Porn Industry May Be Decider in Blu-ray, HD-DVD Battle

Just as in the 1980s, when the Betamax and VHS video formats were battling it out for supremacy, the pornography industry will likely play a big role in determining which of the two blue-laser DVD formats--Blu-ray Disc or HD-DVD--will be the winner in the battle to replace current DVDs for high-definition content.

Ron Wagner, director of IT operations at E! Entertainment Television, in Los Angeles, said his company has already chosen the Blu-ray Disc format, in large part because of talk in the porn industry favoring it over rival HD-DVD.

Wagner said that while attending last year's National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) annual conference in Las Vegas, more than one panel discussed "several major players in the porn industry going the Blu-ray route." He said the Blu-ray vs. HD-DVD rivalry was also the buzz around NAB 2006 last month.

Just Like VHS vs. Beta

"If you look at the VHS vs. Beta standards, you see the much higher-quality standard dying because of [the porn industry's support of VHS]," he said. "The mass volume of tapes in the porn market at the time went out on VHS."

E! Entertainment is using Blu-Ray discs primarily for Sony's XDCam applications for acquisition of television programming materials. The television network, which has more than 85 million subscribers to its celebrity gossip and entertainment news, said it is not considering optical formats for long-term data archiving, but will stick with magnetic tape for now.

The pornography industry, which generates an estimated $57 billion in annual revenue worldwide, has always been a fast leader when it comes to the use of new technology, according to analysts.

Sony Is Key

Blu-ray is backed not only by entertainment giant Sony, but also by Panasonic, LG Electronics, Philips Electronics, and movie studios Disney and Fox. Blu-ray offers storage up to 50GB capacity, or up to nine hours of high-definition content. In contrast, HD-DVD has 30GB capacity and is supported by companies like Toshiba, NEC and Warner Home Video.

Paul O'Donovan, an analyst with Gartner, said pornography's support of either DVD format will be a "strong factor" to the uptake of the technology by the general marketplace, but even more critical is Sony's adoption of the technology.

O'Donovan said even though initially the Blu-ray format will be more expensive and will come after that of HD-DVD, the sheer support it is receiving from the entertainment industry, including pornography studios, will catapult it to victory within 18 months to five years.

Porn Influence Overinflated

But not everyone believes the format war will be determined by the porn industry. Steve Duplessie, founder of research firm Enterprise Strategy Group, in Milford, Mass., said the porn industry's influence over the fate of VHS and the upcoming high-def DVD formats is overstated. Duplessie said VHS ultimately won over Betamax because Betamax was a proprietary format owned by Sony, while VHS was more open.

"I love the whole pornography concept simply because porn is still the number one money-making use of the Internet," Duplessie said. But I don't believe the porn industry will drive the format. Like any other industry, it will supply what the consumer wants."

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