HD VMD Keeps on Going6 Feb, 2008 By: Chris Tribbey
SANTA MONICA, Calif. — The creators of HD Versatile Multilayer Disc (VMD) have little in the way of content, first unveiled their product in markets like India and South Africa, and have yet to approach the major studios, who are entrenched in the Blu-ray Disc vs. HD DVD war.
That's all according to plan, according to Michael Jay Solomon, chairman of New Medium Enterprises Inc. and creator of the “other” high-def format.
The former Warner Bros. executive, who called Blu-ray “inferior,” is counting on his familiarity with studio executives (his son Lee Solomon was just named COO of The Weinstein Co.), the costs to get into Blu-ray or HD DVD for consumers, hardware manufacturers and content providers, and unique high-def content to carry the start-up HD VMD format.
“I think we have a lot to sell. [The studios are] interested in making money, and our product is for the masses,” he said Feb. 5 during a roundtable interview. “Look, I compare us to Nintendo. You had the Xbox (360 from Microsoft) coming out and the PlayStation 3 (from Sony) coming out. Now look at the Wii (which has outsold both).”
Alexandros Potter, NME's director of U.S. operations, said HD VMD's ability to include content on more than one layer on a disc — they're eventually shooting for six, with 5 GB of info per layer — and the low cost for both consumers and content providers, will eventually make the format popular in the United States. He added that the company is working on recordable solutions for the format to make it more attractive to the PC market.
“We have a unique technology with the multiple layers,” he said.
While Blu-ray and HD DVD have been at each other's throats in North America, HD VMD has quietly gone after parts of Europe — where it set up the world's first multilayer disc manufacturing line — and India, executives said.
“India is a big market,” Solomon said. “We've cornered the Bollywood market. There's a billion people [in India] and we plan on selling a lot of players.”
He said his company's format is going after markets that the other two formats have ignored, including releases of Spanish films and, eventually, faith-based product. In March NME will launch the Web site IWorshipHere.com to promote its faith content.
In the United States, HD VMD is currently available through retailer pcRUSH.com for under $200 and comes bundled with two movies. The price point for one of the high-def movies is $19.95, something else the format's backers believe gives it an edge over Blu-ray and HD DVD. And similarly to HD DVD, HD VMD has no region coding — at least not yet — so consumers can buy online more mainstream titles overseas not available in the United States.
Solomon also shared that NME is working on an IPTV system, in which HD VMD players would include a wireless connection to download high-def content straight to the TV.
At least one U.S. content provider has staked its high-def fortunes on HD VMD: Anthem.
“It's very hard to get in the high-def marketplace,” said Charles Adelman, president of Anthem, which is releasing titles on HD VMD and plans on promoting the product on standard DVD trailers as well. Every Anthem title released this year will likely see both a DVD and HD VMD release, he said.
“That's the ultimate problem with Sony and Toshiba: They didn't go after the consumer, they went after each other,” he said. “These guys are going after the consumer.”