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Studios Strike HD-DVD Deals For Holiday 2005

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Studios Strike HD-DVD Deals For Holiday 2005

Old 11-29-04, 12:53 AM
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Studios Strike HD-DVD Deals For Holiday 2005

I don't venture into these parts, but I thought you guys might find this interesting. Found this in today's Wall Street Journal.

Studios Strike
HD-DVD Deals
For Holiday 2005

By SARAH MCBRIDE and PHRED DVORAK
Staff Reporters of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
November 29, 2004; Page B1

With holiday shoppers gobbling up millions of popular DVDs over the weekend, Toshiba Corp. and three major movie studios are expected Monday to announce plans to make new high-definition DVDs available by Christmas 2005.

According to people familiar with the matter, the studios -- including Viacom Inc.'s Paramount, General Electric Co.'s Universal Studios, and Time Warner Inc.'s Warner Bros. -- are planning to release up to two dozen titles each in time for next year's holiday season in the so-called HD-DVD format that is backed by a group of Toshiba-led partners.

The move shows that Hollywood is getting serious about moving ahead with the "next generation" DVD format, which it so far has been reluctant to embrace. The new discs promise super-sharp resolution and bonus interaction features when played on high-definition televisions and via new high-definition DVD players. But the discs are especially appealing to the studios because they use super-secure copy protection that makes them less vulnerable to piracy than today's easily copied standard DVDs.

Today's announcement gives the Toshiba group a leg up, for the time being, in a burgeoning format war over the next-generation of DVDs. Sony Corp. has spearheaded a rival technology called Blu-ray, which it is pushing hard in part because its technology for the current generation of DVDs mostly lost out to Toshiba's -- with very little Sony technology winding up in today's standard DVDs. And in the early 1980s, its Betamax technology for videocasettes lost out to Victor Co. of Japan Ltd.'s VHS format.

Hoping to avoid another failure, Sony has been aggressively lining up partners for its Blu-ray format. At this point, the earliest that movies could be issued in the Blu-ray format would be 2006. Still, Blu-ray has far more manufacturers and consumer-electronics partners on board than the Toshiba group. And Blu-ray discs can hold far more material than HD DVD, allowing studios that distribute TV shows, for example, to pack more episodes on a single disc, or to throw in more bonus features.

Despite today's announcement by Toshiba, Blu-ray remains a strong contender. Firmly in its camp: Sony's powerhouse Columbia Pictures, along with the studio it is in the process of acquiring, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. And the deals Toshiba is making with studios aren't exclusive -- the same studios could also make software deals with Blu-ray.

All studios are anxious to avoid another Betamax/VHS-style format war, however, because they don't want to confuse consumers by releasing their movies in many similar-looking disc formats -- or annoy them if the format they choose is off the market in a couple of years. Studio executives say it would be best if one technology scored a clear win over the other or if the two camps could compromise so both new versions could play on the same player.

Although millions of Americans have yet to buy even a standard DVD player, Hollywood has been plotting the next generation of DVD for years. Until recently, studios figured they should delay the next generation for as long as they could, maximizing sales in the current format. But the studios have been speeding up their plans lately as sales of standard DVD players have tapered off. Amid signs that piracy is cutting into sales far more than predicted, the studios also reason that they should move more quickly toward the new technology because of its superior antipiracy features.

Thus, the studios want to get started making next-generation DVD a hot product for next Christmas and beyond. Such efforts are typically slow to bulid; the first year DVD players came out, only 300,000 players sold; studios anticipate a similarly slow pickup for next-generation DVD.

To get things going next year, the studios plan to offer what they expect will be top-selling new releases. That means special-effects packed movies aimed toward affluent men, perhaps films like Paramount's Steven Spielberg-directed "War of the Worlds," Universal's "Doom," and Warner Bros.' "Batman Begins." Those are expected out next summer, in plenty of time to get on DVD by the holidays.

A holiday rollout is key, studios say, because that's the time when people are most likely to drop the big bucks needed to switch over to the new format. By next Christmas, an HD-DVD player should cost around $1,000. To work properly, it needs a pricey high-definition TV. By Christmas 2006, the prices are expected to drop to $500 for a player.

The next-generation players also are expected to play current DVDs; players ready in the U.S. market by the end of 2005 could include Blu-ray players from Sony; Blu-ray DVD drives for computers from Hewlett-Packard Co.; HD-DVD players from Toshiba; and HD-DVD drives from NEC Corp. as well as a joint venture of Toshiba and Samsung Electronics Co.

Both Sony, Toshiba, and their respective allies are also furiously working to win over companies that make the players -- and particularly businesses that etch and stamp the discs themselves. Both sides claim they have lined up the parts -- such as lasers, drives and lenses -- that they need to make players next year. Indeed, major DVD-drive maker Sanyo Electric Co. was showing both Blu-ray- and HD-DVD-compatible parts at a recent Tokyo-area electronics show.

More technology companies, however, are hedging their bets as Blu-Ray and HD DVD duke it out. Samsung Electronics, a member of the Blu-ray camp, may make HD-DVD players next year, people familiar with the situation said. Microsoft Corp. is providing its video compression technology to both HD-DVD and Blu-ray formats. And disc makers are already readying production lines on the assumption that they will have to make both formats.

Proving that the discs can be manufactured easily and cheaply will also be extremely important to Hollywood, as they start taking a hard look at bottom lines for the new business. If Hollywood is going to order up large numbers of high-definition discs in time for next Christmas, the disc makers have to start buying new equipment and running trials in the next few months.

Toshiba's HD DVDs are very similar to existing DVDs, and could use much of the same equipment to make them. That means it's quicker and cheaper, for now, to make HD DVDs than Blu-Ray discs." It's all a matter of [disc-making] infrastructure," says Kanji Katsuura, chief technical officer at Memory-Tech Corp., a Japanese disc maker that's supporting the Toshiba-led effort. "If the infrastructure is in place, Hollywood won't be able to ignore it."

For the past few months, Memory-Tech and Toshiba have been promoting a manufacturing line that can make both DVDs and HD-DVD discs, changing between the two in only five minutes. The companies argue that such dual-purpose equipment will make it easier for disc makers to invest in a brand-new technology, especially when nobody can predict how fast high-definition discs will actually catch on. When HD DVD demand picks up, the dual-purpose machines can press high-definition discs; until then, they can be used to make DVDs, which are still seeing strong demand.

"If you're going to add new DVD lines anyway, why not add ones that can make HD DVD discs too?" says Mr. Katsuura.

Sony, on the other hand, has been trying to land orders for Blu-ray-specific manufacturing machines from big disc pressers or equipment makers. It's trying to sell disc makers a special machine it developed to etch the data on a master disc used for stamping -- though it hasn't clinched a sale yet.

And this week, Sony is expected to announce an agreement to work on Blu-ray disc-making equipment with Germany's

Singulus Technologies

AG, one of the world's biggest manufacturers of machines that produce CDs and DVDs. The two companies are planning to have prototype Blu-ray production lines ready by the middle of 2005 -- meaning mass production of Blu-Ray discs could start around early 2006.

Write to Sarah McBride at [email protected] and Phred Dvorak at [email protected]
Old 11-29-04, 01:09 AM
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"According to people familiar with the matter" = probably people in the Toshiba camp.

I honestly don't think the studio's care about which format has more features or better quality over the other. They know either format is better than standard dvd and that's enough for them.

IMO, it's all going to come down to two things. 1. Which format is cheaper for the studios to switch over and produce as well as which one is cheaper for consumers to switch over and buy (Not LD prices). 2. Which format has a better, or agreeable?, copyright scheme in place.

BTW, the studios seem to have a history of going against Sony anyway. There probably will still be a format war b/c I don't see Sony backing down.

Thanks for posting that info.
Old 11-29-04, 01:47 AM
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I would love to see Blue-Ray win, but I am very happy with DVDs that are created with the highest video rate possible:
1. Pixar movies
2. Passion of Christ
3. Zorro Superbit

I fear that the movie studios will stop making high quality DVDs, making us have to switch over to HD DVDs.
Old 11-29-04, 03:47 AM
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Seems like this won't catch on for a good while, with players starting out at $1,000 then moving to $500 in 2006, I say it won't hit big til 2008 or even later, hd has been out for a bit now and not many people have them, including myself, also some are barely knowledgable about the benefits of the format. Oh well, only time will tell
Old 11-29-04, 06:14 AM
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Interesting article, and I look forward to the improvements (LOTR in HD-whoah!). As much as I like keeping up on the progress of it all, at the same time I kind of just want to forget about it and let whatever happen- happen because it seems to become a reality quicker, kind of like watching a pot of water come to a boil.
Old 11-29-04, 06:48 AM
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Looks like a war is inneviable. With two formats it could take a while before the format starts to catch on, sinch nobody will buy a format that will be obsoleet after a few years. Then we can of course wait for universal players, but that will probably take a while.

I am still hoping for Blu ray to win, the specs are so good
(possible):
720P/1080P supoort. 24 fps. WM 9 or MPEG 4 Codec.
Dts + og MLP-)
This combinded with a higher MBPS makes BD a winner.

Last edited by Kant; 11-29-04 at 07:11 AM.
Old 11-29-04, 01:48 PM
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I would think that the PS3 will play a large part in determining which format wins out. If PS3 sells as well as PS2 did, you will have a huge base of people with Blu-Ray players in their homes.
Old 11-29-04, 02:04 PM
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Paramount, Universal, Warner Bros-

Sony- as usual. They're not getting any money from me for this Blu-ray stuff
Old 11-29-04, 02:12 PM
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Yeah to a format that is much better! (Blu-ray)
Old 11-29-04, 02:14 PM
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Originally posted by MJKTool
Yeah to a format that is much better! (Blu-ray)
how will blu-ray be better? both will will be HD just different hardware required.

or am I missing something?
Old 11-29-04, 02:22 PM
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Not a whole lot of Sony titles I like, I could actually live without having them on HD if Sony doesn't let other companies use their tech in a universal player.

I don't plan on upgrading anytime soon, we get to start all of the fun over again with double dipping.
Old 11-29-04, 02:38 PM
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That means special-effects packed movies aimed toward affluent men, perhaps films like Paramount's Steven Spielberg-directed "War of the Worlds," Universal's "Doom," and Warner Bros.' "Batman Begins." Those are expected out next summer, in plenty of time to get on DVD by the holidays.
Are these films being shot with high definition cameras?

If not, I am not interested in upconverted material.
Old 11-29-04, 03:00 PM
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Film is still higher resolution than the highest of the HiDef, so going from film to HD is still downconverting, not upconverting.
Old 11-29-04, 03:07 PM
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BigDan beat me to it, but it's very much worth noting that HD-video still won't look as good as the best film sources. But it's sooooo much better than 480P, as any of you with HD movie channels surely know.
Old 11-29-04, 03:16 PM
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Nobody has been able to prove to me yet that Blu-Ray will have better quality. So far all they have for sure is a little more space, but that doesn't meam it's better.
Old 11-29-04, 04:31 PM
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Certainly looks we're gearing up for a major format war.

HD-DVD: Warner, NL, Paramount, Uni

Blu-Ray: Sony, MGM, Fox(?)

Who's that leave? Disney/BV?

Shouldn't be too much of a problem for the consumer if they make players that can handle both formats.

Provided that the average consumer even wants a HiDef home video format. This is a format war that will be fought in the niche trenches before the victor finally goes mainstream.
Old 11-29-04, 05:20 PM
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Here is the story from Yahoo:
http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmp...i_te/japan_dvd
Old 11-29-04, 05:30 PM
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Don't be surprised to see the other studios fall right in line with Hd-dvd now. So far it seems Fox has been playing both sides. I think if they go with Toshiba it's over for Sony.


http://www.metronews.ca/tech_news.asp?id=3715

"But Twentieth Century Fox stopped short of giving Blu-ray its full support. The studio, a unit of News Corp Ltd., will continue to work with the HD DVD camp led by Toshiba Corp., Sanyo Electric Co. and NEC Corp.

"We are also exploring the HD DVD format as we have been for a year and we are going to evaluate both formats in a very positive, collaborative fashion," Michael O'Neill, special advisor of the Fox Technology Group, told reporters."
Old 11-29-04, 05:39 PM
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I will not buy anything till one of them dies. Period. I have too much invested in DVD. For the bulk of my movies, I would not bother upgrading. Maybe 1 in 50 would go HD. I like the best stuff, but much like video games, the difference just is not that dramatic IMHO. If I had a projector, I might not feel that way, but even then, unless I can get a player for under $200 and disc for around $20 max, I would buy very few HD-DVD. With prices higher than that, Joe Six Pack will never convert. HD-DVD is the next Laserdisc IMHO - (I have a Laserdisc player by the way and over 60 LD). It will survive through niche marketing while DVD dominates.

With DVD prices dropping, it will take an act of God to replace DVD. Look at CD, vastly superior alternatives have come and gone and nothing came close to removing CDs. MP3 is the closest anythng has come, and it is just starting to dent sales.

Last edited by speedyray; 11-29-04 at 05:44 PM.
Old 11-29-04, 07:14 PM
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So if you want Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Matrix Trilogy, Indiana Jones Trilogy or Back to the Future Trilogy they'll be on HD-DVD.

Only problem is that the Star Wars Trilogies will be on Blu-Ray. So will the Alien movies.
Old 11-29-04, 07:23 PM
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HD-DVD, Blu-Ray.... one, both, whatever.. bring it on baby!
Old 11-29-04, 07:30 PM
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Originally posted by Rubix
So if you want Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Matrix Trilogy, Indiana Jones Trilogy or Back to the Future Trilogy they'll be on HD-DVD.

Only problem is that the Star Wars Trilogies will be on Blu-Ray. So will the Alien movies.
Fox is not committed to anyone yet plus I wouldn't expect to see SW right off the bat either way. I do think Fox is the major hold-out but I expect to see them go against Sony eventually. The Studios that are going with Toshiba right now are going to want to see Sony eliminated quickly.

Consider that HD-dvd could possibly have the first releases be:

LOTR (3)
Harry Potter (3)
Matrix (3)
Indiana Jones(3)
BTTF (3)
Austin Powers (3)
Blade (3)
Godfather(3)

Sony will no doubt give us the same number of releases, all being different verisons of Spiderman.
Old 11-29-04, 09:11 PM
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Surely SONY is going to win one of these format wars eventually.
Old 11-29-04, 09:22 PM
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The Godfather certainly is NOT going to benefit from HD-DVD conversion (and for that matter, Passion of the Christ). But I'd love to hear arguments to the contrary.
Old 11-29-04, 11:48 PM
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Originally posted by DVD Polizei
The Godfather certainly is NOT going to benefit from HD-DVD conversion (and for that matter, Passion of the Christ). But I'd love to hear arguments to the contrary.
Hopefully they don't use the crappy print of the Godfather that came out a year or so ago. Why would POTC not look better with more resolution???

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