War of the Formats

07-Jan-08 1:05 PM by
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The current buzz of the movie industry is Warner's decision to abandon the HD-DVD format in favor of Blu-Ray. That leaves almost no major studios supporting both formats, choosing one or the other exclusively. The only party left to get off the fence is us, the consumers.

I know competition is supposed to be good for business and that we always benefit from having a choice, but my limited experience suggests this high-definition trend just isn't catching on, unlike our last media storage generational leap. The move from VHS to DVD was dramatic, delivering improved audio and video, more content, and more control over how the movie is presented. I have not observed that either Blu-Ray or HD-DVD offer significant incentives in any of these three departments. The video quality of either compared to standard DVD is noticeable, but only to entertainment mavens whose budgets support the high-end, next-gen televisions necessary to take advantage of the player's capabilities. No other significant feature justifies the upgrade: Interactivity? Internet connectivity? This is a DVD player, not a game console! And appreciable differences between HD-DVD and Blu-Ray — well, nobody has demonstrated that to me yet.

What is a consumer to do while this format war is waged? We're already poor enough from the last decade. How many of us have already upgraded our VHS collections to DVD — or from DVD standard edition to DVD "collector's edition" (now with director commentary!)? I doubt I could restrain myself (or my budget) to be satisfied with standard definition if I knew I had a high-def player in the house. Do I therefore replace my highly functional 36" CRT, buy a $850 combination Blu-Ray/HD-DVD player, and begin replacing my hundreds of movies and TV shows at the cost of house and home?

Jeff Kleist suggest it's not really up to consumers to make such decisions; it's the retailers who hold the power, and they're likely to decide soon. That's fine for them. If not to decide is to decide, then I guess I've chosen my place on the fence. Though HD-DVD may go the way of the dodo, giving way for the superior species of Blu-Ray, we're farther still from the extinction of standard DVD. My DVD player turns ten years old this year and should continue to serve up new films for some time yet, and this old dinosaur is still an industry behemoth.

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  1. Ken Gagne adds:

    I'd written, "It's the retailers who hold the power, and they're likely to decide soon." Now, reported today at ComingSoon.net:

    "Consumers have told us that they want us to help lead the way. We've listened to our customers, and we are responding. Best Buy will recommend Blu-ray as the preferred format," said Brian Dunn, Best Buy's president and chief operating officer.

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