HD-DVD: Hang The Crepe

I went to CES 2008 last month in part to get a sense of what was happening in the BluRay-vs-HD-DVD war. Of course, I wasn’t even in Vegas by the time Warner Brothers announced that they were joining the BluRay camp, leaving only two out of seven studios – Paramount and Universal – exclusively HD-DVD. Well, it might be time for those two to make other plans.

In an interesting example of syncronicity, two announcements this week have pretty much finished off HD-DVD. First, Netflix announced they would no longer offer HD-DVD discs in their rental inventory by the end of the year. As a go-to service for movie buffs, that one had to hurt Toshiba, HD-DVD’s parent. Then, another blow: retailer Best Buy declared they would recommend BluRay as their preferred format for hi-def discs. Everyone in the audience that has never bought anything at a Best Buy, please raise your hands. Hmm, pretty quiet out there.

Of course, the super-futurists among us will sniff that this is all just theater, that actually owing a physical copy of a media property is passe’ already. Downloads, they say, are the future, no matter the outcome of the hi-def disc war. I can’t really buy into that myself, at least not yet; downloads of hi-def material still take way too long, and there is still something about holding a disc in your hand that says “mine!” that a file stored in a server never will. (And let’s not forget how the vinyl people howled at the downsizing of album covers to CD cases – where do you put the cover art? Now that problem is becoming an absolute reality – no disc, no cover. No cover, no cover art.)

It looks like Sony has won this round. It must taste pretty sweet in the wake of VHS vs. Betamax a few decades ago. Now if they can get good, updated BluRay players into the market for less than $100, we might have a product here.

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A 1981 graduate of the Boston University College of Communication, Bruce A. Johnson got his first job in broadcast television at WFTV, an ABC affiliate in Orlando, FL. While there, he rose through the ranks…