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Web Rumors Surface Pre-CES

28 Dec, 2007 By: Chris Tribbey

On Dec. 10, high-def Web site forums were on fire with the “news”: Warner Bros. was ditching HD DVD. The only major dual-format studio would make the announcement at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. The format war just might be over.

One problem: According to a Warner executive, it isn't true.

So goes the rumor mill for CES.

“This year's anticipation is all about Warner Bros. doing something, although I think it's unlikely anything will happen,” said Xiao Fang, webmaster of Digital-Digest.com. “I think most people are well aware of the amount of rumors … This is probably the fifth time someone has mentioned Warner changing their HD stance this year, so it's a bit like the boy who cried wolf.”

Rumors regarding the format war are widespread daily on the Web. And if there's any place for those rumors to be proven true or false, it's next week at CES.

“It's become ‘The Big Show,’ said Geoffrey Kleinman, editor in chief of DVDTalk.com. “Major home entertainment news and announcements used to be split between CES, VSDA (Video Software Dealers Association, now the EMA Home Media Expo) and Comdex. Now Comdex is gone, and VSDA is now a much different animal, so CES becomes the event where the major announcements happen.”

CES was where both formats debuted in 2006, and CES was huge for high-def last year. Fans of both formats are hoping for big things this year too.

“CES is a gadget junkie's Super Bowl, and to some, more exciting than Christmas,” said Ben Drawbaugh, an Engadget.com HD reporter. “The debate will rage on until the show is over, and then some. Some [rumors] will be true, while others will be exposed. And just like our readers, we can't wait to find out which is which.”

Last year the big high-def rumor-turned-fact at CES was a dual-format player and dual-format PC, unveiled by LG.

“The biggest CES rumors are, no surprise, about the format war. Will Warner abandon its format-neutral stance, and if so, which format will it get behind?” said Adam Gregorich with Home Theater Forum. “There is also speculation on player introductions. Will there be BD Live standalone players introduced, and if so, from whom, as well as any new HD DVD manufacturers or new combo players? There are also rumors about which, if any, titles will be announced for release on both formats.”

Most of the time the rumors are laughable. But sometimes there's something behind the rumors. Rumors of Warner's Total HD and a 51GB triple-layer HD DVD became official announcements at CES last year. Still, neither have yet made it to market.

“To some, the format war is like a sporting event or anything else you follow, and even when there isn't any money on the line, they want to see their team win,” Drawbaugh said. “To these people, CES offers the promise of what might become the game-winning touchdown.”

“Both sides look at the show as the final vindication with ‘victory' in their sights,” Kleinman said.

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