Truce in the High-Definition DVD Wars

Kim Komando offers some good news for those who have been waiting for the high definition DVD wars to play themselves out.

There are two high-definition formats: HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc. The formats are incompatible; so many buyers have been hesitant to commit. Perhaps you remember the VHS and Betamax format war of the 1980s?

To get around this issue, some studios release movies on both formats. But many stick to one. More movies have been released on Blu-ray.

A solution is on the horizon. LG recently released a player that handles both HD DVD and Blu-ray. At $1,200, it is pricey; however, it won’t soon become obsolete. Samsung will also release a dual-format player this year.

Total Hi Def (THD) discs are also coming this year. These discs will contain both HD DVD and Blu-ray versions of a movie. Warner Bros. developed THD, but other studios may adopt it. The discs won’t be much more expensive than other high-definition discs. High-definition movies currently cost $30 to $40.

If, like me, you’re a Netflix subscriber, you can simply specify that you want HD discs instead of standard DVDs, so the cost of the movies themselves isn’t much of an issue. The problem has been that it’s too risky to bet on a format yet and the resulting lack of economies of scale necessary to bring prices down to a reasonable level.
Dual-former discs and/or players would, obviously, render the format issue moot and should kick demand for players up several notches.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Bithead says:

    Dual-former discs and/or players would, obviously, render the format issue moot and should kick demand for players up several notches.

    I doubt it. mean, perhaps, but I don’t think it’s going to eliminate the reluctance to buy, altogether. Kim’s comparison of the Beta/VHS wars relates a concern that is still very much a given, for buyers expected to spend a not inconsequential amount of money on a player…

    Think back a little bit, and you may remember that the eventual successor, VHS, was replaced by the DVD within ten years. By the time everybody had jumped on the VHS bandwagon, and spent enormous amounts of money on tape collections, the we were then expected to jump on the DVD bandwagon, replacing the entire collection that we’d spent hundreds of dollars on.

    What are we going to be replacing at $1,200.00 players and $40 each media with, another seven years from now? It’s not surprising to see Kim Komando not mention that factor, since in the end, she’s a salesperson for technology…but I would have thought James would mention that at least once.

    I am by no stretch playing the part of the neophyte here. But the amount of money involved for a format change , where those changes are coming with increasing speed, I would think eventually is gonna cut into your sales.

  2. James Joyner says:

    What are we going to be replacing at $1,200.00 players and $40 each media with, another seven years from now?

    Only if you’re an early adopter. Remember, DVD players and VCRs came down to where they are sold as convenience items at the 7/11. And most of us just rent our movies through services like Netflix, paying a flat monthly fee, so the cost of media conversion is negligible.

    Certainly, entertainment devices have traditionally had a much longer life expectancy than other electronics, notably PCs. But, heck, most of us went from rotary dial phones to push buttons to one cordless phone frequency range to another. And let’s not even talk about cell phones.

    And, heck, most people get a new $25,000 to $40,000 car every three or four years.

    Obsolescence is just part of the price of enjoying improvements in technology.

  3. Bithead says:

    While what you’re saying is true, perhaps I didn’t make the case as well as I might.
    While the $1200 for the player is not chickenfeed, what of the price of the media?

    $40 per movie, particularly if you’ve got a fair sized collection is a pretty good sized chunk of change.

    Does anyone know how much was spent on VHS movies, over the short time they ruled the roost?

    Just for giggles, I’ll estimate having a couple hundred kid vids on VHS… at what, $10-$20 ea? (Forgetting the more adult fare, such as Indianna Jones so on)

    (Shudder) Coulda bought a car, for pity’s sake… and would have, too, had I known the whole thing would be obsolete in 10 years time.

  4. James Joyner says:

    My understanding is that you can play regular DVDs on hi-def players.

    And your VHS tapes are likely obsolete because they’re degrading, anyway. If not, you’re under no obligation to replace them. If your VCR wears out, you can buy a new one for around $20 these days.