Friday, February 15, 2008

How to Save HD DVD

In case you haven't been following the High-Def format wars recently, Netflix has said that soon they won't be buying new HD DVDs or replacing their stock once the discs wear out, and Best Buy and Walmart have announced that they will be backing Blu-ray, though they will still carry HD DVDs for now. Toshiba even rumored to be developing a Blu-ray player. It looks like HD DVD is set to be completely dead by the end of 2008. Warner stops releasing (and pressing) them later this year, leaving Paramount and Universal as the only two major companies in the HD DVD camp. This would leave all the HD DVD players able to play existing discs, but hard to rent for, and with no new content. Assuming that Paramount and Universal actually want to save HD DVD--and it might be beneficial to them to allow it to die, so that the High-Def media business will settle on Blu-ray and start to catch on with mainstream customers--but assuming they want to save it, here's how: It's very simple, actually. Just stop manufacturing standard DVDs of new releases and titles that have been released on HD DVD. DVDs outsell High-Def content by far. When customers buy a DVD, what will be inside the case will be a Combo disc, with HD on one side and SD on the other. Now, you can't continue to try and sell them at $30 per movie. That's an insane price: price them like DVDs, only put a sticker on the outside that says "also plays in High Definition on HD DVD players" on the cover. Doing this will place HD DVD players in the "high end" upconverting DVD player market. They will upscale standard DVDs, and play Combo discs in true HD quality. Blu-ray players can't play these releases in true HD, and given the (current) price difference between HD DVD players and Blu-ray players ($120 vs $350), I think the format will survive long-term just fine. It probably won't beat Blu-ray out of the market, but at this point, I think it's reasonable to settle for second place, and who knows, maybe it will really take off. (Still, I think you would have to pry Blu-ray out of Disney's cold, dead fingers before it would switch.) In stead of competing with the standard DVD market, why not join it? Netflix will have to carry the new discs, because that will be the only way to get the movies for its DVD-only customers.