Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Blu-ray and HD-DVD versus HD downloads

From the desk of Lee Distad's Professional Opinion:

There’s been a lot of speculation recently about the future of video content, and many pundits and futurists are looking towards paid downloads as being the Next Big Thing.

It appears that the Next Big Thing is here today. According to a report by think tank Parks Associates, video downloading has exploded. Can High Definition downloads be far behind?

The Morning Bridge: RESEARCH: More Consumers Embracing Online Video
Research from Parks Associates found that the number of broadband households paying for online video content is at nearly 12 million, up from a little more than 3 million in 2005 and 2006.

“We have seen widespread use of the Internet as an electronic delivery medium for video content over the past couple of years,” said Kurt Scherf, Parks Associates’ Vice President and principal Analyst. “Certainly, the availability of higher-quality content and a significant base of products like the iPod that allow for more seamless content-to-device linkages have provided a boost to the online video space.”

That’s a healthy jump in the market, and will motivate content companies to work on bringing High Definition downloads to the consumer, and Internet service providers to increase the size of the pipe coming downstream to consumer’s households.

So, looking forward, does this make the struggle between Blu-ray and HD-DVD for consumer acceptance pointless? Some people think so. The professional prognosticator and CNBC favourite, Paul Kedrosky quipped last March that the format war was: “Two dog packs fighting over a decomposing bone.”
He’s not alone in that assessment, and it’s not unreasonable to posit that consumer acceptance of either disc format has been scant due to hesitation about not only picking the wrong format, but also the wrong medium.

If you look at the phenomenal uptake of HD PVRs into people’s homes, it’s apparent that people want to watch content when they want, how they want, and they want it to be easy. The demand for easy access is clearly there, and when there is a market, someone always comes up with a product for that market.

I’m not saying that Blu-ray and/or HD-DVD will immediately be relegated to the boneyard. There is always a niche that takes pleasure in owning the hardcopy of their music or movies. Reading the posts on hi-fi forums from people who’ve bought into either format, those consumers who have taken the plunge will continue to buy content as long as the studios support it. But HD on demand may become the “third way” and steal a lot of the thunder of HD on disc.

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