In The Blu-Ray/HD DVD War: The Conflict Continues, we started out with an overview of the current battle between Blu-Ray disc and HD DVD, the two most visible contenders in the High-Definition format war.
But there are plenty of other players with a stake in the game. Let’s take a look.
Blu-ray Disc was started by Hitachi, LG, Panasonic, Pioneer, Philips, Samsung, Sharp, Sony, and Thomson with Panasonic, Sony, Pioneer, and Philips as the back-bone of the foundation.
HD-DV is backed by Toshiba, NEC, Sanyo, Microsoft, RCA, Kenwood, Intel, Venturer Electronics and Memory-Tech Corporation.
Obviously the manufacturers are in it to sell players as well as disc pressing and distribution services.
Technology licensing was also considered to be a major source of revenue, and ended up being the primary issue that split up the original DVD Forum into the Blu-Ray and HD DVD camps.
It’s also no coincidence that nearly all of them sell high-definition televisions, monitors, and surround-sound home theater equipment. Upgrade one component of a home system, and sooner or later the rest will follow.
Among the movie studios, Blu-ray Disc is currently exclusively supported in the United States by Sony Pictures Entertainment, MGM, Disney, 20th Century Fox, and Lionsgate.
In terms of major studios in North America, HD DVD is currently exclusively backed by Universal Studios, Paramount Pictures, The Weinstein Company, and First Look Studios.
The studios are in it to sell content, and are also drooling at the idea of upgrading consumers to yet another disc format. This, oddly enough, after Betamax and VHS drug them kicking and screaming into the home marketplace.
Microsoft is firmly in the HD DVD camp, with their HD DVD drive for the Xbox 360 game-console giving the Xbox 360 the ability to play HD DVD movies. A move that jump started HD-DVD in the marketplace. That changed when Sony’s PlayStation 3 launched, since every PS3 unit also functioned as a Blu-ray player.
In point of fact, there are probably more HD video players out there in game machines than all other manufacturers have sold to date… combined.
Coming at it from another direction, Microsoft is hedging their bets and also offering downloadable content via XBox Live.
Comcast and Dish represent the two largest cable and satellite delivery systems, with each offering a significant percentage of their content in HD, as well as offering HD on-demand and pay-per-view (PPV) services.
DSL and other broadband service providers are also getting in on the action, with video-on-demand (VOD) and Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) offerings either available or coming soon.
The Game Changers…
Apple, while technically a member of the Blu-Ray Association, has yet to ship a system with either drive and with iTunes also has one of the largest digital content delivery stores on the web. And they also have a lock on roughly 70% of the portable digital player market in the form of iPods and iPhones.
It’s also strongly rumored that they’re going to be offering downloadable rentals any-day-now, using their Apple TV system for both selection and playback. (They’ve already started offering direct-to-your-device music downloads for the iPod Touch and the iPhone.)
Amazon is also attempting to squeeze into the business with their Amazon unbox digital movie download service. Unfortunately, Amazon’s service is still tied to Windows PCs at this time.
Both Amazon and Apple are only offering DVD (or “near” DVD) quality at this point in time, although it’s considered to be no accident that the Apple TV has HDMI output, and that both with move up into the HD space in the future.
Several other early online services attempting to break into this market have failed, hampered by poor selection, overly restrictive DRM, and limited playback options. As an example, movies downloaded through Movielink could only be viewed on a computer or a TV connected to a computer. (Movielink was recently acquired by Blockbuster.)
There’s also Google (yes, Google), who’s rumored to have interesting plans should they win their 700 MHz spectrum bid in the upcoming FCC auction. Keep in mind that Google Chairman Eric Schmidt sits on Apple Computer’s board of directors.
That “Other” industry…
It’s often been suggested that porn will turn the tide one way or another, but the truth is that porn is a very, very small percentage of the video marketplace and that neither format excludes adult content. Most adult content vendors are also sitting out the conflict with on a miniscule number of titles available, awaiting a winner before committing further to expensive inventory that may never sell.
The last leg of this oddly shaped table rests on the backs of the consumers, who aren’t sure which format will win out, but are pretty sure that they don’t want to spend a fortune reinvesting in video libraries and new formats.
The internet and P2P file-sharing systems also come into play here, with a significant percentage of the youth market no longer interested in paying anything for content. However, as iTunes has shown, people will pay what they consider to be a fair price for content, if only for the convenience factor.
As should be apparent, this isn’t simply a war with Blu-Ray in one corner and HD DVD in the other, but a much larger multi-sided conflict with a huge number of interests, influences, alliances, and even betrayals.
Who will win? Stay tuned for The Blu-Ray/HD War: The Conclusion, and find out.
But here’s a hint: If you’re out shopping today on Black Friday and you see a really, really cutthroat deal on a Blu-Ray player… or an HD DVD player…
There’s a reason.
Personally, I think a Kindle would be a better bet.
Continued in The Blu-Ray/HD DVD War: Fueling The Conflict