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High-def Media Needs Industry Help

10 Dec, 2007 By: Thomas K. Arnold

The studios are doing a valiant job promoting high-definition discs. Both those supporting Blu-ray Disc and those behind HD DVD — as well as the lone big studio, Warner Home Video, that's got a foot in both camps — are pumping out quality releases and aggressively promoting them to consumers.

Even so, the Hollywood community is facing an uphill battle in its quest to get next-generation discs into the mainstream, and sadly, the biggest hurdle seems to be coming from their supposed allies: the consumer electronics industry and big retail.

A caveat: This is not a blanket blame, and I'm hoping the following are isolated incidents rather than trends or harbingers of things to come. But they stand out as so stupid, so hurtful to the whole high-def disc message, that I feel obligated to expose them here in this most public of spaces in the hopes of nipping them in their ugly and misguided buds.

  • Over the Black Friday shopping weekend, many big retailers were blowing out Toshiba HD DVD players for less than $100. Yet many of these same retailers' newspaper circulars were promoting “1080p HD upconverting DVD players,” including Circuit City, which on the front page of its circular advertised such a machine — made by Toshiba, no less, at the sale price of $99.99.

  • And we wonder why consumers are confused?

  • Our reporters made the rounds of Wal-Mart stores last month and were amazed at how little the store clerks know about next-generation media. Wal-Mart is one of the leaders in HD DVD player sales, and yet store clerks were steering customers toward those upconverting DVD players rather than the hot new high-definition machines we in the industry were buzzing about.

  • Shouldn't we be aggressively educating retailers at the store level instead of focusing our attention toward the top?

  • Probably the most disturbing thing I saw was a new Truetone HDTV set with a built-in DVD player. Here we are, trying to get new buyers of HDTVs all hyped up about HD media, and a consumer electronics manufacturer sends a blatant message to them that the old technology is just fine.

  • Has anyone called executives at Truetone Electronics to find out exactly what the heck is going on?

    The bottom line: How can we expect consumers to jump on the high-definition media bandwagon when our own industry can't seem to get its act together?

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