Report: DVD Format Wars to End in Draw

The ongoing battle between the Toshiba-developed HD-DVD format and the Sony-backed Blu-ray digital disc will likely end in a draw, with both technologies merging into one instead of either format winning out, Reuters reports.

The prediction comes from market research firm Screen Digest, which recently released a report on the subject, and the analyst also says that the current war for consumer support between the two rival formats will likely serve no other purpose than to frustrate DVD buyers and turn them off the technology in general, according to Reuters.

Screen Digest predicts that by 2010, less than one-third of the total $39 billion forecast to be devoted to digital disc purchases in the United States, Europe and Japan will be generated by sales of a next-generation format, Reuters reports.

Ben Keen, a Screen Digest analyst, said, “The net result of the format war and the publicity it has generated will be to dampen consumer appetite for the whole high-definition disc category,” according to Reuters.

The popularity of traditional DVDs has skyrocketed over the past decade, due largely to the vast array of features they offer users compared to their predecessor—the VHS format—as well as their relative affordability. The launch of the two new formats comes at a time when movie buffs often opt to purchase films on DVD and build their home libraries rather than rent because of the similarity in prices of the two offerings.

Many DVD retailers have expressed frustration and concern over the ongoing war of formats, because they’re hesitant to get behind one for fear that the other will make their choice obsolete.

Screen Digest predicts that neither format will emerge as a winner; rather, the firm expects them to merge into one affordable offering, Reuters reports.

Most of the leading Hollywood studios, excluding Universal Pictures, have announced their support for Blu-ray, though only three have expressed support for the HD-DVD format, according to Reuters. On the other hand, software giant Microsoft said it would include HD-DVD support within its upcoming Vista operating system, as well as offer an external HD-DVD drive for use with its popular Xbox gaming console, Reuters reports. Sony is working to include a Blu-ray drive within its as-of-yet unreleased Playstation 3 console, according to Reuters.

Screen Digest says that in 2010 there will be some 15 million U.S. homes that have standalone HD-DVD or Blu-ray players, and 24 million homes will have game console-based players, Reuters reports.

A Samsung Blu-ray disc player currently goes for roughly $1,000, and a Toshiba HD-DVD player retails for about $500, according to Reuters. Users of HD-DVD players also need HD-enabled television sets, which currently range in price from hundreds of dollars to multiple thousands for larger sets with additional features.

In related news, the DVD Copy Control Association, an industry group, announced that it plans to scale back copy-protection restrictions on DVDs, in a move that represents the film industry’s increasing willingness to experiment with the online sales medium that they’ve veered away from in the past.

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