Angry Robot

The Format War

There was, of course, the articles about the $150-million payout to Viacom and Viacom’s subsequent switch to HD-DVD exclusive. Then there was a little bit of lash back when Fox reaffirmed that it and MGM’s titles (which are distributed by Fox) will be Blu-Ray exclusive. My theory is that the HD-DVD people knew the Fox announcement was coming and tried to pre-empt it, but I have nothing to base this on.

We know that Blu-Ray is outselling HD-DVD two (or is it three?) to one. So any ‘victories’ for HD-DVD seem like needless prolongation of a war that has already been decided.

That said, I was discussing with a friend the other day whether the war itself is irrelevant and perhaps downloads will win the day. It’s safe to say that downloads will eventually win, it’s a question of when. The interested parties are waging their own war: that of network neutrality. Those who control the pipes can effectively destroy any download business if they so choose with bit caps and bit throttling. Their current plan offerings, at least in Canada, do not really allow for large-scale downloading, say of hours of HD-quality video a night. Bell will rent you a fibre-optic connection for $75 a month, but that comes with a 30 GB bit cap, above which you are charged by the gig. You could get into surcharge territory after six hours of continuous downloading. So a carrier victory in the network war could substantially delay the obsoleting of physical media, at least long enough for us to actually have to pay attention to the tiresome Blu-Ray vs. HD-DVD flareout, which sucks.