We may all live in a great big global community, but in my Blog, it's my world.

HighDefDigest.com (excellent site, btw) has an article up that clips some content from a new Business Week article talking about Warner's 'fence sitting' (HighDefDigest.com article title: Report: Warner Takes Centerstage in High-Def Format War) when it comes to chosing a camp to put all of their support behind, either HD DVD or Blu-ray.  The original article (Business Week's) is debunked a bit when you check through the 'related discussion' area of the HighDefDigest.com site.  (Some folks researched earlier writing by the Biz Week article writer and found several articles and comments that show a bias towards Blu-ray from the same writer, and there are also, by the way, some factual mistakes in the Biz Week article such as statements that Microsoft has HD DVD drives in the Xbox 360.  Ooops, not in the 360 console, just sold to go with the 360.)

Anyway, a point that is clearly made in the Biz Week article, and has been made over and over again at HighDefDigest.com and other sites, is that Warners is currently the only studio that is straddling the fence and supporting and releasing content in both formats.  Blu-ray fans (people in the 'blue' camp) of course hope to see Warners move exclusively to Blu-ray and have worked hard to spread FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) in that general direction to help keep up momentum for their favorite format.

HD DVD fans, on the other hand, point to exclusive titles like Transformers and Shrek the Third, from Paramount and Dreamworks, and also are pointing to the numbers of relatively cheap HD DVD players flying off shelves over the last few months and suggest that their favored format is doing quite well, thank you.

The truth is, thus far, that neither format is really going great guns and both need to sell lots more product to become anything close to a hit.  As things currently stand, the numbers are something like 55 - 70% of share of movies in the new formats sold are in the Blu-ray format.  Fans in the red camp (HD DVD) would point to the lower end of those numbers, fans in the blue camp say it's the higher.  Regardless, HD DVD is currently seeing something between 30 - 45% of the sales of next generation format movies (HD DVD or Blu-ray).

I've said elsewhere, and perhaps some here at JoeUser.com, that there are a few reasons for this discrepancy in the numbers.  Few, possibly, equalling the number one as in uno, as in Disney, as in the Mouse House.

When push comes to shove, the sales of content are all about what the content is.  The Mouse House has a huge library of hits that they can choose from and sell product with.  From The Lion King, to The Incredibles, to Toy Story, to Alladin, to the most recent Ratatouille.  Disney, thanks to partner Pixar, and their own collection of classic animated films, has a wealth of content to fall back on selling.  Thanks to the timing of things, they were able to sell Ratatouille and feature it, along with the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, on Blu-ray and really push the format.

Over on the HD DVD side, what are the big titles?  (please ignore those crickets chirping over there behind Buddy Holly and his partners....)  Actually there've been a few big titles, like say Transformers (which infuriates director Michael Bay to no end as he is a fan of Blu-ray and was, and remains, incredibly mad that the studio bosses 'sold out' to 'Microsoft's blood money' (paraphrasing his words) and took the $100 - $150 million 'bribe' to switch to HD DVD exclusivity for an 18 month period), but really just not the level of hit movies to rely upon to sell content.  I loved Blades of Glory, thought it was really funny, but it was not (I don't believe) a best seller when you compare it to say the Die Hard movies that just came out over on the Blu-ray side.

All along here Warner has been selling in either format, and except for a few special titles (The Matrix, still not available in Blu-ray as the Blu-ray specs that are out on the market right now don't support all of the features that are desired for that release) that Warner has 'featured' on the HD DVD side, they've straddled the fence and sold in both formats, waiting -- their words -- for the marketplace to decide for them which format should win.

Read that correctly and what you realize is that Warners is waiting for one side or the other to make them 'an offer they can't refuse' (in the words echoed by Don Corleone).  Warner is being wined and dined by both sides, and is hearing sweet nothings whispered in their ears in efforts to get them to choose already, if they haven't already done so.

It is here that I agree with, or at least might agree with if this is what the Biz Week article was saying, the idea that Warner needs to decide.  In my case I hope they go red.  I hope they choose HD DVD and help split the marketplace almost evenly between the two camps.  If they do go red, that would leave the market at something like 45 - 50% HD DVD, and somewhere around 50 - 55% (perhaps as high as 60%) Blu-ray.  The breakdown would be along the lines of:

HD DVD: Universal (biggest supporter), Paramount, Dreamworks, Warners, and a few others

Blu-ray: Disney, FOX and Sony (along with perhaps Lions Gate and a few others)

(I don't recall which side MGM would fall on, apologies).

That sort of breakdown is good for folks like me that are hoping to see both formats survive long term, or at least don't want to see a Blu-ray win.  Why not Blu-ray?  Go visit a site like say SlySoft.com or the aforementioned HighDefDigest.com on why HD DVD is the more consumer friendly of the two formats.  Add in the idea that Blu-ray is, unless the disc is combo format (DVD and HD DVD flipper disc), normally more expensive to purchase and is more expensive to make, and that's yet another reason.  The idea that Sony and the Mouse House would win on their digital rights management, yeah that's another big reason to cheer against them.  Anyway, yes, I want to keep format neutrality for the most part, or at least keep a stalemate around (which, oh yeah, by the way, in dispute of some of the mis-information that comes through in the original Biz Week article, check out the recent comments from Sony's head that mentions that he sees a longer war than anticipated and sees a stalement in the Blu-ray vs. HD DVD segment for a while) as keeping a balance between both camps should lead to competition in features, pricing, and more.

Now, I know plenty of people will complain that the market needs one format.  Shut up you whiners.  No it does not.  There's room in the A/V rack for a player of either format.  It's not that expensive to own both, or at least not that expensive to get HD DVD now (some excellent sales going on at Amazon.com currently, buy discounted HD DVD players and get as many as 12 free movies {big shocked smiley here!!!}).  When all is said and done, if you buy the HD DVD player now you are pretty much getting it for free or very little cost after you factor in 12 movies that would cost $20 (US) each on average.

Fans in the Blu-ray camp would say hey! you can get a Playstation 3 system for $399 or less, get a free copy of Spiderman 3 (a middling success in that format, though the movie was too long and not as good as it's predecessors...) and get at least 5 free movies by mail.  In some places you can get even more (Wal-Mart and Amazon.com I believe both running some sales that get you free discs when you buy the players) movies for free, so you get something close to the 12 free movies that you'd get with an HD DVD player.  Again, do the math and you realize you aren't paying that much for the movies and/or the PS3 (and oh, yeah, you could play games on that PS3 if you wanted to also!)

So, again, it's not that expensive to stay format neutral and have neither side win this format war.  Keep both.  They both work, players that play both formats are coming out now, and there is room in most homes for both formats if people choose that option.

So how do we keep both around?   We encourage Microsoft and Toshiba (and perhaps Universal also) to back up the trucks with the big $$ bills in them to get Warner to go exclusively red for a while.  It would surely tick off the likes of the author of the Biz Week article, and especially idiots like Michael Bay (who claims that Blu-ray is the superior format, and yet Blu-ray specs continue to change and not even that many 1.1 spec players exist out there to come close to offering the interactive features that are 'in there' from the HD DVD side -- yeah, the spec exists, yes there are some players built to that spec, and yes, the PS3 actually meets and beats that spec for the most part, and could go on to offer 2.0 spec features if Sony actually pushed out such features, but they aren't there yet because, uh, yeah, the specs keep changing to so that the supposedly superior format can catch up to the supposedly inferior alternative.  The only place where Blu-ray is currently superior is in storage capacity, and even that isn't of much value currently....)

Come on Microsoft, Universal, Toshiba, DO IT.  As Nike says: JUST DO IT.  Back up the truck, give Warner their own HD DVD Corporate Credit card good for say $100 - $200 million in credit over the next 18 - 24 months (if not a little more) and get the party really started.  Get HD DVD to critical mass and let Sony choke on it.  Nah on the choking part, but at least get HD DVD to critical mass and keep both formats viable well into the future so that consumers can and will benefit from the competition.  It's pocket change to Microsoft and I suspect not a lot of money to Toshiba's pockets either.  It keeps their preferred format viable for a long time, and shows real support for their creation.  SO JUST DO IT.


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