Hey Warner Brothers – You couldn’t have made your Blu-ray decision in November?

Hey Warner Brothers – You couldn’t have made your Blu-ray decision in November?

Summary: Though my initial reaction to Warner Brothers’ announcement that it was going exclusively Blue-ray come May was almost bemusement, the more I think about it, the more irritated I’m getting.

TOPICS: Hardware, Mobility

Though my initial reaction to Warner Brothers’ announcement that it was going exclusively Blue-ray come May was almost bemusement, the more I think about it, the more irritated I’m getting. Full disclosure: I’m sure my newly-found aggravation isn’t being helped by sleep deprivation or being on a crowded flight on my way to CES, but…

Clearly Time Warner has the right to make whatever decisions it sees fit to make for its business units, and just as clearly, nearly everyone who has bought an hi def player thus far knew they were taking a risk -- I certainly did.

Yet still, there’s something that just feels so wrong about the timing of all this. The fact that Warner was thinking about making this move has been rumored for a couple of months now. But coming just two days before the kick-off of the Consumer Electronics Show, the announcement certainly seems to have been devised to be as devastating to the HD DVD camp as possible. Based on the early press coverage (today’s Times: Warner Sides With Blu-ray DVDs, A Clinching Vote for Sony’s Format), and the last-minute cancellation of Sunday's HD DVD event, they’ve succeeded.

But if Warner or the Blu-ray camp had any interest in serving consumers best interests -– interests which have clearly been ignored in this dispute from day one – couldn’t they have gotten their acts together a month or two earlier and prevented a whole lot of folks from making what’s certainly now looking like foolish holiday purchasing decisions?

Of course there is one potential explanation here that could make a lot of sense, and, in the process, let Warner Brothers off the hook a bit with regard to the timing of their announcement.

Let’s conjecture that early holiday sales figures are showing that despite promotions that brought the prices of HD DVD players below $200 (and below $100 on Black Friday) -- with anywhere from seven to 12 free HD DVD titles thrown in to boot -- not nearly enough people took the bait. And while I can’t imagine standalone Blu-ray player sales were any better, Sony certainly sold a bunch of PS3s (with its built-in Blu-ray capabilities) over the holiday, and that means there are a lot more Blu-ray households now than there were three months ago. And maybe, just maybe, the early holiday data was the straw that broke the camel’s back for Warner Brothers.

So as not to shirk my journalistic responsibilities, allow me to now add what has quickly become boilerplate in virtually all the coverage I've seen of this story: Despite this staggering blow, HD DVD isn’t dead yet, the format still has Universal, Paramount, and Dreamworks Animation on its side, yadda, yadda, yadda. Yeah, fine.

Okay, fine, but the more important fact: Blu-ray now has roughly 70-percent of the market on its side (that number comes from the Times article -- can’t confirm this on the plane, but it seems like it’s in the right ballpark).

It’s going to be interesting to see what the HD DVD camp’s next move will be, but I think it’s safe to say that it would have been easier for Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney to declare victory in Iowa than for Toshiba and Microsoft to come up with anything resembling reassurance or optimism here. Hey, I have an idea. Why don’t they announce that in recognition of the best interests of the consumer, Universal, Paramount, and Dreamworks Animation are now free to release their catalogs in whichever format they choose?

Sadly, I just looked out the plane window, and alas, no flying pigs.

Topics: Hardware, Mobility


Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

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  • change in the air...

    As someone that has a deep disrespect for Microsoft (I read the anti-trust trial
    transcripts and read Gates and Co.'s own words, they have got to be the most
    immoral, unethical company this country has ever seen!), I am very happy to see
    how things are changing in the world of technology.

    Think of it, even though MS bribed a few studios to use HD-DVD, their money and
    their abusive monopoly didn't help them in the long run. A few years ago, MS
    would've been able to push through any hardware/software standard they wanted
    and kept the world of technology in the dark ages as they did for 20 years.

    I never would have imagined MS falling so far so fast. I left windows years ago for a
    mac, and knew that it would take a long time for the better product to 'win', but MS
    is going into irrelevancy much faster than I thought. Most young people, the ones
    that will be running the IT departments in a few years, once the 'MCSE dinosaurs'
    that run them now retire, are choosing Apple.

    I wasn't around to see Standard Oil fall, but I remember the breakup of AT&T, and
    I've seen GM fall. But seeing MS fall is something I will never forget. Kismet!!!
    • HD-DVD not MS's ultimate goal

      Though its hard to prove there are many that don't think MS's ultimate goal is for the HD-DVD format to prevail. Instead MS is trying to prolong the format war until downloading of this type of media becomes mainstream, thus eliminating the need for yet another disc format and player altogether.

      I actually think this makes a lot of sense. Why do we need more 'hard' media when downloading to a set-top box is going to be the end result anyway. In fact, I already use this method for the most part and would use it sole if I could do it with HD content.

      So if you want hate MS for being monopolistic, I hope you realize that supporting BD is the same thing except with Sony. Sony is just as proprietary and 'hard-nosed' as MS and the thing HD-DVD had going for it was an open-consortium approach that ultimately lead to the success of regular DVD format and standardization.

      BD is a step in the wrong direction if you are for anti-monopolistic practices.
      Question everything
      • Agreed...

        As much as I dislike Microsoft, I think I prefer them to Sony. They could have avoided this whole format war when Toshiba offered early on to work with them for a common format. But Sony threw the olive branch back in their face and declared "We will win this because we're Sony - people will buy whatever we want them to" (not an exact quote but pretty close - do the research).
        With their cavalier attitude toward the welefare of the customer (rootkit anyone?) and their insufferable arrogance, it will be a cold day in hell before I will buy anything with the Sony logo on it.
  • RE: Hey Warner Brothers ?????? You couldn??????t have made your Blu-ray decision in November?

    Only a matter of time before the mechanical devices (Disks) are made redundant (obsolete). Chip technology has come a long way, and video downloads to your memory storage device are already here. Mechanical devices break, have alignment problems, get dirty, skip, etc. Solid state chip devices are fast, clean, and last a long time. No warping or delaminating of the disk, or other problems of that sort. So, Blu-ray, or HD DVD, does it really matter in the long run? Where are my 8-tracks, my Beta tapes, my singles and LPs anyway? Ain't technology great!
  • I agree, downloads will make this war moot

    I use an AppleTV now and absolutely love it. And once Apple upgrades the software
    and media available (dvd rental, etc.) Apple will own the digital living room just like
    it owns digital music.

    Apple built some great technology into the AppleTV. I also use an Apple Airport
    Extreme and a MacBook that can take advantage of the wireless N network, which is
    fast enough to stream HD content to the AppleTV.

    Bye bye Windows Media Server. Sayonara NetFlix box!
    • Except it's Apple on top of broadband.

      Eventually, broadband will be tiered so the more you use, the more you pay despite the already high costs.

      Second of all, Apple has continued to be a company I'd trust less than Microsoft. I'm tired of repeating the list, so I won't repeat it again.

      But I'm keeping Windows Media Center, DVDs, and so on.

      I won't pray your hard drive crash at just the wrong time. That's just too sick to wish on anybody. What's Apple's re-download policy like? (And your broadband ISP's?)
  • You have got to be kidding me...

    Has anyone here ever heard of "caveat emptor"? It's generally assumed that if you're old enough to make a decision, then you're old enough to be accountable for that decision. Whether a manufacturer decides to sell a product to you, or when, is irrelevant. Your decision in purchasing that product over another is entirely your choice. You weighed all of the solid information available, took a chance on the intangibles and rumors, and chose one path.

    Does anyone here honestly believe that the North American auto industry has the public's best interests at heart, when increased gas mileage and lower emissions have to be legislated because they won't do it voluntarily? Does anyone here honestly believe that the pharmaceutical industry has the public's best interests at heart, when they use every trick in the book to prolong the patent lives of drugs instead of allowing other manufacturer's to produce lower cost generics? How about the cell companies getting together and providing overlapping coverage across the nation or the world at large?

    None of it is going to happen unless the manufacturers are forced in one direction through legislation, or the free market. Ask Detroit why it's so hard to product low-emission, high mileage vehicles instead of the popular SUVs they've staked their futures on. Ask Glaxo Smith Klein if they're going to lower the price of 20 year old prescription drugs so that the elderly don't have to get on a Greyhound and go up to Canada to buy their drugs. The HD and Blu-Ray camps are not going to cooperate unless the market, or the government, forces them to. Blu-Ray already had majority share of the market before Warner jumped on the wagon. And the indications have been there for a while that Warner was going to do precisely that. There are no surprises here.
  • It's VHS vs. BetaMax all over again

    For those of you who either don't remember, or are younger than I, back in the late 70's- early 80's, there was a fornat war between VCR manufacturers-VHS vs. BetaMax...and VHS won. Fortunately, that is what my family had in terms of a VCR, so we didn't have to replace anything. This is exactly the same war, just new technology, which means the manufacturers and filmmakers haven't learned anything (or don't remember) either. So we held off this year on replacing our DVD player.
    • Except that time Sony lost . . .

      Betamax was the Sony format.
      • Sony just might lose again

        Lots of people haven't forgotten the BetaMax days, and that could hurt Sony's BluRay.
  • The problem with this...

    is that as recently as a couple of months ago, Warner was releasing statements that they remained committed to both formats and maintained their membership in the HD-DVD consortium. A decision this great doesn't just happen in a couple of weeks, so I have to believe that they knew this even when they were continuing to make public statements in support of HD-DVD.

    Therefore, many people would have made a decision to purchase an HD-DVD player rather than Blu-Ray based on these statements and the fact that Warner is the largest movie distributor.

    Hopefully, many people hearing this will return their HD-DVD players and maybe retailers and wholesalers will let Warner feel their wrath at having to eat a lot of returns. That's what I would do if I had bought an HD-DVD player for Christmas.

    Blu-Ray has much more DRM built into it as well, so that is probably part of the reason - not learning from the music DRM fiasco, I guess.

    HD DVD always had two major disadvantages.

    1. Stupid name. HD means hi-def video. Calling the DVD format the same name as the video format is confusing. HD-DVD, HD-Video, WTF? It was never going to fly. Besides, Blu-Ray sounds cool, futuristic and cheesy all at the same time as well as avoiding this confusing name conflict.
    2. Blu-Ray is better. Stores more data. That didn't help Beta when it lost out to VHS in the video tape wars way back when... thankfully this time, the better format did win out.

    Hooray! Overlong industry squabbles at the expense of consumers aside, at least it's becoming clear now what the format-du-jour will be. Finally.
    • Are you 12 years old?

      Your whole post is basically a collection of idiot quotes. HD doesn't mean hi-def video as you suggested, it stands for High Definition, I think calling it HD-DVD which is High Definition DVD is about as straight forward a name as they come, its hard to see how you managed to get confused by that.

      Also you seem to suggest that Betamax tapes held more than VHS tapes, when it was clearly the other way round, Betamax had better quality but tape length was dire, that and its refusal to embrace the porn industry were its downfall.

      Now please go back to playing with your Polly Pocket or whatever toy is cool with kids these days, and leave the adults to talk on here.
      • Pot - Kettle - Black

        Any particular reason you have to resort to an ad-hominem attack to make a point? Yes, BetaMax did have shorter tapes than VHS, and even more importantly: VHS allowed people to record an entire movie on one tape instead of breaking it in two. Resort to the facts, and drop the attacks.
        • Why should he?

          If fanboys are spreading idiotic FUD, then they need to be corrected with facts. I would've said the same thing.

          I mean, the name "HD-DVD" as a major reason why the format is slipping behind is pretty lame at best. After all, the ball is strictly in Hollywood's court and they are the ones who will decide which one will win out. Not a format name.

          Me, I plan to skip it entirely and and wait for increased bandwidth and storage. That will be the future, not the current removable media formats. In the meantime, I can live with standard DVDs so you fanboys spend what you want..
          hasta la Vista, bah-bie
    • Blue Ray

      you are only confused because you must be stupid,Sony has been taken to court 2 times now for placing info on disks and into your computer.if you want sony go right ahead,i will never buy blue ray or anything made by sony because they are liars and cheats.i will stick with my DVDs until i can't buy them anymore.Hvae fun with your blue ray crap.
  • RE: Hey Warner Brothers ?????? You couldn??????t have made your Blu-ray decision in November?

    Don't you know, the reason is poor Christmas sales of HD DVD products? not Warner.

    I will never buy blu Ray and anyone who say's blu ray is better must not be a real videophil, read the specs if you know what that is.
  • Can someone tell me...

    if a single-layer DVD is 4.7 GB. and can hold a 1 1/2 hour movie plus trailers, plus ads, etc., why would I need Blue Ray with a capacity 5 times that of a DVD? I mean, how much capacity do you need for one movie? We are talking about a movie studio putting out movies, right? Why does Warner Bros. need a disc they'll never fill?

    I understand businesses needing that capacity to keep records. But to hold one lousy movie seems a bit of overkill, doesn't it?

    Just wonderin'...
    Interested Amateur
    Interested Amateur
  • bottom line

    Everyone needs to remember that Sony is also a movie studio and a member of the MPAA. Toshiba needs to break out the cheap HD-DVD writers with no DRM. Are MS and Toshiba ready to really take on Hollywood? It seems that Hollywood does not care what they do!