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In Hi-Def DVD Wars, Warners’ Choice May Tip It in Blu-Ray’s Favor, Once And For All

After two years of relative stalemate in the battle between Sony (NYSE: SNE) Electronic’s Blu-ray and Toshiba’s HD DVD to claim the title of dominant hi-def DVD format, it has lately come down to Warner Bros. to be the one to settle it. And WB, which currently markets its home video via both formats, could be leaning towards Blu-ray, a BusinessWeek piece says. If that happens, the Sony Blu-ray system would go from its current 49 percent share to roughly 70 percent.

Will WB choose?: Warner has signaled that its choice will be determined by which marketer can sell more DVDs this holiday season. So far, Toshiba is in the lead in terms of players, as Adams Media Research projects that it will sell roughly 578,000 machines to U.S. households by the end of 2007. In contrast, Adams Media expects Blu-ray to sell only 370,000. However, while Toshiba’s relationship with Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) also gives it access to 300,000 users as an add-on to XBox consoles, Sony Playstation 3 gives Blu-ray access to 2.3 million consumers. But the most important factor in WB’s decision will be which format will offer the greatest number of potential buyers of its home video library? The answer there could be Blu-ray, by dint of its backing by Disney, (NYSE: DIS) which targets families – who are most likely to purchase older titles. And if WB does follow Disney’s lead, Dreamworks’ and Paramount’s deals with Toshiba last only 18 months, suggesting that they’re almost as much on the fence as WB.

Shifting dynamics: The dynamics in this rivalry have shifted a bit since the summer, when HD DVD seemed poised to break the impasse after Toshiba signed exclusive deals with Paramount and Dreamworks Animation. And now, hoping to prevent WB going with Sony, Toshiba plans to cut the retail price for its HD DVD titles at $31.74 – about $2 less than Blu-ray’s suggested price. Toshiba also has been lowering the price of its players, offering a basic player for $299. Not to be outdone, Sony is planning a similarly-priced player too. But Toshiba’s main attraction to Paramount and Dreamworks was its offer of $150 million in incentives.

4 Responses to “In Hi-Def DVD Wars, Warners’ Choice May Tip It in Blu-Ray’s Favor, Once And For All”

  1. While both the Blu-ray and HD-DVD formats SEEM the same, you'd be surprised at the differences between the two discs, besides the obvious data capacity (25gig per layer vs 15gig per layer, respectively).

    Video quality is all about the ability to stream data from the source to your output. If you do a little research, you'll find that the raw data stream for Blu-Ray is a massive 53.95 Mbit/sec vs HD-DVD which is only 36.55 Mbit/sec. In comparison, HD formatted TV is streamed at 18Mbit/sec and DVD coming in last place with only 11Mbit/sec. If you just count video streaming data, Blu-Ray comes in at 40 Mbit/sec, HD-DVD at 29.4 Mbit/s, and DVD at 9.8 Mbit/sec. Due to this high rate of data streaming, Blu-Ray discs are able to offer companies a better media for them to put their movies on. Granted, that right now there are very few movies that utilize the full potential of these Hi-Def discs, but in the near future even a quad layer disc will be too small to hold the data amounts that movie companies want.

    There is no arguement, as far as quality, that can be made to honestly say that Blu-Ray isn't the smarter choice when it comes to quality and versatility. The numbers speak for themselves. Plus, the required hardcoat on Blu-Ray discs make them very durable and scratch-resistant. Much more so than DVDs ever were. HD-DVD doesn't require their manufacturers to apply a hardcoat. So, maybe you'll get one, maybe you won't.

    Now, as for cost… well I'm hoping that consumers don't make the same mistake they did when there was a format war between VHS and Betamax. Betamax was obviously better quality, but because VHS was cheaper, people bought into that and everyone ended up with an inferior product. Learn from your past or you are doomed to repeat it.

    To address the Region coding… well that's a smarter choice for the movie and gaming companies. Sure it's great for the consumer to be able to buy their products anywhere in the world and be able to play them. This also opens the doors to even more piracy than the current DVD format is suffering from. What company would want to throw their potential profit in with a company that doesn't offer them decent copyright protection? Just wouldn't make sense for them, and like it or not, they're the ones that produce the product in the first place, so it's their choice. And as an FYI, only 32% of the Blu-Ray discs out there even use a region code, the rest are region free.

    And the triple layer HD-DVD disc mentioned in the post above isn't even on the market yet. Plus, they're not sure it'll even be compatible with current HD-DVD players (this might have changed, but it was true as of Sept 07) . Blu-Ray on the other hand, already has a 200G prototype, 8 layer disc, and a 100g prototype quad layer disc, which is compatible with current players. They're not on the market yet, but it won't be long.

  2. Ray Netherlands

    How is a 51GB triple layer HD-DVD inferior over a 50GB dual layer BluRay Mornelithe.. Besides: a HD movie can easily fit a 30GB single layer HD-DVD..
    You are making all the mistakes a typical misinformed consumer makes.. : BluRay's only advantage is the 25GB per layer, it has got nothing to do with the quality of what is on it.

    For us Europeans HD-DVD is the most logical choice: no burden of regioncoding that disallows us to purchase our movies on the web other than from our Hollywood designated region.. No Anime movie imports from Asia on BuRay for us Europeans while we were formally (dvd-regions) in the same region as them.

    The technology is cheaper and so should the HD-DVD discs be but after all this time it is available i see no titles for a fair price, most of them are old and i already have them on DVD, not worth re-buying them on HD-DVD, i have also seen some BluRay/HD-DVD old movie titles that were not more enjoyable on HD format like The Last Starfighter or Hunt For Red October.

    HD-DVD is a full feaured and complete since its introduction while BluRay camp has 3 'profiles' to consider for their players which is not only confusing for the consumer but also for the manufacturers, nice if you buy a device only to come to the conclusion you want another 'version'.

    I also wonder what a little scratch on a BluRay means when it is so full of DRM, will a small corruption of data mean BD+ gets confused and refuses playback? (you never had a scratched dvd that played difficult?).

    For me it is HD-DVD all the way, but i have to stress out to the companies that if they keep selling us old(er) movie titles every movie collector already has in possession on dvd, they better adjust the prices..

    As for BluRay's disadvantage: the most draconian thing is that DRM is not optional on BluRay, it is mandatory. This means that a documentarymaker automatically needs to pay 5000usd for an encryption key for each title, it also means that if you plan to release titles or movies in the public domain, the BluRay DRM feature will automatically strip you of your rights to use it, even if you are the owner!

    BluRay: a great tool to cancel your rights to public domain content.

  3. However, Blu-ray is costly and harder to produce, not to mention the bickering going between the companies that produce it. Also, it's pushed by a company that thinks it's alright to install rootkits on people's computers, then did it again with their thumbdrives. It's sad to see a company that was born out of piracy seem to shell out so much to swamp it. I'm not saying that M$ isn't free of scrutiny, but I would really like to see Sony pay for all the 'suffering' they have put forth recently.

  4. Mornelithe

    These 'payoffs' that Toshiba (Microsoft really) are making to movie studios is disturbing and only really goes to show the consumer that big industry doesn't really care about which format is more logical. If that were the case, I'm pretty sure it's well known that Blu-Ray is better. Holds more data, produces higher quality images, and the discs last way longer. Anyway, it's really interesting these payoffs Microsoft is shelling out for. Too bad the movie industries really don't see that the profit in the long run would be to pick a format, get rid of the other, and start working to have people investing in the new format. If not, you may see Michael Bay's predictions come true, neither format wins, and digital downloads take their place.

    Morne