HOME entertainment research consultancy GfK Australia managing director Gary Lamb was succinct in describing at a mini- conference the five key influences on the growth of digital markets.
He cited consumer debt levels, competition for entertainment time and behavioural inertia among the hurdles to further growth for digital formats such as online video, digital cameras and high- definition television.
Two other factors he named appear particularly prescient for the new HD- DVD and Blu- ray formats being introduced into what was thought to be a mature business model: the DVD market. Lamb suggested education and simplicity or common standards as key influences on consumer behaviour.
Hands up those either waiting for a highdefinition format to win or can’t be bothered collecting another set of differently formatted DVDs? It’s astounding to think the consumer electronic industry conceived of duelling formats again after its videotape fiasco in the 1980s. Anyway, as each day passes, another element in the cases for or against either Bluray or HD- DVD emerges.
Last week came what might be a killer blow. American rental giant Blockbuster has decided to stock only Blu- ray discs in the vast majority of its nationwide locations. It will continue to offer HD- DVD titles online and in about one- sixth of the stores that have been testing both formats.
AP reports that Blockbuster’s decision is based on more titles being available and customer preference, although that preference was always stacked against HDDVD when Blu- ray had exclusive titles such as Spider- Man and Pirates of the Caribbean , titles that would appeal to the early adopters of new technology, young males.
Blockbuster’s decision helps Blu- ray by making a statement that it believes the format to be the best bet for consumers. It’s also a self- serving decision, almost pre- empting buying decisions with some tough talk.
Even more interesting is the reaction to Blockbuster’s statement. It wasn’t so long ago that everyone was writing off rental stores as we awaited the shift to downloadable movies. The experience, at least in the US, shows the DVD rental store around the corner, or kilometres away adjacent to the windswept shopping centre car park, is a resilient beast. And satisfactory movie downloading just isn’t here yet, and that’s before anyone even tries to download high- definition movies.
All this tech and compatibility talk is making my brain hurt. Truth be known, I’m already a Blu- ray convert because the drive on the PlayStation 3 is infinitely quieter than that of the Xbox 360. And when you’re into moody eastern European art- house cinema, as I am, the absence of that annoying whir is enough to convince you which high- definition player and discs to choose, no matter what a big US retail chain tells us.
And that’s the last you’ll hear on the format war for some time, I promise. Let’s concentrate on what’s on the discs, shall we?
To be sure, DVD content continues to grow, with the latest big player to commit to straight- to- DVD films being The Matrix’s producer, Joel Silver. His Dark Castle Entertainment horror genre label, the geniuses who gave Paris Hilton a shot at acting in 2005’ s House of Wax ( no, she didn’t melt, she stripped), has signed a deal to produce films for Warner Premiere, beginning with the sequel Return to House on Haunted Hill . Can’t wait.
* * * DISC WATCH: Miss Potter ( Icon, G, $ 29.99). One of those films that should work particularly well on DVD given its understated style and subject, the revered children’s author. A faithful biopic that’s a stark change from biopics about messed- up music types. bodeym@ theaustralian. com. au