Even with the tide apparently
shifting in Blu-ray Disc’s favor, the HD DVD camp isn’t about to relent in the
on-going high-definition format war. HD DVD still commands a significant
portion of exclusive content and the most affordable hardware, giving the
format a fighting chance – and nobody believes in HD DVD more than Universal
Studios executive vice president Ken Graffeo, who also serves as the
co-president of the HD DVD Promotional Group.
The HD DVD Group was rather mum on
Warner’s surprise announcement right before CES to go Blu-ray Disc exclusive
and cancelled its Sunday press conference. Graffeo, speaking to BetaNews, explains, “We heard about the
whole move when everyone else did – when a lot of us were on planes flying to
CES in Las Vegas ... If we had our press event on Monday, it would have been
different, but because it was right there on Sunday and we heard Friday
afternoon we couldn't even get to everybody ... The entire flow of the
presentation would have had to been changed. When we found out at the last
minute, we had to regroup and say ‘Toshiba, what are you doing?’ and we didn't
have any answers.”
With HD DVD losing movie releases
from Warner Bros. starting June, the HD DVD landscape could change drastically
– something that the Promotional Group doesn’t yet have an answer for. “To be
very honest with you, we have not addressed that yet,” Graffeo admitted.
“Warner is still releasing HD DVD titles up until May. Warner has always been
in two formats, and prior to Paramount's switch, they had been in two formats,
so now that Warner is exclusive... we just haven't addressed it yet.”
One of the first rumors from Daily
Variety to hit following Warner’s move was that Universal and Paramount
were both poised to make the switch to Blu-ray Disc, but
Graffeo refutes such reports. “I want to say that none of those rumors were
substantiated. Nobody ever talked to us. I know nobody talked to Paramount ...
This is business as usual for us and there are no plans to make any changes.”
One part of HD DVD’s new strategy is
on lower prices and selling the hardware’s ability to upscale regular DVD movies.
Graffeo explained the logic behind the new push, “Consumers right now are
buying upconverting players – they are outselling the next-gen players combined
by 10 to 1 every month. They are affordable because they are under $200 – the
average price is $85 – and consumers want to see their movies better. So
pricing is very important.”
As part of Toshiba’s new promotional
plan, HD DVD hardware across the board dropped in price. Introduced on January 13, the price of the entry-model HD-A3 is
$149.99, the HD-A30, with 1080p output, $199.99, and the high-end HD-A35,
$299.99. Graffeo, along with the entire HD DVD Group, hopes that the
entry-level HD-A3 will entice a whole new group of consumers.
“We saw that on DVD: as soon as
price point went under $200 and as soon as it started getting close to $100
players really started taking off because you're hitting very consumer-friendly
prices,” he said. “If you want to hit the mass market, you have to be
consumer-friendly in price. If you want to be a niche electronic, you're going
to be high priced.”
It is the HD DVD Promotional Group’s
belief and hope that sales of its players and software will grow exponentially
as the mainstream consumer experiences high-definition movies. “1 million units
starts word of mouth – people get exposed, people see it. When you're dealing
with 200,000, you're at the early adopters and that's not really going to
Even with the latest sales numbers
leaning in Blu-ray Disc’s favor, the overall high-definition market is still
insignificant compared to standard DVD sales. According to Graffeo, 35 percent
of households have HDTVs, but only 12 percent receive HD programming, and an
even smaller percentage have a high-definition movie player. For this reason,
Graffeo feels that HD DVD still has a lot of potential.
The Group most recently announced
that it has sold over 750,000 HD DVD players total just after
Thanksgiving shopping week. With holiday sales added, current day numbers could
be near 1 million, giving Graffeo a reason to expect a spike in HD DVD uptake.
“That's why HDTVs finally started
taking off, because consumers walked into their neighbors' houses and said
‘Look at that flat thing on the wall,’ that's great. You saw in November and
December, everyone was aggressive with pricing. You could see how consumers are
willing to buy HD movies when you get to an affordable price,” he said. “Most
people are very happy with their DVD, but when they see a 1080p movie, it blows
quote: We saw that on DVD: as soon as price point went under $200 and as soon as it started getting close to $100 players really started taking off because you're hitting very consumer-friendly prices
quote: Anyone with a decent, calibrated set who claims that upscaled DVDs look like HD probably hasn't seen HD content to compare with.
quote: But soon after, the pizza stuck to DVD's wore off the honeymoon.
quote: How can any sane movie buff buy either format when the movies they love are on both formats?
quote: If you read reviews for example at www.highdefdigest.com/ you will find that the BluRay and HD DVD discs contain the exact same file with the exact same quality. There is no superiority.
quote: If you read reviews for example at www.highdefdigest.com/ you will find that the BluRay and HD DVD discs contain the exact same file with the exact same quality.
quote: The "average Joe Sixpack" won't care about the 50GB capacity.
quote: Space issues with movies in the end will only effect the special features, nothing more nothing less.
quote: Everyone also fails to mention that eventually every disc with True-HD or DTS-MA will also have to contain uncompressed PCM as per sony specs. This pretty much eats up a big chunk of the advantage BD has over HD-DVD.
quote: This is why 75% of blu-ray titles have lossless audio while only 20% of HD-DVD discs do.
quote: Brand choice has also been limited to 1 on HD-DVD. Most people like to have broader selection of players.
quote: In the end, you can whine all you want about slight DRM differences, PiP and Ethernet that no one even wished they had with DVD, and 0 vs 3 regions, but at the end of the day, the consumer doesn't really care about those small advantages compared to blu-rays much larger ones.
quote: Your hardware is being cleared out of retail as we speak
quote: “Most people are very happy with their DVD, but when they see a 1080p movie, it blows them away.”
quote: People are RETURNING the HD DVD players they got for Christmas, if you read some of the sales reports.
quote: HD-DVD players are $200-$250 cheaper than a BLU-RAY player. I could buy an HD-DVD player and a lot of movies for the same cost of just the BLU-RAY player right now.
quote: Lets see, what else, yeah the HDDVD players are cheaper by $100-200 but the cheapest Blu player is a PS3 so you are getting something far better than a standalone.
quote: Not to mention that Full Metal Jacket and Letters from Iwo Jima are also available on Blu-Ray.
quote: How many trolls are SONY PR people out in forums advertising for Sony by starting this so called superior BS?
quote: They really dont care about Formats or their quality & neither are they interested to know. Here the HDDVD format holds an adavantage-its very cheap plus it enables them to see their old collection at home.
quote: The massive publicity campaign launched by B.R. backers that HDDVD is dead & the rest of the blah blah is just to scare people away from buying Toshiba HDDVD players.
quote: Mainstream buyers know very well that the contents will follow-courtesy the pirates even cheaper.
quote: People dont mind watching a movie spread on 2 discs-time for a break between the two.
quote: Then whats the point of the format wars ? Makes no sense ! Better for both the formats to live with each other & fight piracy & make money.
quote: I'm confused why you think piracy will hurt the studios less with two formats than one format?
quote: Mainstream buyers will not buy a HD-DVD player .....................etc etc
quote: No one seems to point out the fact that these so called cheap HDDVD players for $100 - $150 do not play anything higher than 720p, there is no 1080p.