This is a pretty big story, I think, particularly because of what it means for the fall and Christmas. If HD DVD is going to win the format war, they need to create a big gap in set-top players in the near future, maybe by the middle of 2008, because sooner or later the Blu-Ray player prices will fall.
I've thought all along that price-point, not content, would drive this race. Come Christmas, if there's a sub-$200 HD DVD, and Shrek the Third, Transformers, and Blades of Glory are all HD DVD exclusive, then I think the Blu-Ray camp is in a precarious position and has to hope that overall adoption stays low.
And that's the big question: How many people really need to go hi-def player in the first place? At the bottom of the Variety story, Sony claims that there are 60 million HD households worldwide. That seems like a very, very small number to me. And if I was the HD DVD camp, that's what would worry me the most.
AICN has some good reporting with interesting comments from Paramount people:
Next, I talked with Alan Bell, the Chief Technology officer for Paramount. He's been in charge of the technological decisions and realities for Paramount, since the advent of DVD. I asked Alan if he was happy with this decision, or if this was something that was being forced upon them.
Alan then went into a very complicated series of statements about how HD DVD was the format that makes sense for Paramount. It's not just a matter of the amount of space that one format has over another. That's a gross simplification between the two formats. You see, HD DVD was built upon... not just the technology of DVD, but the programming software and other aspects. When we began talking about the cost issues - Alan stated it's very very complex, but that the replication facilities that have been built for the mass production of DVD - it's much cheaper and simpler to convert for HD DVD mass production.