Reuters reported today that Toshiba Corp is planning on shutting down their HD-DVD format for hi-def DVDs, admitting to the world what everyone else has been saying since Warner Bros announced in January, before CES, that they were planning on releasing their DVDs on Blu-Ray only. Between that, Wal-Mart’s decision yesterday to go all Blu-Ray and Best Buy’s and Netflix’s earlier announcements that they were going to sell/rent Blu-Ray as well.
The real question is — who cares?
I know that the studios would love to have a new DVD format, so they can resell all of the DVDs that you all already bought on standard def DVDs. However, I also know that, tempting though it may be, I don’t know many people who are dying to buy a Hi Def version of ANIMAL HOUSE to replace their perfectly good regular ordinary DVD.
Here’s how I look at it. 90% of the market out there couldn’t really tell the difference between DVD and Blu-Ray if they looked at the boxes the disks came in. In general, HD doesn’t pass the “Mom test,” in which you ask yourself if your Mom would care if we improved her technology. The day that I hear my mother tell me that she really appreciates the increased resolution and crisp 5.1 Dolby sound on Blu-Ray disks compared to her four year old DVD player, is the day that I retire from the business and start tending bar in the Caribbean. For most people there is very little motivation to shift to the new format. You can, conceivably, make it attractive — by making the player cost extremely low and providing such cool extra features that Mom and Dad will swallow the cost of replacing their existing DVDs (an extra special — it will wash your dishes while you watch the aforementioned ANIMAL HOUSE would work nicely for most people). But it’s dubious that you can make any money on that model.
You will, of course, get new purchasers of DVD players and material to move over, but that will be a gradual process.
So that takes care of most people. What about the geeks?
There will always be the Toy people. If it’s new, they’ll want it. And some of them will be willing to pay a premium for it. But that isn’t much of a market.
And the rest of the geek market — well, most of them are looking at their media online or through their iPods and Apple-TV type devices. Many of them are downloading the material legally and illegally. So, where is the market in that? It’s there in some small quantity but, once again, is it enough to base an entire market on?
What we’re left with, if you follow my argument, is a small market of high end people who aren’t so high end as to pull their content off of the web, combined with a slightly larger market of people who have to buy a new player anyway, haven’t accumulated a bunch of standard def content already, and will be completely price driven.
I know, I know. I am leaving out the (I’m told) increasing number of people who love to watch movies on a big ass television with their friends. But I’m waiting to see if those people really exist. Frankly, I think most of them are watching football and NASCAR, but that may just be a prejudice on my part.
Needless to say, I’m not racing out on this news and buying shares in Sony.