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Dialogue Continues on Key Issues for High Definition

5 Jun, 2004 By: Kurt Indvik

This week we are celebrating DVD's seventh year in the market during the Third Annual Home Entertainment Summit, this year themed “Lucky 7.” The conference, produced by Video Store Magazine in cooperation with DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group and The Hollywood Reporter, will see a gathering of several hundred studio and retail senior executives in West Hollywood, Calif., who will spend two days talking about the state of the market and the future of packaged home entertainment.

One of the major issues sure to be explored in much detail during the summit will involve the future of the next generation of packaged media, the high-definition disc. There has been plenty of media coverage of the two major “competing” formats in the space — HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc — but not a great deal of opportunity to listen to them, virtually side-by-side, in one location, discussing the merits of their formats and addressing the valid concerns many in the industry have over the potential confusion should both formats end up entering the marketplace.

In this week's issue of VSM, in a special section devoted to the Summit (beginning on page 15), Thomas K. Arnold, group editor, put a series of tough questions to representatives from both format camps so that we can see their positions on a variety of issues side-by-side. At the Summit itself, attendees will see presentations by representatives from both formats one after the other — again, a terrific opportunity to get a stronger grasp on the capabilities of the two formats and their potential impact on the marketplace.

Certainly, there will be plenty of discussion on some of the panels that follow on the high-definition issue (I know I plan on trying to pin down studio executives on the issue on a panel I am moderating).

There is little doubt that the people who will be most influential in establishing which of these formats becomes the dominant platform for high definition are the studios. Content is still king, and the format with the most content backing is likely to win the hearts and minds of the consumers at the retail counter. So far, other than Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment (for obvious reasons, due to its relationship with Sony and Blu-ray), the studios have not publicly stated their backing of one or the other. Can we expect one or more to make such a pronouncement this week at the conference? Doubtful. But the day will come in the not-too-distant future when decisions will be made, since it's unlikely studios will support both formats.

The consensus of industry analysts is that the studios aren't exactly chomping at the bit to move forward with a market introduction of high definition, hoping to maximize DVD profits before introducing a new choice to consumers.

Still, many questions and issues need to be addressed before the long process of market development for high definition can move forward and a market leader emerges. At VSM, we'll just keep doing our part.

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