Who Will Win High-Def DVD Format War? Ask The XXX Industry

My family moved into our new home over the weekend, so we’re in the home stretch toward getting some routine back in our lives. Living at Dad’s house in the guest (attic) bedroom over the past seven weeks has been great because our family is close, and there’s been lots of help with our son Julian (who’s now nearly ten weeks old). As I’ve mentioned a few times, posting has been a little light here, and will be for the next several weeks. So my MediaPost columns will comprise the bulk of my contributions here. My latest piece dives into the porn industry and its role in the hi-def DVD format wars. Mark Naples, who used to pen the Friday op-ed, which I now author, had some good feedback in the MediaPost blog comment area. Yet again, I regurgitated and expanded on a post from earlier this week. Good thing there’s no rules about plagiarizing yourself!

Brand Ad Salesmen Must Sell More ROI, Not Impressions

By Max Kalehoff, January 26, 2007

The hype over the high-definition DVD format war is picking up speed, according to blog buzz and news coverage. In the left corner, it’s Sony’s Blu-Ray, and in the right, it’s Toshiba’s HD-DVD! It’s a juicy, high-stakes narrative that journalists and onlookers can’t seem to resist: two main opposing sides, many impacted stakeholders, accusations and rumors, money and, yes, sex.

The parallels to the Sony Beta-versus-VHS video format war, which the porn industry influenced decades ago, are especially irresistible to so many. Indeed, we’ve seen this adult-entertainment thread woven into this format saga endlessly by numerous mainstream publications, including, in recent weeks: the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and CNET, among others.

But it was the Jan.19th episode of NPR’s “On The Media” that really caught my attention (listened to via podcast several days later, of course). Reporter Beth Fertig, sucked into the format controversy like everyone else, explored the adult-entertainment industry’s role in the outcome. But it was an insight she elicited from Shane Buettner from Ultimate AV that underscored just how misguided and over-hyped the DVD format war may be, let alone the adult-entertainment industry’s role this time around:

“Porn did side with VHS, and that was the deciding factor in that format. I’m not sure that that is going to be the case now, and I personally don’t believe that we are ever going to see a physical media that is as ubiquitous as the DVD became. There are far too many other ways that people can get and consume this media.

“I’ll give you an indicator. Vivid Entertainment, which is a very large content provider in the adult entertainment space, at this point in time, 40 percent of their business is on DVD discs, and that’s down from 80 percent five years before that. Most of their business seems to be shifting to cable and satellite TV, Internet and wireless applications.

“So I’m not convinced that one or the other of this hi-def formats is going to be influenced that heavily by what the porn industry does or doesn’t do.”

I’m not a close watcher of the adult-entertainment industry, but those Vivid stats are eye-popping. Sure, the data suggest the adult-entertainment industry may have less influence over which high-definition DVD format leads over the other. But considering the adult-entertainment industry’s historical lead in adopting new media and marketing technologies, could its withdrawal from physical media signal a larger media-consumption trend altogether? One without stamped DVDs?

To me, that’s the ultimate question the entertainment, media and consumer-electronics industries should be asking. There probably is a big, near-term market to be served with high-definition DVD. Nobody can deny that; Netflix is still very much alive. And physical media do have many benefits, including: no need for high-speed broadband; the satisfaction of owning something tangible to hold in your hands; and, in the case of adult entertainment, greater privacy (no digital-transaction trail of your viewing preferences to be tied to you in perpetuity).

Still, won’t high-definition movies inevitably follow the lead of music, and distribute digitally? The adult-entertainment industry appears to be strongly moving in that direction, as is video in general. Why is there so much fixation on physical distribution formats? Is the hype over the war bigger than the war itself?

What do you think?

Published by Max Kalehoff

Father, sailor and marketing executive.

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  1. HD porn just isn't that good… you can see too many imperfections. The notion is good but in reality you're much better looking at old grainy 70's/80's porn… the girls look hotter and more perfect due to the poor vid quality.

  2. I'll have to agree, there's some very good HD porn out there but it needs to be very highly produced – there are some things you just dont need to see in HD and you are so much better off sticking with DVD quality porno.

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