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Blu-Ray, HD DVD, all very Confusing

Las Vegas- [The] I’M CONFUSED. I went to CES last week where I managed to get at least three or four conflicting reports about where Blu-ray going and how it’s going to get there.

For instance, the Blu Ray Association had a very impressive line-up of most of the key Hollywood studio CEOs to explain which movies were on the way. And there are quite a few. This was followed by some great statistics about just how doomed HD DVD was and how the PS3 will tip the balance. I then ambled by the HD DVD side of the fence and got a conflicting set of stats and forecasts. I’m beginning to think that market research just might be a bit biased, depending on who’s paying. Anyway, apart from those two camps, the most accurate insight into how the war was shaping up came from a less obvious source: the porn convention across town.

While the gadgets at the CES Show were getting geeks all excited, just a mile down the road the 2007 AVN Adult Entertainment Expo was getting others a little hot under the collar. Even more so when it emerged from one prominent smut studio that Sony was blocking porn making the leap to the Blu-ray disc format.

Personally, I was both sceptical and stunned. After looking into it a little, it emerged that the head of Digital Playground claimed that he was forced to change allegiances from Blu-ray to HD DVD because Blu-ray disc manufacturers were refusing to print the hot stuff for fear of Sony pulling their licence. Suddenly, more than any official statistic released throughout CES, the disc format war came under some microscopic scrutiny. When you consider that porn help decide the winner of the last great format war, you can see why everyone’s ears pricked up, so to speak.

By many accounts VHS would not have won its titanic struggle against Sony’s Betamax video tape format if it hadn’t been for porn. This might be over-stating its importance but it was an important factor. VHS became the tape format of choice for the trench-coat brigade, for which many of the first video rental stores – a dingy cupboard in the back of the local shop – were created. However, there were other reasons why VHS won, not least of which was that the hardware was cheaper to produce, JVC had less a stringent technology licensing set-up, the marketing was slicker and most importantly, VHS tapes could record 3 hours of TV while Betamax tapes were limited to an hour. For the porn studios VHS was simply a better format since it was the only one that could a take a full movie.

And now we have Blu-ray and HD DVD. Blu-ray is more expensive than HD DVD but it has higher capacities at 50GB and is considered to be technically superior. HD DVD discs and players are cheaper though. Both formats offer more than enough space for even the biggest inflated boobs and a higher resolution than you will ever wish to see big hairy asses pumping up and down. So why would Sony shoot itself in the foot again?

The answer is that it hasn’t. Once you get past the sensationalist headlines, there’s more to it. Big-time porn studio Vivid has announced its first Blu-ray porn movie, so there’s obviously a leak somewhere in the Blu-ray condom. Even the Blu-ray disc Association has reacted quickly by saying there is no ban against adult movie content.

It’s true that Sony doesn’t care for porn on its devices. It was unhappy when porn started arriving on the UMD disc format for the PSP and from certain quotes by porn makers, Sony is not actually being that helpful with Blu-ray. It’s not blocking them but, at the same time, it’s not exactly pointing them in the direction of Blu-ray disc manufacturers that can help them out. Many are having to find their own production sources

You can say a lot of things about Sony but stupid isn’t one of them. Well, most of the time anyway. There is no way that Sony can ignore the boost that porn can give the Blu-ray format. There are probably some older Sony execs that still have Betamax-related nightmares involving being chased by giant VHS video cassettes with enormous breasts.

The fact that many porn studios have already opted for HD DVD is fact not lost on the consumer electronics giant. Also, it’s not just about Sony. Blu-ray is a team effort, so to speak, and like any orgy everyone wants to get their rocks off. The other Blu-ray partners are well aware of the power of porn. It’s a $12.6bn market in the US alone and, of that, over $4bn comes from DVD rentals and sales. Morals aside, it’s just too big (or is that ‘engorged’?) to ignore. Porn might be dodgy but it sells and both format camps know that it could be the Viagra they need to pull ahead in this ridiculous format war.


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