Recemt sales in consumer electronics exhibitions had been focusing on Blu-ray players – or at least that’s what I had been seeing. Either that or the marketing that was done was really good. For the uninitiated, the Blu-ray is just 1 of 2 of the successors of DVD technology – promising to provide higher definition playback as well as other enhanced features. Blu-ray promises a larger capacity and better protection while HD DVD – the other competitor seems to provide only higher definition.

Perhaps the marketing strengths of Sony – who owns Blu-ray, had been really good because I can probably recall about hearing a Blu-ray player, but a HD DVD player? Hmm… probably just HDTV.

LOS ANGELES – THE high-definition DVD war is all but over.

Hollywood’s squabble over which of two technologies will replace standard DVDs skewed in the direction of Sony Corp late last week, with Warner Brothers casting the deciding vote in favour of the company’s Blu-ray discs over the rival HD DVD format.

In some ways, the fight is a replay of the VHS versus Betamax battle of the 1980s.

This time, however, the Sony product appears to have prevailed.

‘The overwhelming industry opinion is that this decides the format battle in favour of Blu-ray,’ said Mr Richard Doherty, research director of Envisioneering Group, a market research company in New York.

Behind the studio’s decision are industry-wide fears about the sagging home entertainment market, which has bruised the movie industry in recent years as piracy, competition from video games and the Internet, and soaring costs have cut into profitability.

Analysts predict that domestic DVD sales fell by nearly 3 per cent last year, partly because of confusion over the various formats.

But HD DVD is not dead.

Two major studios, Paramount Pictures and Universal Pictures, have deals in place to continue releasing their movies exclusively on HD DVD, as does DreamWorks Animation.

Warner Brothers, part of Time Warner, will also continue to release its titles on both formats until the end of May. But by supporting Blu-ray, Warner Brothers, the largest player in the US$42 billion (S$60 billion) global home entertainment market, makes it next to impossible for HD DVD to recover its early momentum.

Consumers have been largely sitting on the sidelines waiting to buy high-definition DVD players until they see which will have the most titles available.

Retailers have been complaining about having to devote space to three kinds of DVDs, and the movie business has delayed tapping a lucrative new market.

‘Consolidating into one format is something that we felt was necessary for the health of the industry,’ said Mr Barry Meyer, chief executive of Warner Brothers.

With Warner on board, Blu-ray now has about 70 per cent of the market.

Toshiba said in a statement it was quite surprised and particularly disappointed by Warner’s decision.

Which technology is better has been the subject of intense debate. HD DVD players have been much cheaper, but Blu-ray discs have more storage space and more advanced protection against piracy. Both versions deliver sharp resolution.

Blu-ray titles have sharply outsold HD DVD offerings by as much two to one, according to some analysts.

In Singapore, sales of either type of disc have been slow to pick up as well.

Retailers say regular DVDs outsell Blu-ray and HD DVD discs 20 to 1.

Viewers have stayed away because players are still expensive – usually at $1,000 or more. They are also waiting for more titles to ship in the new formats.

As of last month, there were about 100 such titles in either Blu-ray or HD DVD, compared with about 1,000 in the United States.

NEW YORK TIMES

Article obtained from straitstimes.com on 7th January 2008



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