Sunday, May 27, 2007

The "TV on Hi-Def Disc" Race Finally Heats Up!

Where is "TV on Hi-Def Disc" at the moment? Well, today's news about Battlestar Galactica - Season 1 being rumored (so it's NOT official yet!) for HD-DVD release on 9/18 means that the number of TV-on-HD-DVD releases and TV-on-Blu-ray-Disc releases are pulling even, at 10 each, and each format has 3 releases unique to it. Here's the current list, including release dates:

Blu-ray Disc
  1. 12/19/2006: The Sopranos - Season 6, Part 1
  2. 01/30/2007: Discovery Atlas - Australia Revealed
  3. 01/30/2007: Discovery Atlas - Brazil Revealed
  4. 01/30/2007: Discovery Atlas - China Revealed
  5. 01/30/2007: Discovery Atlas - Italy Revealed
  6. 04/24/2007: Planet Earth - The Complete Collection
  7. 05/29/2007: Weeds - Season 1
  8. 06/05/2007: Rescue Me - Season 3
  9. 07/24/2007: Weeds - Season 2
  10. 09/04/2007: Nip/Tuck - The Complete 4th Season

  1. 11/28/2006: Smallville - The Complete 5th Season
  2. 12/19/2006: The Sopranos - Season 6, Part 1
  3. 01/30/2007: Discovery Atlas - Australia Revealed
  4. 01/30/2007: Discovery Atlas - Brazil Revealed
  5. 01/30/2007: Discovery Atlas - China Revealed
  6. 01/30/2007: Discovery Atlas - Italy Revealed
  7. 04/24/2007: Planet Earth - The Complete Collection
  8. 08/28/2007: Heroes - Season 1
  9. 09/04/2007: Nip/Tuck - The Complete 4th Season
  10. 09/18/2007: Battlestar Galactica - Season 1

As you can see, the first hi-def TV release was the fifth season of Smallville. Now, the sixth season's standard DVD has been announced, but no word yet on a hi-def version. Will Warner end up pulling a Nip/Tuck, and releasing it both ways? Probably. So where will the scales tip?

If you ask me, the big wildcard is how many of the ABC hour-long dramas will be announced by Disney/Buena Vista for Blu-ray Disc release. These next few days see the official announcements of the DVD sets for shows like Lost, Desperate Housewives, Grey's Anatomy, Ugly Betty and Brothers & Sisters. Maybe none of those will be announced for the hi-def format, but if they are, then Blu-ray takes the lead as Disney does not do HD-DVD.

In fact, it's the "Disney" factor that leads a lot of my friends to decide to go that route. They know that the kids will want Lion King and other classic Disney "masterpieces" on hi-def, whenever Disney decides to release them. Since Disney is committed to only do Blu-ray, that helps my friends decide in that direction. Sony is, of course, committed only to their own Blu-ray format, and MGM and Fox are also exclusively Blu-ray. Universal is exclusively HD-DVD. The other major studios (Warner, Paramount) are good either way...but remember, not every TV-DVD is from what Hollywood calls a "major" studio. As you can see by looking at the list above (per Weeds), the biggest of the "little" studios, Lionsgate, leans toward Blu-ray as well.

Who will "win"? Who knows. But, for the TV on Hi-Def Disc category, at least it's finally getting interesting!

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At May 27, 2007 9:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My wife and I love Battlestar and Smallville... we still won't buy a HD DVD though. Blue Ray seems to be the logical sense, so we will deal with the "upgradable" picture quality of using a regular format DVD on a Blue Ray player until the companies get smart and release their respective show titles in both formats. Silly to think they would ostracize potential buyers due to the "VHS vs BETA" mistakes of the 1980s.

At May 27, 2007 10:26 PM, Anonymous Rhindle The Red said...

I find it interesting that you would say that the TV-on-High-Def leans towards Blu-Ray based on *potential* alone. Just looking at your lists, the state of the situation *right now* leans heavily towards HD-DVD, with three strong titles for likely Hi-Def buyers on the HD-DVD side (Smallville, Heroes & BG) versus, frankly, none on Blu-Ray (well, maybe Rescue Me).

As for Disney being a major factor because of your kids, be honest with yourself. Kids don't care if they are watching a VHS tape. They are not the reason you're going Hi-Def or why you are leaning one way or the other.

Blu-Ray has a bit of Mojo going on right now, but what fascinates me is that despite the higher level of exclusive support, they aren't dominating *more*. Shouldn't they have, like, 90% of the market by now?

At May 28, 2007 1:45 AM, Anonymous Joker said...

"Rhindle the Red", if you look at the facts, Blue ray has about 75% of the market for movie releases and etc. It hasn't even really started on Tv Dvd's yet. Once Disney starts releasing all their movies on Blue Ray and ABC releases their tv shows on Blue Ray, its over for HD.

At May 28, 2007 4:02 AM, Blogger David Lambert said...

re: "Kids don't care if they are watching a VHS tape. They are not the reason you're going Hi-Def or why you are leaning one way or the other."

Well, my kid (9 year old boy) will watch a VHS if the show is only available that way. For example, there's an episode of the 2002 He-Man show that my son REALLY enjoys, so he keeps that tape handy and watches it. Otherwise, he's strictly DVD. He knows what "bonus features" are, and he likes being able to jump to a particular episode or scene quickly.

Even though we don't have either Blu-ray or HD-DVD in the house as of yet, we do have HDTV channel versions of every local station. Not via cable or satellite: I don't get those services at my house (we've got thousands of DVDs, so who needs more channels?). So I get over-the-air HDTV versions of every local channel, plus a few others. We only started getting that last year (had an old "HDTV-ready" TV for a long time, that required a separate tuner, but last year upgraded to a new HDTV LCD that had the tuner built in). Two days after we got it, my son figured out on his own to choose the better-looking version of the channel for the nicer picture and the surround sound.

He's 9.

Whenever we visit Best Buy, he likes to check out the Blu-ray display, and always seems to know the name of the movie playing no matter what it is (even non-kid fare, although The Departed stumped him recently). His friends know what Blu-ray and HD-DVD are...yet none of their parents seem to own one yet.

I think the kids are more sophisticated than you give them credit for!

Let's say that they're not, though. Because kids aren't spending the money, the parents are. My point was that the parents will be buying the disc in the best possible format, because once you start collecting the new format you pretty much try to get everything you can in that format.

And more parents will sit down and watch The Lion King or Aladdin or 101 Dalmations than you indicate, because they enjoy these too. In fact, my wife, my friends and myself all tend to have an attitude where Disney classics are concerned "we're getting them for ourselves, and we're just glad the kids like to watch them with us". I mean, my son didn't discover Peter Pan on his own, right? He didn't discover Voltron and Transformers and He-Man/She-Ra on his own. I sorta helped him with those!

At May 28, 2007 7:45 AM, Blogger Brad said...

Honestly, if you are thinking Blu-Ray, you may as well just buy a PS3. My wife and I bought one at Christmas time and I still have yet to purchase or rent a PS3. It's used to watch movies and maybe play an old PS2 game. Once you pick up the remote for $20, it work just as well as a setup player but can do so much more simply by fact that Sony sends software upgrades out every 60 days or so.

We also have an Xbox 360, which is our primary gaming console, but we recently picked up the HD-DVD add-on for $200. The picture looks great with the movie that came with it and does rival the blu-ray picture (even though the PS3 is using HDMI and the 360 is using compenent cables).

All that said, given the price of movies, the only reason I was even willing to invest in the players was because of NetFlix having strong support of both formats and it not costing my any more for the media. If one of those two formats could convice Netflix to only have HD DVD or Blu Ray, that would be your winner of this format war.

At May 28, 2007 9:28 AM, Anonymous Leah said...

My point was that the parents will be buying the disc in the best possible format, because once you start collecting the new format you pretty much try to get everything you can in that format.

I really don't think this is true. I have a huge dvd collection and I will not be re-buying any of them in high def. I don't think that it's worth the extra money.

At May 28, 2007 9:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm with Rhindle the Red. While I agree that Disney will sell a lot of titles ones the format war is over, they don't matter much right now.

There's no doubt that anyone (regardless of age) can tell the difference between VHS/DVD/HD. I know my kids can tell the difference, but I can tell you, my kids aren't going to be slapping down $25-$35 per title to buy Disney's entire back library of titles just because they come out on High Def format... and I don't want them on my system all the time (that's why they have their own DVD player on their TV).

Simply put, the format war is going to be determined largely by Sci-Fi and Action movies. The titles that drive sales early on are the ones that make you say "WOW!"; titles that can watched multiple times and impress your friends. Just take a look back at what DVD was offering in April of '96. They knew where they were going, even if they couldn't get every producer on board (Maverick, Desperado, Batman, James Bond)... Desperado was the title that ensured I wasn't taking back my first DVD player and 5.1 receiver.

Few people are going to drop $30+ to see the 50 First Dates, nature films or 40 year old titles in High Def. Don't get me wrong, they will do well once the prices come down, but not right now.

When you buy your first few titles, you'll be thinking about MILAGE - what will impress your friends? What can you can rewatch multiple times?

Will 40 year old, hand-drawn cartoons really show off what HD can do? Or would the Matrix, Batman, Pirates of the Caribean or James Bond do it better?

For better or worse, series like Battlestar Galactica and Heroes are going to make a big difference in the format war.

At May 30, 2007 5:07 AM, Blogger David Lambert said...

Well, as I mentioned in my Lost - Season 3 news this morning, Disney has no plans yet to put their hour-long ABC dramas on Blu-ray quite yet.

At May 30, 2007 7:36 PM, Blogger David Lambert said...

Mmmm...Hollywood Reporter says at least Lost will get Blu-ray! I've just shot a note to Disney; let's see if they can respond by morning (probably too late in the day for that, though).

At June 01, 2007 8:38 PM, Anonymous FlameStrike said...

Speaking only for myself, I'm going to take the course I took with the writable DVD formats: I'm going to wait and see how things settle so I don't get stuck. Maybe someone will find a way to navigate the middle ground and make a dual-format player, or maybe one will win out over the other, but I will not be taking sides until that happens.

As for the issue of rebuying a title I already own, that's not going to happen unless the title I own on DVD has been so badly scratched up it's unwatchable and unrepairable, something I take great care to avoid. I'll not be buying Babylon 5, Highlander, or Transformers in an HD format regardless of who releases them, or what bonus materials they may come with. Hell, I may just wait to upgrade until HVD technology comes out.

At June 02, 2007 4:32 AM, Blogger David Lambert said...

re: "Maybe someone will find a way to navigate the middle ground and make a dual-format player"

Maybe someone already has! :)

Sharp Electronics reportedly has created an optical-drive player that can accommodate high-definition formats HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc, in addition to standard DVD and CD.

The hardware device, which utilizes about 10mW of power and operates in laptop PC, is set to retail for less than $100 during its mid-June release.


re: "Hell, I may just wait to upgrade until HVD technology comes out."

Unfortunately, nothing has been updated at the HVD Alliance website for about a year. :(

At June 12, 2007 8:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the context of this site, what sways me is the size, 30GB vs 25GB (single sided, single layered). Many of the older TV shows will never be released in HD. But once HD becomes the mainstream, companies will just ship everything on HD discs.

If a season maxes out six single sided single layer DVDs, that is 6*4.7GB or 28.2GB. They usually do not, but then I have seasons with more than six DVDs. So Blu-ray is just better positioned to fit an old grainy 80's TV show on ONE single disc.

At June 12, 2007 8:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

On the negative side: The Replay 4000, network enabled, was designed to be able to enable/disable features during the periodic updates (designed during an on going court battle). The blu-ray is designed to be network enabled. The industry has stated that a player will disable itself if it detects "hacking". The blu-ray is run mostly via java which makes the feature set rather flexible. Sony has proven they will distribute "code" on an audio CD. While they release a patch to remove the back door, they never stated they were wrong to do so.

...So even if you never connect your box to the net, there is not much to stop them from changing your player with each new release.

At June 13, 2007 4:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Make no mistake, HD DVD has the same ability to tinker with code and "revoke" ability for disc playback. That's been well-known for close to 2 years now, before the units even launched.

At June 13, 2007 11:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Correction to the capacities I listed. I knew blu-ray was bigger and transposed the common numbers of 25 and 30.

25GB Blu-ray SL
50GB Blu-ray DL

I do not know if the numbers are reliable, but here is a web page discussing the cost of production per disc.

At June 29, 2007 12:20 PM, Blogger TJ said...

I'm not registering for, but i wanted to weigh in on "buying sets one hasn't seen before" topic.

These things are a LOT of money, and I would probably never buy a set that I have never seen before.

The exception is the following example: if I started following a series in its latter seasons, I would probably end up buyin the early seasons to see the origin among other things.

I think the better question you should ask if Would you buy a set from a SERIES you have never seen, not a season. And the answer to that, would be absolutely not, unless I was purchasing a gift for someone else who had wanted said set.

Some people would rather buy shows on DVD instead of watching on TV for free with the commercials and the wait between each episode. I'm fine with that. My money's worth more than my time at this point in my life. Perhaps that will change in the future.

At January 02, 2008 1:13 AM, Blogger Rael said...

All this and the end of 2007 seem to tell us that the Blu ray v. HDDVD debate wasnt that ferocious or poisonous as most thought it first to be. I read somewhere that within a few years or so, we can get players working with those for less than $100. For now, I think a mid-07 report summed up the issue well: decide between the two only when the dust clears up.

Just the same, a toast to the past year's milestones, among them
the region-free Oppo DV-970HD hovering near $150. But it was the
Oppo DV-981HD that
and were in agreement with.
dvd players


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