Is Sony Ready To Pull The Plug On Blu-ray?
Sony’s CEO, Howard Stringer, has set off a lot of AV and movie industry speculation that the electronics super power and movie studio may be working to either become format “neutral” or might be working back channels to negotiate a deal to merge the Blu-ray format with the competing HD DVD format. These comments about the two formats being in a “stalemate” come as HD DVD has picked up significant momentum through its retail partners who a little more than a week ago were able to drop the price of HD DVD players to $99. Sony’s least expensive and most effective Blu-ray player is their Playstation 3 game console, which starts at $399.
More ammunition to the potential end of the format war is that both sides have backed away from their vast promotional campaign in print, on television and on the Internet at the least likely of times. With pre-Black-Friday sales sparking the sale of 90,000 HD DVD players clearly there are a lot of mainstream consumers sitting on the sidelines waiting to buy players yet both the HD DVD consortium and the Blu-ray Association seem to be watching how this fight progresses with a little conservatism as the all-important holiday season approaches.
A Sony format consultant, since the advent of the Compact Disc, suggests the idea that Sony might pull the plug on Blu-ray is “not going to happen” and notes that Blu-ray is not only supported by many of the top studios, it is also the backbone of Sony’s flagship game console. Video gaming leads to the main reason why Sony doesn’t need to admit defeat. Playstation coexists with Nintendo’s Wii and Microsoft’s Xbox 360 in a booming HD-driven gaming market. With Blu-ray powering Playstation 3 and studios like Disney and Fox as well as Sony Pictures cranking out 1080p movies for the format – why can’t consumers buy both players and both disc formats?
Imagine if Sony did pull the plug on Blu-ray – which they won't anytime soon – what type of message would Sony be sending to mainstream movie-buying consumers who have avoided both HD disc formats because of fears of a VHS versus Beta repeat that could result in them owning the wrong player and thousands of dollars in discs that are useless?
With the impressive volume of HDTVs being sold each month paired with the millions of legacy HDTVs currently installed in the marketplace – there is no reason to believe Sony or the HD DVD camp will be giving in anytime soon. If a deal was to happen where the formats would have been merged – it would have happened before either of the two competing formats launched. Warner recently announced that their attempt at software convergence of the formats with their TotalHD disc is postponed indefinitely. The only hope now for merging would be a takeover by combo-format players. For now, expect both to have a strong holiday selling season and grow as Playstation and Xbox did in years past.
by: Jerry Del Colliano