Gizmodo has an interesting post on the Blu-ray / HD DVD format war, and, in their words, the ‘demise of HD DVD’.
They repeat a rumor I’ve seen reported elsewhere, that Fox has been considering switching to HD DVD, and if they did Warner was going to go HD DVD exclusive as well. The studios want the format war to end, and Warner knew that without one of the BD studios defecting to HD DVD that the format wouldn’t have the critical mass to win. The rumor is that Fox was ready to make the jump with Warner, to end the war, but at the last minute the BD camp, likely Sony, paid Fox $120 million to stay with BD. When Fox backed out, Warner recognized that the only option to end the war would be for them to go Blu as well. There are rumors that Warner was paid $400-$500 million to go Blu, but Warner has denied a payoff, saying there was no ‘bidding war’. They point out that the market at stake is worth billions, so any payoff would be a drop in the bucket.
Gizmodo says that, from their contacts, the feeling within the HD DVD camp is that HD DVD is done for. They report that the rumors of Universal’s HD DVD exclusivity contract being expired are false and that it runs into 2009. And that Universal would only be able to release Blu-ray if HD DVD is declared no longer viable, so Universal is hanging on Toshiba’s word. Microsoft has also deferred to Toshiba on the fate of HD DVD. And everyone seems to be watching Paramount & DreamWorks Animation. If they begin releasing Blu-ray again, that could be the final tipping point for Toshiba to throw in the towel.
Gizmodo goes into some of the behind the scenes drama involved with Warner’s pre-CES announcement. One source told Gizmodo that the surprise announcement caused Bill Gates to drop a segment of his CES keynote which was to focus on HD DVD, pledging continued support. And we already know the HD DVD Promotional Group canceled their press release at CES. In fact, HD DVD had almost no presence at CES after Warner’s announcement. Toshiba and the studios pulled all of their planned HD DVD announcements.
Taking a cynical view, the current Toshiba price cuts on players could be a way to clear out existing stock before making any kind of announcement. If the HD DVD camp throws in the towel Toshiba and the studios would be left with a lot of stock. And waiting until the return windows close on holiday sales could avoid a rash of product returns from those with buyers remorse. There have already been reports from users returning their HD DVD gear due to the Warner announcement.