Slow and Not So Steady …24 Mar, 2016 By: Stephanie Prange
In the many format changes the home entertainment industry has experienced since the advent of the videocassette more than three decades ago, there have always been hiccups, causing pundits to opine that the business is in trouble, even doomed. But consistently, the industry has rallied during that change and continued to serve the home entertainment consumer.
At the very beginning, a format war between VHS and Betamax raged, a chaotic start to a business that would see more change, more often than many. Then came DVD, which faced an uphill battle when certain executives backed a D-VHS format they considered a better bulwark against digital piracy and a more familiar package for the consumer. A lower sellthrough price, great picture and sound, and its compact size made DVD the format that emerged triumphant in that design upgrade. About a decade later, high-definition loomed and the industry was embroiled in yet another format war between Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD. With its more familiar name and backing of DVD’s early proponents, HD DVD initially seemed to have the upper hand. But Blu-ray eventually emerged victorious after gaining penetration in the Trojan Horse of Sony’s popular PlayStation 3 game system.
The industry this year has embarked on yet another format change in Ultra HD with high dynamic range, along with other enhancements such as Dolby Vision, Dolby Atmos and DTS X. The industry made a major step toward growing that format at CES in January, when the UHD Alliance — Home Media Magazine’s 2016 Home Entertainment Visionary — rolled out specs. In March, Samsung launched the first UHD Blu-ray player and the studios put a handful of titles in stores. As might have been predicted, considering the industry’s history, the launch came in fits and starts, causing some to wonder if the new format had any chance. Predictably, store visits showed a slow rollout. Some stores had the player, some the UHD Blu-ray titles, and some had neither. Many clerks were clueless.
Slow and not so steady, though, seems to be the way of every format change in home entertainment. They emerge in fits and starts, not in a burst of triumph — but with competitors and naysayers. UHD seems to be no different.