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David Poland

By David Poland

HD Is Dead, Long Live HD

This body blow cannot be underestimated.
As an owner of a Blu-ray and an HD player, I am quite conscious of how retailers are handling the product. One sign of the slow growth has been at retailers who have embraced DVD, but have not stocked hi-def, such as the major bookstores, groceries with larger DVD sections, etc. Even Target and Wal-Mart have minor stock in hi-def. Everyone seems to be waiting, leaving consumers who are not looking for new technology unaware that anything of significance is even out there.
But there have been two places that have consistantly offered prime placement for both formats.
No more.
There was this announcement from Best Buy today that they will give preferential placement to Blu-ray from now on. But this is really the coup de grace… Netflix sent this note out to customers today…

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22 Responses to “HD Is Dead, Long Live HD”

  1. Joseph says:

    Hopefully this will mean that Netflix will be significantly stocking up on more Blu-ray copies of each title. Ever since I went Blu-ray about a month ago I have yet to receive a New Release on Blu-ray, listing each title as “long wait” or “very long wait.” I even had “Across the Universe at the top of my queue for a month and had two discs received the day of its release and I STILL did not get it.

  2. Jonj says:

    There are still a number of titles that only have HD-DVD as the sole HD choice such as “Into the Wild” when it debuts, and “Elizabeth: The Golden Age,” (which sucked by the way in any format). If you want to see “Across the Universe” and missed it in theaters, Blu-ray is the way to go. The movie really looks great in that format. I have both HD formats as well and the whole HD-DVD situation has been a little depressing. You pay for this expensive equipment and you end up with a high dollar Betamax for all practical purposes. I will say that in the last couple of months I’ve grown to prefer Blu-ray for whatever reason (probably just convinced myself it was better so I wouldn’t feel so bad).

  3. Roman says:

    I wonder how long it will take before Paramount announces that they will go format neutral (if they want to try to save face a little) or Blu-Ray exclusive (as they should). Shouldn’t take too long now.

  4. David Poland says:

    It’s not up to Paramount… they were paid to go exclusive. They’d have to cough up money – if that is even an option – to shift out of HD.

  5. Me says:

    the whole HD-DVD situation has been a little depressing. You pay for this expensive equipment and you end up with a high dollar Betamax for all practical purposes.
    Jonj, this was precisely why so many people haven’t invested in either. I’d feel worse for you if it wasn’t for the fact that anyone who was paying the slightest bit of attention knew that one set of early adopters was going to end up feeling this way.
    On the plus side, those already produced HD-DVDs should start to sell real cheap soon.

  6. Roman says:

    “It’s not up to Paramount… they were paid to go exclusive. They’d have to cough up money – if that is even an option – to shift out of HD.”
    I know this David. And I’m betting there’s a clause in their contract somewhere that would allow them to terminate their agreement under certain special circumstances. Like say, when HD-DVD loses a certain percentage of the market share. I mean they ALWAYS have one of those, do they not? Can’t imagine Paramount giving a complete commitment to a format unless they had a stake in it (which they don’t really) or if it was for a relatively short time.
    And if there is a reason why we don’t really know all details of that agreement – it’s probably because it’s weak.
    I also figure that in a long run they would lose a lot more than $150 million (or whatever ammount they’ve been paid) once their media sales really start lagging and they would have to start lowering prices.
    You’re right about one thing though – they don’t have a lot of money right now (which is why they probably accepted the deal in the first place) – so it’s seems unlikely that they would be coughing up anything.
    We’ll see.

  7. Working AD says:

    Paramount and Dreamworks really do have escape clauses in their exclusive deals with HD-DVD. This became public right after Warner Bros. announced its May switchover to Blu-ray.
    It is anticipated that Paramount and Dreamworks will begin releasing Blu-rays before the end of the summer, or by the fall at the latest, to make sure of maximum profitability by the holidays. Since both companies had Blu-rays ready to go at the time they made their HD-DVD deals (discs which were literally pulled from retailers), it makes sense that they’ll start with those. But they’re undoubtedly working on the newer releases as well.
    The one really question about holding out is going to be Universal. All of their releases have been HD-DVD, and they are literally looking to go down with the sinking ship if they don’t go format neutral by the fall. Smart money says that their 4th quarter releases will be in both formats, and by 2009, they’ll be catching up their hi-def catalogue with Blu-ray editions.

  8. Roman says:

    Thanks, Working AD. That sounds very reasonable.

  9. hatchling says:

    I haven’t bought a hi def player yet.. I am one of those [probably in the majority] who can wait until the price of equipment is more reasonable and format wars settled.
    I might have bought a dual format player had it been reasonably priced, but I was not about to buy two players, or pay $1000 for one. Of course, I didn’t want to duplicate films either, because I don’t like wasting money. Imagine that.
    If Blu-ray is to be the format winner… fine. I’ll think about buying a player in the coming year. But at the moment some of the films I want to see are still HD DVD exclusive, so I won’t be renting or buying them.
    I know the HD-DVD exclusive studios have financial commitments and it will be costly to get out of them. However, this coming year Uni and Paramount will see sales drop, they’ll have to change, and that will cost money too.
    Those exclusive tie-ins are anti-consumer and seems to me, bad business in the long run.

  10. Eric says:

    I bought an HD-DVD player a few months ago when they were selling for $100. I knew this might happen, so I can’t be too upset about it. But I am sort of irritated with Netflix about this.
    I’ve been buying the HD-DVD / DVD combo format when it’s available. So even if I can’t find a working HD-DVD player a few years down the line, I’ve still got the movie in DVD format.
    And because the format is dying, the fire sale has begun. Amazon has 50% off most of their HD-DVD stock right now, and Best Buy had buy-one-get-one-free this week. I got Bourne Supremacy and Hot Fuzz together for $28.

  11. Me says:

    So I guess the only question now is how long before the market forces me (admittedly, no technophile) to buy a blu ray player?
    Really, until movies start coming out only in blu ray, or I can’t get the features I want in standard DVD, I’m perfectly happy sticking with DVD. They look fine to me on my 41″ HDTV. And while I know blu ray would look better (I really don’t want to get in an argument about noticing the differences), it’s not enough right now to make me want to think about buying a player.
    Maybe if a combo blu ray/DVD upscaler (what is it called again?) hits $200 or less, and I can’t think of anything better to do with the money, I’ll think about it. But for now I really don’t see a need for it.
    So congrats blu ray, you own the market – now start convincing people they need it.

  12. MASON says:

    I thought the Paramount/Dreamworks HD-DVD deal was only for 18 months. True? False.

  13. Joseph says:

    I read one problem with Universal switching to Blu-ray is that a lot of their HD transfers that they made for HD-DVD aren’t compatable with Blu-ray. They’d have to invest more money to re-transfer a lot of these titles properly and they are hoping Blu-ray would help them out by paying part of the bill.

  14. Working AD says:

    Mason is correct. That exclusivity was only for the 18 months from last summer through this year.
    I have a 40″ screen with 1080p resolution and I can see a pretty solid difference with hi-def DVDs. (I have both kinds) I think it makes a difference to have the 1080p resolution rather than the 720p when it comes to Blu-ray or HD-DVD. If your set does that resolution, you could look for a cheaper Blu-ray player this Christmas. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few of them.

  15. Working AD says:

    The problem with many dual releases between HD-DVD and Blu-ray is that both sides had problems at the time that made it really sticky.
    For most of the time, the HD-DVD discs could do more interactive features (picture-in-picture commentary, various games, etc) and could handle better audio codecs.
    But the Blu-rays had all that additional memory (50 gigs per side vs 30 gigs per side) and have caught up on the functionality.
    There is also the matter that each disc format uses a completely different laser and writing system.
    So yes, Universal will have to do some re-transfering. And I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Blu-ray people help them out when the time comes. Until then, Universal is not conceding defeat. As far as they’re publicly concerned, HD-DVD could still win…

  16. Me says:

    Working AD, I have no doubt there’s a difference between standard DVDs and blu ray, I just don’t care enough about that to really pay for the upgrade. Standard DVDs look perfectly fine on my tv, and unless there’s an upgrade on the scriptwriting or acting on blu ray, I remain unconvinced that a transition is necessary anytime for the near future. Once I am unable to get what I want on standard DVDs or the features I care about (or my dvd player dies), then I’ll see the need to upgrade. Until then, I remain unconvinced.

  17. Krazy Eyes says:

    I lost interest in the whole hi-def war ages ago. I’m going to stick with DVD for the forseeable future. Give me a big TV, upconverting progressive scan player, and a bunch of cheaper DVDs. They look plenty good enough to me.
    I’m much more interested in what’s going on with digital distribution at this point. As long as the quality is decent and price is right I will follow.

  18. Dr Wally says:

    “It’s not up to Paramount… they were paid to go exclusive. They’d have to cough up money – if that is even an option – to shift out of HD.”
    Warner Bros’ shift to Blu exclusive triggered Paramount’s ‘out’ clause. The Blu-ray release of The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is already being prepped for release this Fall, Spielberg not being a supporter of HD-DVD in any case, and i would expect some of Paramount’s titles that were prepped and ready to go to stores before their shift (Face/Off, Top Gun etc) to see the light of day in a few months. However, i wouldn’t expect ANY movement from Universal towards Blu-Ray in 2008. Not because they’re stubbornly committed to going down with the vessel, but for more practical reasons. They are two years behind everyone else in their development of this format, and their existing HD encodes simply aren’t good enough for Blu-Ray relase without major remastering. and that just takes time.

  19. THX5334 says:

    Anyone that’s going to buy a Blu-Ray player should really consider a PS3. Even if you’re not a gamer, they built it to be a future media center.
    Swappable Hard Drives, Wifi, Memory Card readers, the ability to switch OS’s.
    Now it can play Divx, making my Divx player obsolete and it does a good job of streaming content from my PC.
    However I am a gamer; and I have the original 60gb model PS3, which for some odd reason is the best model even though it’s a first gen. one. The reason being, as it has the same chips as the PS2, so it has full backwards compatibility with PS2 games.
    The 80gb model does it through software emulation, while the 40gb model doesn’t do it at all.
    Because of this, I don’t want to burn out my PS3’s disc drive by constantly playing Blu-Ray movies. If the machine goes, any replacement isn’t going to play my PS2 library.
    So, for this reason and this reason alone, any movie title that is available on both HD-DVD and Blu-Ray, I get the HD-DVD and use my 360 for that and keep the PS3 to the games and any Blu-Ray exclusive titles.
    I’m kinda bummed HD-DVD lost, but I am stoked on the fire sale to pick up the Blade Runner ultimate collectors edition or whatever, and The Matrix (really just for the first film) and any other HD-DVD exclusives.
    Now that Blu-Ray is the clear winner, those willing to pay more than $300 for a Blu-Ray player, should really consider a PS3.

  20. a1amoeba says:

    HD-DVD is as dead as Pauly Shore’s career

  21. bmcintire says:

    Warner’s commitment to Blu-Ray drew the public’s attention to the escape clause in Paramount/Dreamworks contract with Toshiba. Universal abandoning exclusivity (which as far as the public record goes, they are not financially obligated to hold to) would make the escape clause an actionable reality. Universal sits in the cat-bird seat right now if they have any interest in draining Toshiba dry.

  22. Working AD says:

    Me, you gotta do what works for you. I was just responding to your thought about the cheaper players that will be coming. You absolutely do not NEED to see movies in HD, although I’m sure you’ll enjoy them when you do. In the meantime, I hope that you’re able to enjoy sports in HD on your set. This past year’s football and baseball seasons were a lot more fun for me and for many friends of mine.
    Dr Wally, I think I worded something wrong regarding Universal and Blu-ray. When I used the phrase “looking to go down with the sinking ship”, I meant that would be the case if they did not start doing the Blu-ray development work necessary to get titles out by the fall or Christmas. I believe they have – if not, they’ll cost themselves a tremendous amount of money and lock themselves out of the market for some time, as you note. My hope is that there will be a streamlining of the changeover for Universal, as it’s the only way they can get out of this situation without taking too much damage.
    I’m not sure how Universal and Toshiba will work this out, but the answer has to have something to do with making good business sense. This entire format war went against that, so I’m hoping that the end of the format war brings everyone back to fiscal reality.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon