connectivity or some sort of interactivity. Only the most recent BD specs had that outlined. I believe this is what made the HD-DVD 300 better than the BD version.

    What I’m most concerned about is storage. Burners for either format are still ridiculously expensive as well as incredibly slow. Even if they were to magically bump it up to 52x writing speeds, we’re talking writing 50GB for a full BD disk. The time needed to do this is just too much, let alone the fear of burning that much non-redundant information onto a single medium. Flash drives, FTW!

  4. Richard – I also think part of the reason I’m not terribly interested in this format war is because I buy blank DVDs or CDs rarely. I haven’t found a need to burn my media onto DVDs to be played in DVD players. I have a computer hooked up to the HDTV back home and anything I want to watch on the big screen, I can just transfer to that computer.

    I’m far more interested in building a media server than buying lots of optical media. I mean truth be told, I’ve never had much confidence in the reliability of burnt optical media.

    Will – Paramount also released a statement saying they were still behind HD-DVD. I’m not sure if they’d say otherwise if they weren’t. Then again, the ‘no comment’ response would seem to be a much safer bet if they were actually wavering in their support.

  5. There are very few reasons for a studio to choose one format over the other from a technical aspect, if anything, they would move away from a Sony-backed product considering that Sony itself has its own movie studio. There are definitely some closed door meetings taking place, and additional funds being floated around. Sony’s losing consumer trust and it could be the last straw for those who purchased Blu-Ray devices if Blu-Ray ‘lost’. They have a lot on the line with Blu-Ray.

    Regardless of which format wins, the win won’t be as substantial as wining the VHS/BETA war or be as lucrative as the DVD format was. With the saturation of highspeed internet, and computers and consumer electronics becoming one, it won’t be long before an appliance like VUDU or a service built into Media Center/Home Server will become the consumer’s preference for obtaining HD programming much like it has become for music now. A file is far more flexible than a piece of optical media.

    Regardless, I picked up a LG GGW-H20L optical drive for my new PC so it can play both just in case.

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