Los Angeles Times
HD DVD camp stands by format
Toshiba says backers haven’t wavered despite Warner Bros.’ choice of Blu-ray. But Paramount may be reconsidering.
las vegas — Had pundits bet on the HD DVD camp folding its hand in Las Vegas, they would have lost their shirts.
None of the corporate giants that back the next-generation DVD format have jumped ship at the Consumer Electronics Show here. But the huge momentum shift toward the Blu-ray format has at least one studio strongly considering a switch.
Warner Bros.’ decision last week to start making movies exclusively for Blu-ray players, rather than HD DVD, triggered an “out” clause in Paramount Pictures’ contract with the HD DVD camp. An industry source said there was a significant possibility that Paramount would exercise that clause. It plans to decide within a month.
Paramount officials said they would continue to support HD DVD, a format for displaying videos in higher quality whose backers include Toshiba Corp. and Microsoft Corp. Universal Pictures, which has been a strong supporter from the beginning, issued no public statement on the matter here.
Toshiba said Tuesday that retailers have expressed their commitment to HD DVD during private meetings at the show, which is the world’s largest consumer tech gathering.
Still, the Warner Bros. move — announced just before the show began — dramatically changed the balance of power in the competition to set the new DVD standard.
The Blu-ray contingent, led by Sony Corp., all but claimed victory before a standing-roomonly presentation Monday, saying: “The Future Is Blu.”
The Blu-ray Disc Assn. claimed a significant edge over HD DVD, with 85% of all nextgeneration players purchased since Blu-ray hit the market late in 2006. The group also said 66% of all high-definition movies sold in 2007 were Blu-ray.
Danny Kaye, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment’s executive vice president of technology strategy, predicted that Bluray players — including Sony PlayStation 3 game consoles, which also play movies in the format — would jump from 3.5 million sold by the end of 2007 to 10 million by the end of this year. He forecast a similar surge in movie sales, from $170 million to $1 billion in consumer spending.
Kaye said 2008 would be “a year of very strong, explosive growth.”
Steve Beeks, president of Bluray supporter Lions Gate, said that after two years of “wasted energy” devoted to the bruising format war, the industry could begin to focus its efforts on expanding the home entertainment market.
“We believe 2008 will be a watershed year for Blu-ray’s ascent in the marketplace,” Beeks said.
That enthusiasm appears to be shared by the show’s attendees, who flocked to the numerous Blu-ray displays on the show floor. The numbers were noticeably thinner at similar HD DVD displays.
Jodi Sally, vice president of marketing for Toshiba America’s digital audio video group, emphasized the continued retail support for its HD DVD format, which has sold more 1 million players since its introduction.
“I’ve been here for two days of back-to-back meetings with retailers,” Sally said. “We are really encouraged by our meetings and the response of retailers that they will continue to offer consumers a choice.”
Industry executives said it would be unusual for retailers to abandon any format so soon after Christmas, for fear of sparking a flood of returns.
Here’s a roundup of other news and observations from the convention: are doing with technology and what they’re getting out of it.
Some of the answers were provided by the Sesame Workshop report. Others were provided by a video Buckleitner shared of a 2-year-old playing with the V-Smile, which hooks up to a TV. The toddler ignored the big colorful buttons that controlled the action on the screen (in fact, he ignored the screen altogether), and fixated on the onoff button before crawling away.
Clearly, these companies still have a lot to learn.