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Dueling Surveys Just the Beginning

18 Jul, 2005 By: Kurt Indvik

Last week's release of consumer survey results by both HD DVD backer Warner Home Video and the Blu-ray Disc Association may give us some insight into how the two format groups intend to position themselves with consumers as they prepare to launch their formats. At this point, there is every likelihood that both formats will reach the market, and we'll be in for a format battle. The question becomes, how long will such a battle last?

HD DVD backers intend to have hardware and software on the market by the fourth quarter. Blu-ray will reach market sometime in the first half of 2006, and PlayStation 3, which supports Blu-ray, will reach retail shelves sometime in the spring.

Blu-ray's research indicates that consumers are much more supportive of a format that has the backing of a much greater number of consumer electronics companies (as Blu-ray does). The support of PlayStation 3 is also a significant factor to consumers.

Warner's survey shows consumers, presented with Blu-ray and then told another high def format was already available, would not wait another six months. HD DVD backers say the survey shows consumers are more comfortable with the HD and DVD brands.

Not surprisingly, the split of the studios' support of the two formats also splits consumer support when asked about software. Backwards compatibility with DVD and a hybrid disc that offer standard DVD and high def versions rated high with consumers in both surveys.

The format war is beginning to spread from the boardrooms of Sony, Toshiba et al, and into the marketplace. These dueling surveys are just the beginning. We can expect both sides to be ratcheting up the marketing in the near future as fall approaches and HD DVD prepares to hit the market.

While HD DVD will certainly be the “here now” high def standard come this fourth quarter, expect Blu-ray to be marketing heavily in the fourth quarter as well encouraging consumers to, indeed, wait for the product it thinks has more to offer.

Here's hoping that by the end of 2006 consumers will have sorted through the competing issues and a clear winner begins to emerge. The longer this goes on, and the more invested each side becomes, the harder it's going to be for one side or the other to gracefully pull back and save the industry from a potential quagmire that would do serious damage to the packaged media business.

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