Tuesday, January 08, 2008

HD War over?

Is the HD format war finally coming to an end? The news seems to be pointing in that direction.

The first signs were when Warner Bros decided to cease supporting both HD DVD and Blu-ray and instead support Blu-ray exclusively. The reasons given for this were the fact that their titles were selling proportionately more on Blu-ray than HD DVD. This means that Blu-ray now has 70% of the Hollywood studio’s in their pocket

This alone was a good indication that the balance of power was swaying towards the Blu camp, but of the last couple of days, further news stories have surface, which add weight to this.

* The HD DVD consortium cancelled their press conference at CES 2008, the biggest consumer electronics show of the year:

* It is rumoured that apple are looking to include Blu-ray drives in future products – likely to launch as from February this year, and considering the influence of Apple, this is not to be sniffed at.

* Finally, and most prominently, it would seem that when Paramount entered into an exclusive agreement with the HD DVD consortium, they had a get out clause stating that if Warners ever decided to go solely Blu-ray (which they now have), they would then be able to cease the agreement. If they did this, it would be the final blow to HD DVD which would truly finish them off.

I feel I must state that I am not anti-HD DVD. Indeed as a format it has many pluses over Blu-ray. What I am against, is a useless format war that confuses consumers – which is what we currently have. The only reason that I have been on the side of Blu-ray and have been purchasing Blu-ray disks, is because I own a PS3 (which incidentally, is still considered by most to be the best Blu-ray player out there).

Considering the boom of HD televisions, I still believe that a HD disk format is needed. People talk about a future where downloadable content, including movies, will take over, but I do not think that this will happen quickly, if at all. I for one, prefer to own an actual product (yes even CD’s) and I’m positive that I am not alone.

As a knock on, this will likely mean that PS3’s will likely start to pick up in sales, although on a worldwide basis they are already outselling the Xbox 360 on a weekly basis (although those Americans still seem to worship their Microsoft overlords). This is a good thing, as 2008 looks like a promising year for the PS3:


steve said...

Yeah, I saw that in the 2 weeks after Xmas the PS3 has been selling more than the 360 worldwide, although it was the other way around in the 2 weeks running up to xmas (when the numbers were obviously higher overall, but the difference between was about the same). It's good they've finally narrowed the weekly gap, although Sony still need to do a _lot_ more - even at the best rate so far (last week, 36,000 more PS3's worldwide) it will take them 16 years to make up the 7m difference. Sony really need to be selling 2 or 3 times the amount of 360s at this slow time of year to be making significant overall headway.

Maybe once Blu-ray wins they can concentrate on games a bit more instead of the Blu-ray angle, which really shot them in the foot to begin with because of the silly cost.

steve said...

Also, personally I'd be happy to go to downloadable content. I buy music on CD only really because of DRM issues, if everything was without DRM I'd probably buy it all online. The same goes with films, once my internet connection gets fast enough. I really have no attachment at all to the physical boxes on my shelf - they just take up space, actually, and mean I have to switch discs and inconvenient things like that. If I could just browse an on-screen library and pick what I wanted, that would be fine by me. More and more of my media is electronic anyway - CDs come off my shelf to get MP3'd once, then just collect dust mostly, unless I lend them out. And without DRM I can 'lend' them to others on a memory stick or something.

The music industry totally missed the boat on downloadable content, because they thought people wouldn't actually pay for music online, and Apple took them to the cleaners. The same mistake might get made on movies too.

Bazlurgan said...

I can appreciate what you are saying re downloadable content, but do not believe that your opinion is shared by everyone.

I'd even go as far as to say that without DRM issues I'd probably also be in a similiar boat, except I would anticipate that there would be very similiar issues when HD films are available to download. Also, I do not think that this will be for some time yet - maybe 10 to 15 years down the line. For now Blu-ray and DVD suit me just fine.

steve said...

I think it runs along age / tech savvy lines though - young people buy the most music, and they wanted it downloadable, but the old guard didn't think that way so misjudged it completely.

Movies are a little different, they have a size problem right now, and the people that buy them aren't perhaps quite as socially biased towards the young as with music. But you can already get HD movies online, legally and perhaps most importantly illegally, and it will only increase. The question is when not if a sizeable portion of the consumers will prefer it that way.

Of course you'll never get everyone using downloadable content all the time, but I think it's a lot more significant than you think. As a movie collector you probably have a slightly different attitude towards keeping physical movies to watch over and over - most people just end up watching them once or twice. I bet most DVD sales are only about people wanting to be able to watch them _when_ they want, I bet they don't watch them that often (I know I don't - once a year is likely the max if it's a particularly good film). I think fast, on-demand downloadable content would address a pretty large chunk of the market that currently buys DVDs and barely uses them most of the year, with the caveat that people will still want boxes sometimes, and there's gifts of course.

The second-hand market is the only other factor favouring physical content, and content publishers absolutely _hate_ it. If they can sell people stuff they can't resell later, they will be very happy. They _should_ be able to offer movies online far more cheaply than physical product (fewer middle men taking cuts, no reproduction costs) so they could incentivise the purchase of non-resellable downloads this way.

I think 5 years from now downloadable movies will be huge, in parallel with disc formats.

steve said...

"...when HD films are available to download. Also, I do not think that this will be for some time yet - maybe 10 to 15 years......"

Apple and XBox Live already do HD movies, Sony is planning on doing the same with PS3: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB118885177843416106.html . They're even more bullish than me, predicting $8bn sales by 2010.

And of course if you have a BitTorrent client you can get anything... ;)