What is this? Has a high definition media format been decided? Has this stupid format war come to an end? Will Sony finally have a successful media format after the failures of Beta, Mini-disc, and their 1300 different memory cards?
History says “probably not” but who listens to history anymore?
On Monday while driving to work I heard NPR’s Marketplace say that HD-DVD was “looking more like Beta” as in the Beta vs. VHS wars of the 1980’s. Their reasoning? Complete hatred of Microsoft? No. NPR’s Toshiba laptop batteries all blew up and now they’re taking revenge? No. Sony bribed them with a dump truck full of money? No (well maybe). It turns out Blockbuster has thrown its support behind the Blu-ray format claiming over 70% of HD rentals come in the form of Sony’s HD format baby, Blu-ray.
Gizmodo later reported a retail insider claiming they’ve had more HD-DVD player cancellations in the past few days than over the entire lifespan of HD-DVD. Even if this information does not scale up to all retailers, the damage Blockbuster has done is significant. Yes, lots of people rent from Netflix (who support both formats), but when the general public starts thinking about HD, they’ll remember Blockbuster, and the NPR Marketplace story, and then they’ll see there are no movies from Disney, Columbia, MGM, Sony, 20th Century Fox, Lionsgate, and Starz Home Entertainment on HD-DVD. HD-DVD’s exclusive hold outs are Universal and the The Weinstein Company.
So Blu-ray is looking more like the winner… at least until Hollywood Video throws their support behind HD-DVD, and Amazon chooses Blu-ray, and Best Buy picks HD-DVD, and, and, and.
Oh Sci-Fi Network, how I love your B-grade entertainment, but alas you are still stuck with the old deployment model for visual entertainment. You should follow ABC’s example. They offer many of their prime-time shows in decent quality on the ABC website. Sure I can watch any number of sci-fi movies from the 1940s-1950s like Killers From Space, but honestly if the Mystery Science Theater 3000 crew isn’t at the bottom of the video, I’m not going to waste my time. I understand that in some markets the Sci-Fi network may be a premium add-on and like HBO and you are trying to keep those subscribers, but this system of doing business is being enhanced by other networks with on-line content.
I missed the second episode of ABC’s Traveler and so all I had to do was open my web browser and start watching in full screen at my own pace. This is how all television should be and it benefits not just the viewers but the TV networks as well because it means I will probably keep watching Traveler, and not just on the web but at its regular time slot as well. I tend to lose interest quickly in shows if I miss one or more episodes, especially when the show relies heavily on a large story arc like Traveler. ABC putting the show up online kept me as a viewer, and they still got their advertising revenue with the integrated ads in their player.
If I miss an episode of Painkiller Jane or Battlestar Galactica I either have to wait for a replay if there ever is one, or rent it on DVD. Chances are I won’t catch the replay, and if you think you can hold viewer’s interest until the DVD release then you have great faith in your marketing department. Sci-Fi is not the only guilty network, there many others out there who still stuck in the past. Delivering on-demand content through the web is a good way to keep viewers coming back and will likely increase DVD sales. Calling a few interviews, short clips, cast bios, and some set photos online content doesn’t cut it anymore.