Evening Extra: High Definition DVD Edition

hddvdIf you’ve been waiting for the fat lady to sing with respect to the high definition DVD format war, it looks like she’s warming up.

Engadget reports that with the Warner defection, Blu-ray players have 93% of the HD market.

Meanwhile, Universal continues to carry the HD DVD banner, Toshiba slashes the price of its HD DVD players, and thousands of people have signed a petition to “save HD DVD.”  A petition (and some nuts- both kinds) worked, at least temporarily, for Jericho.  I’m not so sure it will be as successful for a DVD format.  Can you say Betamax?

And in the other corner, it seems 6,000 people have signed a petition to let HD DVD die.

James Berardinelli, my all-time favorite movie critic, posted his thoughts a couple of weeks ago:

Like an improperly balanced see-saw, the high def industry is tilting toward Blu-Ray. It’s happening in slow motion, but it is happening, and it’s hard to imagine that any force can stop something possessing the momentum of inevitability. Paramount and Universal, not wanting to anger a cadre of consumers, have pledged on-going support for HD-DVD (and Warner isn’t cutting off the format until May), but they have been conspicuously silent about their Blu-Ray plans (if any). The expectation is that both companies will soon announce they will produce titles for both HD-DVD and Blu-Ray, at least near-term. That will end the format war. Once every major studio in on-board the Blu-Ray bandwagon, it’s all over – even if some of them are still supporting HD-DVD. It took Betamax a while to die after VHS won that war. Sony knows from experience that killing the enemy isn’t necessary.

MG Siegler notes that “the early 2008 sales numbers are looking very bad for HD-DVD. The format apparently only accounted for only 15% of high-definition disc sales in early January and failed to land a single title on the best-sellers list – all were Blu-ray discs.

I don’t own any high definition DVD players, having decided to wait for this battle to play out.  I’m not ready to buy one yet, particularly given the Profile 2.0 fiasco, but if this trend continues, it won’t be long.

Those of you unfamiliar with the differences in the formats and the players can get a quick primer via Paul Stamatiou.  For those wanting to write a thesis on the topic, there’s the Wikipedia entry.

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Movies for the Rich and Impatient

I have this lurking concern that I’m falling for a belated April Fool’s Date gag, but it seems that the Hollywood cartel, recognizing that the cat has left the bag, is going to start selling movies online for download.

I’ve reported before about Movielink (owned by the Hollywood cartel), where you can rent movies online for a few dollars a piece. Once you download the movie, you have around a month to begin watching it and 24 hours after you start watching it to finish it. Although it takes forever to download a movie (and that assumes a broadband connection), this is a good way to put movies on your laptop or Tablet PC for airports and airplanes.

The four people who really want to watch movies over and over on their computers have complained that the download service is a drag because of the time limits on starting and stopping the movie.

So the Hollywood cartel is going to give them what they want.

Now instead of the few bucks you pay to rent newly released DVDs from Netflix, Movielink or your neighborhood video store, you can download them from the Hollywood cartel on the day the DVD is released. For a mere “$20 to $30.”

New release DVDs cost around $20 to $25 to buy. Plus, those DVDs can be played on stand-alone DVD players, watched on TVs and used to pacify kids during long car trips.

So the downloads cost around $5 more, even though they cost around $5 less to distribute via download.

But if you meet these requirements:

1) You have a lot of money and don’t mind wasting it;

2) You want to be the first on your block to watch a newly released DVD (waiting a few days is just not an option for you);

3) You want to watch the same movies over and over on your computer;

4) You are reasonably computer proficient; and

5) You have a broadband internet connection at home (no tying up company resources for this),

then the Hollywood cartel has a treat in store for you.

Warren N. Lieberfarb, the former president of Warner Home Video and now an entertainment technology consultant, hit the nail on the head:

They are giving the consumer less and charging more for it. To me this really stacks the deck against mass consumer adoption.

The Hollywood cartel and its cousin, the record label cartel, don’t give a hoot about the consumer. They are only concerned with extending the inevitable decline of their distribution monopolies by making the consumer overpay and/or pay multiple times.

This is just more smoke and mirrors designed to extract more revenue from the same product.

My prediction is that this is met with a collective yawn by the movie buying public.

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Interesting Post on TV Shows and DVDs

TV Squad had a post yesterday on how music licensing problems have killed or delayed plans to release some classic TV shows on DVD.

The studios have to negotiate with both the record label cartel for the right to use the recording (to play the recording of the song on the DVD) and the music publishers who control the copyright to the song (to use song itself, as opposed to the recording of the song, on the DVD).

These costs are why advertisers are getting play for sponsoring the music on some current TV shows. This happens every week on Nip/Tuck and may happen on other shows (I don’t watch many current TV dramas, so I can’t tell if this is a trend or not).

Anyway, the point is that the record label cartel continues its war against the consumer. The goal, of course, is not to keep the songs off of the DVDs. The goal is to make them more expensive, with the additional money to find its way into the cartel’s pockets.

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More on the New DVD Formats

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If you’re interested in a little more detail on the DVD format war I discussed the other day, Business Week has a very interesting article about it.

The story reads like a high tech barroom brawl, with the Hollywood cartel promoting DRM and lots of it while Microsoft tries, seemingly unsuccessfully, to promote its vision of the PC connected home and keep the X-Box in the race. It’s a great read, even if you don’t care about the technology involved.

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Tech Tips for Tweeners: New DVD Formats

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One of the primary purposes of Newsome.Org is to introduce and explain computer-related programs and features to other in-betweeners like me- people who are the parents of the youngsters to whom computers and the internet are as integral as the telephone and the children of our parents who have no intention of ever embracing computers.

Everyone, no matter what age, has a DVD player and watches DVDs. Many people record TV shows and/or home videos onto DVDs. One problem with recording DVDs is that, because of conflicting and sometimes incompatible formats (DVD-R, DVD+R, etc.), DVDs recorded by one player won’t play in certain other DVD players. Fortunately, many newer players can play most, if not all, of the current DVD formats (older and very low end players still cannot). But the problem is about to get worse.

Like about every other emerging tecnnology where there is money to be made, various companies are pushing incompatible new DVD formats for new, higher capacity (i.e., can hold more video) DVDs. C|Net has posted an article that tells you everything you need to know about the HD DVD vs. Blu ray compatibility war. If you use DVDs and especially if you record onto them, you need to understand this issue and how it may affect you and your videos.

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