A DVD Standoff in Hollywood - New York Times

Discussion in 'DVD Video' started by Dick Sidbury, Jul 11, 2005.

  1. Dick Sidbury

    Dick Sidbury Guest

    They wouldn't have to. Just put out one season on one disk. If they
    did that then the space savings could be 75% or so even with big cases.
    Using this my bookshelf of TV series could be shrunk down to one
    shelf. And I'm sure that if there were a collector who hadn;t bought
    any of the series, and wanted it he'd be thrilled to buy 9 seasons of
    the X files for 400 dollars -- that's only about 45 dollars per season,
    about half what most people paid.

    Dick Sidbury, Jul 11, 2005
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  2. Dick Sidbury

    manitou Guest

    manitou, Jul 11, 2005
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  3. Dick Sidbury

    omarenoryt Guest

    LOS ANGELES - The Hollywood studio executives who gathered here late
    last month at an annual home entertainment conference in Century City
    were all chuckles and backslaps. In front of several hundred industry
    managers, analysts and reporters, they talked breezily about hit
    movies, DVD sales and prospects for the holiday season.

    Skip to next paragraph

    Illustration by The New York Times

    Small Disc, Heavy Weight

    Stephanie Diani for The New York Times
    Keisuke Suetsujgi, right, and Yoshiichiro Mori, directors of
    Panasonic's Blu-ray lab in Torrance, Calif.
    Then, with a few minutes left in the session, the moderator asked the
    question everyone was waiting for: Can the studios break the deadlock
    between the rival camps developing the next generation of digital video
    discs, players and recorders?

    The question was not academic. Hollywood has not been able to unite
    around one of the two new formats, called Blu-ray and HD DVD. As a
    result, tens of billions of dollars in potential sales hang in the

    Before anyone could answer, Thomas Lesinski, president of home
    entertainment at Paramount Pictures, jumped in and said it would not
    benefit the studios to discuss the issue in public while
    behind-the-scenes negotiations were going on.

    Stunned by the curt response, the audience offered nervous laughter and
    the other executives fell silent.

    Mr. Lesinski's testy reaction was a sign of how touchy the debate over
    the competing formats has become. To everyone's regret, the studios are
    split over which group to support. Sony's studio and Disney, with 39
    percent of the DVD market, back the Blu-ray group that includes Sony,
    Panasonic, Hewlett-Packard and others. Warner, Universal and Paramount,
    with 43 percent of the market, support the HD-DVD standard developed by
    Toshiba and NEC.

    Fox, MGM, Lions Gate and others, which control the remaining 18 percent
    of the market, have yet to declare their allegiance definitively.

    Yet the result is the same: Hollywood has been unable to throw its
    weight behind one format, and because the rival discs are largely
    incompatible, the studios have been unable to persuade the
    manufacturers to reach a compromise or to get one side to withdraw.

    Compounding matters, many Hollywood executives have staked their
    reputations - both corporate and personal - on one technology or the
    other, making it politically difficult for them to switch sides.

    Yet the studios, retailers and makers of electronics, computers and
    video games are still gearing up for a format war over the new
    technology, which promises high-definition video, enhanced audio and a
    slew of interactive features.

    Starting this Christmas, consumers will start seeing high-definition
    DVD players and movies in stores. But because there is no foreseeable
    end to the format fight, shoppers are expected to shy away from buying
    the machines and discs. After all, the equipment could quickly become
    obsolete, just as the Sony Betamax home machines faded in the 1980's
    after losing out to VHS.

    With no great pleasure, Mr. Lesinski said in an interview that if both
    sides release competing discs and machines, the companies involved will
    probably generate half the revenue they would with only one format.
    Other industry analysts are even more pessimistic.

    "Both sides have so much vested in their technology that no one wants
    to blink, given the potential upside," said Mr. Lesinski, whose studio,
    Paramount, is a division of Viacom. Paramount, along with Warner Home
    Video and Universal Studios Home Video, will release 89 movies this
    year in the HD-DVD format.

    The three studios have backed the HD-DVD format because the technology
    is essentially an upgrade of existing DVD technology, so it requires
    less investment and time to produce. Toshiba says it can make the discs
    now for a few pennies more than the current generation of discs.

    Yet, as Blu-ray advocates love to point out, their discs hold more
    data, and thus can offer better-quality video. The technology also
    gives the studios and game makers room to develop new, interactive
    features. These extra goodies, they say, will make Blu-ray more
    attractive to consumers, who will have to pay about $1,000 for the
    first machines.

    "The way to do it is to have discs chock full of benefits," said Bob
    Chapek, the president of the home entertainment division of Buena
    Vista, a unit of Disney. "Some of these things chew up a lot of

    But to get all that, the Blu-ray group companies are creating entirely
    new production techniques that require a lot more money and time.
    Though Sony, Panasonic and others now sell Blu-ray recorders and
    rewriteable discs in Japan, they are still testing the read-only discs
    that the Hollywood studios need.

    Indeed, 20 miles south of Hollywood, in Torrance, Calif., Panasonic, a
    division of Matsushita, has built a pilot production line to show that
    Blu-ray read-only discs can be made cheaply and quickly. To do this,
    Panasonic is developing a new way of coating discs with their
    all-important protective layer.

    The test line in a clean room at the factory now spits out a disc every
    4.5 seconds, and Shinya Abe, who runs Panasonic's replication task
    force for producing read-only Blu-ray discs, said he expected that rate
    to fall to one every 3.5 seconds.

    Skip to next paragraph

    Stephanie Diani for The New York Times
    "We want to show Hollywood we can make read-only discs," said Shinya
    Abe of Panasonic, holding a sample.

    Small Disc, Heavy Weight"We want to show Hollywood we can make
    read-only discs," he said.

    Yet Mr. Abe and other Panasonic executives sidestepped questions about
    how many of the discs were usable for commercial purposes, saying it
    was up to the mass-market manufacturers to determine.

    The issues of cost and time to market would matter less if sales of the
    current generation of DVD equipment were booming. But there are plenty
    of signs that they are not.

    The studios know that the percentage of American homes with a DVD
    player is nearing 80 percent, or the saturation point, and that the
    latest converts typically buy fewer discs.

    Indeed, while sales of discs are expected to rise 13 percent this year
    in the United States, the salad days of 20 to 30 percent annual growth
    are a memory. Most movie libraries are now out on DVD, and stores like
    Wal-Mart are slashing disc prices, which means less profit for studios.

    To jump-start growth, the studios are turning to their television
    archives for new material. But those sales are expected to slow, too.

    This is particularly bad news for studios, which rely more and more
    heavily on DVD sales as the video rental business shrinks and income
    from theaters flattens. For example, Americans spent $9.1 billion on
    feature movies on DVD last year, 47.9 percent of the money studios made
    from those films.

    That's up from 28.7 percent in 1996, when videotapes still dominated.

    The power of DVD sales was also apparent earlier this month, when
    shares of Pixar Animation Studios Inc. tumbled after the company said
    it expected fewer DVD sales of its film "The Incredibles."

    Hollywood studio chiefs who are responsible for making five-year plans
    see the writing on the wall for the current generation of DVD's, and
    know they need something new to sell consumers. Most Hollywood
    executives who attended the conference here remained optimistic that
    ultimately they could reach a consensus and use their collective weight
    to persuade hardware makers to devise a hybrid solution.

    "We're at the worst part of the storm now," said Mike Dunn, president
    of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. But "this will get worked out
    in the back room."
    omarenoryt, Jul 11, 2005
  4. Dick Sidbury

    Jim Nason Guest

    NYTimes registration (free) required.



    Good article. There would be one practical solution if there is no agreement on the dominant format. Simply build players with both standards built in, incorporating two separate trays. It would be expensive, of course, but for those who want high definition video as soon as possible, it is a workaround.

    In time, one standard will probably prevail ans single players can be mass-marketed. At this point, I don't see much mass marketing of improved dvds on the horizon.

    It is very unfortunate that there are competing standards. The last time this happened, with Beta and VHS, the inferior standard won. Even SVHS flopped. So as soon as dvds were released they quickly began to take over the market. That led to the end of commercially issued movies on tape (for the most part).

    I am not an early adopter because I can't afford to be, so I will continue to buy dvds until, some time in the future, there is agreement on an improved dvd standard.

    Jim Nason
    Jim Nason, Jul 11, 2005
  5. Dick Sidbury

    RichA Guest

    Blu-ray is a joke. An overly expensive proposition compared to
    HD-DVD. The extra space (beyond HD-DVD)they tout won't be need for
    full HD transfers so they'll fill it with JUNK that no one wants.
    Crap like CD-rom style web connectivity, probably advertising. They
    should adopt HD-DVD as the standard RIGHT NOW, get the ball rolling
    and forget Blu-ray. Leave that format to the computer people who just
    might need the extra space over HD. It's too bad the article didn't
    show the blu-ray disk because I'd like to see if the silly things are
    still being presented in caddies.
    RichA, Jul 11, 2005
  6. Dick Sidbury

    manitou Guest

    It's already been established that the video quality for both formats
    will be effectively identical. If there are slight differences, they
    likely will be visible only on big-screen highest-end (and very
    expensive) displays.

    The only advantage of gigantic amounts of storage will be releasing TV
    series, even daytime soaps, on just one or two discs. However, these
    likely will be SDTV, and not HDTV, for anything pre-YK2.

    If there is a protracted format war, with some studios backing one and
    others backing the other, mainstream consumers will only invest if
    hardware manufacturers introduce dual-format players.

    manitou, Jul 11, 2005
  7. Dick Sidbury

    Tarkus Guest

    Why would you need separate trays for a dual-format deck?
    Tarkus, Jul 11, 2005
  8. Dick Sidbury

    manitou Guest

    For a long time it's been indicated Blu-Ray discs will be in a sleeve to
    be inserted into players, though recently there has been talk of
    sleeveless discs with a stronger protective coating.

    We do know that the discs are the same size. Single-tray players,
    however, might still be problematic if a different optical tracker is

    At this time, Pioneer is producing players which accommodate DVD, CD,
    SACD, and DVD Audio.

    IMO high-rez DVDs will have to be very ergonomic if consumers are going
    to take the leap quickly. While HDTV is a substantial improvement on
    the best DVDs and SDTV broadcasts it is _not_ the quantum leap that DVD
    was compared with VHS, Betamax, and even laserdisc (which was not
    ergonomic, had terrible chroma noise, and required high-end hardware to
    look really good).

    Many people will be quite content to continue buying standard DVDs,
    especially if they already have a high-rez display and one of the better
    progressive-scan DVD players.

    manitou, Jul 11, 2005
  9. Dick Sidbury

    RichA Guest

    And that isn't going to happen because part of the ability to sell
    a DVD for $40 instead of $20 is because you offer more than one disk.
    No one is going to pay $60-$150 for a single disk in a thin plastic or
    (Warner) cardboard box.
    Or it could simply backfire horribly, and you end up with
    the DVD-A, SACD war that basically turned both promising formats
    into another niche market product like laserdisc was.
    RichA, Jul 11, 2005
  10. Dick Sidbury

    RichA Guest

    Which oddly enough puts them way behind el cheapo players from China
    that play EVERY type of file, not just those ones. The mainstream
    companies produce some very good players, but they bring up the rear
    in terms of versatility. The really amazing thing? With MPEG-4
    (Divx) they could put HD movies on current DVD discs, no need for a
    new format and if there was a minor quality issue relative to
    comparing it to a blu-ray or HD-DVD deck, the consumer wouldn't
    Very true on all counts.
    DVD is far from over, that's true. Another rumour? It's possible
    blu-ray and HD-DVD could be the most transitory formats of all time,
    if ultraviolet laserdiodes get released and a new even greater density
    format is created. There are even plans for other types of storage
    mediums besides flat disks that could appear shortly.
    RichA, Jul 11, 2005
  11. Dick Sidbury

    Vin Guest

    And that isn't going to happen because part of the ability to sell
    are you crazy? people don't pay more for more discs, they pay more for
    more content. if given the choice between getting the sopranos season 5
    on 4 dvds or 1 hd-dvd for the same price, who in their right mind would
    choose 4 discs? in fact i bet people would be willing to pay -more- just
    to have things on less discs and in smaller boxes. when all the seinfeld
    seasons are out that will total 36 discs, on hd-dvd they could probably
    fit them all on 6 discs. i'd definitely pay more for that.
    Vin, Jul 11, 2005
  12. Dick Sidbury

    Goro Guest

    In my mind, I figured that this would be the "killer app" for the
    HD-DVDs. THe convenience of having a whole season (or series) on a
    single disc. But then, i wonder how many peope would be put off of
    spending (say) $400 for a single disc of the entire XFILES series.

    Goro, Jul 11, 2005
  13. Dick Sidbury

    Goro Guest

    I kinda hope this is the way it goes. I'm careful with DVDs and CDs
    anyway, so my own discs are fine, but on the occassion when I rent,
    about half the time i suffer some sort of glitch and about 10% of the
    time, it freezes up on me. That is frustrating. ANd then there are
    those occassions when i buy mailorder and the disc is a rattler.
    DVDPacific won't accept an exchange for those unless it fails to play

    i agree. Is there any word on if BR/HDDVD will be 1080p or 720p? I've
    noticed that SAmsung's new 1080p line of DLP sets have released and are
    supposedly beauteous.
    Goro, Jul 11, 2005
  14. Dick Sidbury

    Jim Nason Guest

    Some time in the future we may see video and audio on non-moving media, such
    as chipsets or even single chips. That is not a new idea, but I haven't
    heard much about it in quite a while. It always amuses me when characters in
    Star Trek the Orginal Series talk about getting something "on tape." Even
    then there was talk of digital media in the furure.

    Jim Nason
    Jim Nason, Jul 11, 2005
  15. Dick Sidbury

    Goro Guest

    of course one problem is that then you HAVE to buy a whole series at
    one time. So if they can cram (say) all of SEINFELD onto a single BR
    disc and charge (say) $200 for it. then it turns a DVD purchase into a
    big ticket purchase, for which you need to plan/prepare. At ~$30 or so
    (for a season), it can be an impulse buy.

    ANd just knowing the studios, the menu navigation for these discs will
    be just about impossible. In fact, I'm sure that they'll manage to do
    as much as they can to poorly implement things as possible...

    (Hell, they're already looking to put animated and audio menus on DIVX
    files... ugh)

    Goro, Jul 11, 2005
  16. Dick Sidbury

    manitou Guest

    Nothing official, though most of what I've read indicates storage at
    1080p, but probably flagged to output 1080i since most HDTVs currently
    sold in America display 1080i native.

    It would be fairly easy to have players with the capability of undoing
    the flags and outputting either 1080p, or downrezing to 720p, 480p, or
    even 480i for older TVs.

    manitou, Jul 11, 2005
  17. Dick Sidbury

    Alpha Guest

    Why have any media at all? Everything will be transmitted to the consumer
    on demand. There will be no media.
    Alpha, Jul 11, 2005
  18. Dick Sidbury

    Vin Guest

    of course one problem is that then you HAVE to buy a whole series at
    im sure they would release each season individually on one disc, the
    discs don't have to be full. 9 discs is still a hell of a lot better than
    36. i can't be bothered buying tv dvds now just because there are so many
    discs involved, ill wait. look at star trek the next generation, each
    season is something like 7 discs, 7 seasons, the boxset is 48 discs!
    with hd-dvd they could probably squeeze that down to 7 discs. instead of
    the lord of the rings trilogy being 12 discs, they'll be able to
    re-release it on three, etc.. no one likes having all these friggin discs.
    Vin, Jul 11, 2005
  19. Dick Sidbury

    Jay G. Guest

    Find me an el cheapo player that plays both SACD and DVD-A. Either that,
    or stop talking out of your ass.

    Jay G., Jul 11, 2005
  20. But how much more is the issue, $5 yes, $10 maybe, $20 no
    Electric Frog, Jul 12, 2005
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