HD optical media must prove its benefits to consumers, and soon

Sense of urgency at HDTV conference

DisplaySearch’s fifth annual HDTV conference has seen key members from both HD camps facing off against each other.

And while there was the expected rattling of cages over whose format is better, the overall tone was one of looking towards the challenge of overcoming the current incumbent.

Russ Crupnick, a senior industry analyst for NPD argued that it wasn’t the competition between the two formats, nor was it the rate of uptake of high definition televisions, but rather the fact that many of the companies involved in the current format war had done such a good job with DVD, it was almost like having to beat a ‘perfect’ format.

"Unfortunately, we developed the perfect product [with the DVD]," Crupnick said. "We’ve got to overcome the fact that we’re competing against a wonderful product that’s in 80 per cent of households."

However, many of the manufacturers were quick to shoot that notion down. "When DVD first launched it was anything but the perfect product," argued Andy Parsons, a Pioneer executive and chairman of the Blu-ray Disc Association. "There were many doubters that said there was little chance of overtaking VHS."

However, opinion was once again voiced that both formats are nothing but a stopgap on the way to downloadable content. "We can use HD discs to train consumers to move into digital, but it’s a transition," said Dan Silverberg, vice president of high-definition media development at Warner Bros. "Downloaded content will come, but the consumer will get quicker tutorial into video-on-demand, etc. by owning a Blu-ray player or HD DVD."

Despite the general positive soundings of the industry with regard to the digital transition, there were voices of concern. "Mainstream Americans are buying [content] in the digital world for immediate need, not for long-term collectability to watch over and over," said Patrick Fitzgerald, executive vice president of distribution and marketing for Walt Disney Home Entertainment, highlighting the fact that consumers often like to have tangible proof of their entertainment collections.

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