Blu-ray vs HD-DVD: Bonus play!

Blu-ray vs HD-DVD: Bonus play!

Summary: A few months ago I predicted that it was game over for HD-DVD in the Blu-ray vs HD-DVD blood match, with Blu-ray the winner. Why?

TOPICS: Toshiba

A few months ago I predicted that it was game over for HD-DVD in the Blu-ray vs HD-DVD blood match, with Blu-ray the winner. Why? Because there are more Blu-ray players, Blu-ray disks outsells HD-DVD 2 to 1, more content is available on Blu-ray and Blockbuster, a major distributor of digital content, has decided to only offer Blu-ray as it rolls out High Def content to more stores.

Toshiba strikes back So I was surprised to see Paramount, distributor of Dreamworks Animation's Shrek, announce it was going exclusively HD-DVD. For now, anyway. Paramount originally backed HD-DVD, switched to Blu-ray in '05, and is now switching back.

What is going on? Other than delaying the rise of a single format for High-Def disk content, which is what I want.

Things that make you go hm-m-m I'm not the only one wondering. Variety, the Hollywood trade rag, reports that DreamWorks Animation

. . . hasn't released any movies in HD DVD, and company topper Jeffrey Katzenberg has been dismissive of the concept. "Blu-Ray and HD DVD are a niche business," he said in March . . . . "They're not going to become the next platform. I think for the general consumer, there is not a big enough delta between the standard DVD in terms of where it is today and the next generation."

That's a far cry from the statement he put out on Monday: "We believe the combination of this year's low-priced HD DVD players and the commitment to release a significant number of hit titles in the fall makes HD DVD the best way to view movies at home."

Toshiba: cheap is better Toshiba's value proposition is that HD-DVD is a cheaper way to get High-Def content on disks. HD-DVDs can be produced on the same equipment as standard DVD's and the players are less expensive to build. Lower capital investment for both producers and consumers.

Sony: more is better Sony's value prop is that Blu-ray disks can offer 66% more content per disk. Lower cost-per-byte for consumers. Bundling Blu-ray into Playstation 3 jumpstarted the market. The Playstation volume should have driven Blu-ray costs down the learning curve, but that certainly isn't evident in Blu-ray player pricing.

Money talks Evidently, Toshiba bought Paramount's support with cash. Give the tiny sales of both HD formats, Toshiba's largesse could make up for the lost profit on lower HD sales. Notes Variety:

. . . HD DVD format's backers, led by Toshiba, apparently reached a deal with Par[amount] . . . to switch back to their side. Just as with the Blu-ray-only studios, Par and DWA almost certainly will be receiving multimillion-dollar financial commitments to support one format over the other.

Some of the financial details may later be disclosed by DreamWorks Animation, which is a public company. Update: The New York Times reported that Toshiba gave $150 million in incentives for an 18 month commitment from Paramount. And the deal doesn't include Spielberg's films. I think I understand Paramount's sudden change of heart. End update.

Given the strong sales advantage Blu-ray has enjoyed in the marketplace, most industryites said only a behind-the-scenes deal could have motivated the switch.

"Nothing seems to support this," said consumer electronics analyst Richard Doherty. "It seems to fly in the face of normal retail and consumer forces."

I'll say.

The Storage Bits take As I predicted several months ago, Toshiba is playing the price card. Expect to see Q4 price promotions that cut HD-DVD player prices in half to $125. This is do-or-die for Toshiba and HD-DVD.

It is Sony's game to lose. Stubborn pricing has cost them markets in the past, and if they think they can win with 3x player prices this fall they are sadly mistaken. New blue LED lines are ramping up so the component supply problems they've had should ease. Sony is bleeding red ink in some major businesses, like Playstation, but it is time for some short term pain if they want to push Blu-ray over the top.

In the meantime all this costly competition is doing nothing for consumers who just want High Def content on disks. Why they felt the need to fight is beyond me. Barring a major screwup, Blu-ray is still the winner.

Comments welcome, of course.

Topic: Toshiba

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  • More content per disk...

    Does anyone watch the extras that come with a movie now?

    I don't.

    Interviews, sometimes with people who appear to have forgotten the movie. As with Strangers on a Train, an inferior cut of the movie. Scenes the Director didn't insert when he had a chance. Drawn pictures of the scenes that resemble the scenes, sure enough.

    Am I missing anything?
    Anton Philidor
    • More content..

      Yeah, I think you're missing that more content does not mean more films and extra material, but wider bandwidth, meaning even better quality...
      • Content

        If you tell the truth,do you honestly see the diffwerence?i don't see enough difference to switch all my movies from DVD to Blue Ray.i just changed formats once and am not going to do it again,especially for the lying and cheating Sony
  • Sony + New Format = Failure

    One thing we all have to remember here is that any "new format" that Sony has ever backed has failed. Sony has tried the mini CD format twice and failed and yet they decided to try producing mini DVDs (UMD) and who would have guessed, that failed too. You can pretty much bet that no matter how good the new format is, if Sony supports it, it will fail. When it comes to the Blue-ray vs HD-DVD Format war it is obvious that hands down, Blue-ray is better, but you can't get past all the expense associated with it. Blue-ray players cost more to produce, the discs require special mastering equipment not compatible with existing DVD hardware, the retail discs (movies) themselves cost a lot more than regular DVDs... Joe consumer isn't stupid (actually, yeah they are but don't get me started). HD-DVD Players are cheaper to make, the discs are easier and cheaper to master and yet they still give us the same full HD quality that Blue-ray gives us. Even a caveman could figure out which one is going to win this fight.
    • Watch the Caveman remarks!!!!

      You might end up in a GEICO commercial . . . ;)
    • Sony + New Format = Failure...

      Does equal failure, however blu-ray is different

      Sony + LG + Phillips +Pioneer + Mitsubishi + New Format = may/may not fail
    • I said that too, but I was wrong

      So I corrected the equation.

      IF Time > 1983 THEN Sony + New Format == Failure

      The MiniDisc was popular in Japan, but failed miserably in the US. My guess to why this is would be that the record companies didn't like changing formats to something that could be copied even easier than CD.
      • md failed?

        MD didn't really fail to much in the US. You could easily find MD discs at Best Buy. Do you see any DCC tapes in there? ;)

        Sure, the pre-recorded format of MD flopped a bit, but then so did SACD in a way (which is too bad because it sounded great and I liked the idea of hybrid discs that no one really knew were hybrid).

        I loved MD because of its editing abilities and the fact that if you recorded a live concert on an MD, you can split the tracks just right so that it sounded as if the concert had a different playlist but was still gapless. Basically, record a concert and split the track right when the music starts. If its gapless, the song will continue straight through. OK, it wasn't REALLY gapless, but it didn't pause between tracks.

        Plus, if you had it in the car, you could just throw them in your glove compartment without worring about scratching them or finding the jewel case (or A jewelcase.... can't tell you how many CDs I had could fit in a single jewel case -- I got up to 3)

  • Cost Trumps Technical Superiority

    Blu-Ray = Token Ring

    HD-DVD = Ethernet
  • Cost vs superiority?


    The analogy is flawed. Token ring was more expensive and had higher latency
    than ethernet. The "guaranteed delivery" feature sounded good in theory and was
    meaningless in practice. It is one reason I don't trust architectural arguments,
    even though I find them fascinating.

    The "more content" feature of Blu-ray, on the other hand, plays well with the
    economics of feature film production. Major films create all kinds of content
    incidental to production and promotion - auditions, dailies, stills, effects, trailers,
    storyboards, outtakes, multiple camera angles - that can be cheaply added to a
    disc. It doesn't take much buyer preference for that stuff to make money for the

    R Harris
    • what superiority?

      [i]Major films create all kinds of content
      incidental to production and promotion - auditions, dailies, stills, effects, trailers,
      storyboards, outtakes, multiple camera angles - that can be cheaply added to a
      disc. It doesn't take much buyer preference for that stuff to make money for the studios.[i]

      I might be old fassion, but I ignore completely any add-ons to the movie. I just don't have time to watch it!
      One question for you: I heard some rumors that BlueRay requires DRM and hence there can not be a GPL implementation. Is that right?
      Linux Geek
      • DRM and the GPL

        [i]One question for you: I heard some rumors that BlueRay requires DRM and hence there can not be a GPL implementation. Is that right?[/i]

        Ah, the FUD is working. Someone tell Steve B. to keep it up.

        There are no technical impediments to implementing DRM in a GPL program. The only problem is that the content producers just can't stomach the idea that consumers would be able to modify the underlying code running in a DRM-enabled application, and possibly "modifying" their content - or in other words, bypass the force adverts and previews in an HD DVD (either format). Or, God forbid, copy the content illegally. They'll never get it thru their collective skulls that [b]1 backup copy != 1 illegal copy != 1 definitive lost sale.[/b].

        The amount of money thrown down the anti-copy/DRM rabbit hole will never the amount they perceive lost to "pirates", and DRM will not now nor ever stop the real pirates. Ever hear the phrase "throwing good money after bad"?
        • hardware?

          I'd imagine if you had BlueRay hardware decoder (or even one on the graphics card), you could probably do BluRay..... maybe, maybe not..... but you could always get a company like SlySoft to design one..... ;)

    • Not exactly..

      Actually, blue-ray=betamax, HD-DVD=VHS.

      VHS won on several fronts. Player pricing - was much lower than BetaMax, even at the end when BetaMax (which Toshiba championed) was dying. VHS got the porn market - which is always a driving force for storage/transmission technologies.

      Sony may have a technically better product (just like they did on Betamax) - but they're loosing the marketing by keeping the price so high on the players. Until they players drop under $200 - they remain a niche early-adopter purchase. Even as an early-adopter, I won't buy one until the format war ends, or the players are so cheap I can consider it a whim to buy it. HD-DVD is getting really close to the whim price point.

      BTW - anyone want to buy a bunch of Betamax tapes?
      • Blue Ray

        who cares,i'm not paying more or switching formats.simple as that
  • Purely academic.

    The studios tit for tat with each other about what next gen format only serves to alienate the customers and damages their brand. All the time this is happening their latest movies only just out at the cinema are being distributed globally in DivX format. It's VHS vs Betamax all over again, except this time their is something called the internet that people can get bootleg copies from rather than some dodgy bloke with a bag of VHS/Betmax cassettes.

    Personally, just as it was with VHS it will be whatever format the porn industry throws their weight behind that will decide what is the next gen format winner.
    • You called it.

      [i]Personally, just as it was with VHS it will be whatever format the porn industry throws their weight behind that will decide what is the next gen format winner.[/i]

      And the porn industry has cast their vote. Donwload via the internet. They have found a viable business market here why can't the major studios?

      HD-DVD vs Blu-Ray? The right comparison is Micro Channel vs EISA.
    • I've heard the porn industry has cast its vote

      and they're voting for Blu-ray. Why? More capacity.

      Pornsters shoot on HD video today. Get 2-3 cameras going and the GB's add up fast.

      I don't think download bandwidth is enough to satisfy the demanding porn
      consumer. How many GB of Jenna Jameson would satisfy you?

      R Harris
  • There is another... Skywalker. . . .

    Price usually dictates the market... ask Wal-Mart. But there is another aspect of this duel, that many here are over looking - the PC storage side of the equation. Blu-Ray offers superior storage capacity for PC users, which mean it will get the vote of the Video and Audio philes that use their PC to do editing, as well as the gaming community (if gamers will pay $1400 for a pair of graphics cards to play games with, I just bet they will fork over $500 to $600 for the Blu-Ray writing Drives for those high-end PC's.) Sony, I think, is hoping for this ace in the hole to push them over the top, or at the very least, provide a safety net.

    But I do agree with everyone here, Sony is going to have to get serious about their competitiveness in pricing, if they are going to win this battle. If they would get within $100 or less of the HD DVD players, I truly believe most folks would go Blu-Ray. I want to buy Blu-ray, but if HD-DVD players get to $125 per player, I will buy a HD-DVD player, but if Blu-Ray come down to $250 at the same time, I'll foot the extra $100 to buy the Blu-Ray. Manufactures of the Dual Format players, are nuts for not getting their pricing down to $350 to $400, cause if they did, they would rule the player market, if their players are on par with the performance of the format-specific players. I was LG and Samsung, I would be price my dual format players in the $500 or less range, and watch the money come flooding in! $1000 to $1400 is just too much for bulk of the High Definition DVD market place, when you can buy one of each single format players for less than their dual players.

    Just my $2 worth!
  • Sony great products lousy ideas

    The formats quality wise are pretty much identical, (except for most of the early blu-ray releases which were horrible, ie 5th element, house of flying daggers, etc.). Existing DVD lnes can be converted to HD-DVD which is cheaper to make. Blu-ray holds more but the thinner protective coating has yet to be "field tested", plus the tolerances for laser error are smaller given the smaller tracking width. So it comes down to this.
    Do I want my quart of Orange juice in a quart container for $2.50 or do I want 1 quart of the same OJ in a half gallon container for $3.50?
    The content and quality are the same, I'll save the dollar thank you.