Blu-ray
HD DVD Scores Prime-Time Opportunity
Punch by punch, the high-definition DVD format battle continues.
September 10, 2007 by Arlen Schweiger

At press events last Wednesday during the annual Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association expo, the manufacturing heavyweights certainly pulled their punches in backing their format, whether it be HD DVD or Blu-ray Disc.

Toshiba, the main maker of HD DVD players, introduced three third-generation models with prices of $299, $399 and $499, the latter two models supporting full 1080p video resolution. Sony followed suit by announcing three Blu-ray players, all with full 1080p support but a little steeper pricing—$999, $1,299 and $1,699.

Finally Wednesday, Sharp entered the high-def DVD fray as a Blu-ray backer. The company debuted its first Blu-ray player, the full-steam-ahead 1080p model BD-HP20 Aquos player (yes, that’s Aquos as in Sharp’s pretty sweet and well-known LCD brand). And its pricing is more along the lines of Toshiba’s thinking for offering consumers high-def at low cost—$549, available later this month.

While the players battle it out for consumer attraction and the companies continue to detail why their format is the best, the next four months could truly be telling as to which is really in the driver’s seat in this race. The obvious reason being the holiday shopping season. The not-as-obvious reason being that HD DVD also announced Wednesday a nifty advertising campaign that ought to have Blu-ray supporters at least a little nervous.

NFL football. The HD DVD Promotional Group announced a season-long campaign that calls for 30-second ads, web sponsorships and HD DVD vignettes that will be part of NBC’s Sunday Night “Football Night in America” broadcasts.

This is savvy, and a great move by the group to get HD DVD’s name out when major players such as Target and Blockbuster have helped tilt the battle seemingly toward Blu-ray’s end with recent commitments to that format. 

For one thing, football absolutely reigns supreme in American sports. Fantasy football has even broadened the sports popularity in recent years by hooking marginal fans who now follow much more closely. For another thing, despite the growth and usage of DVRs, the Sunday night game doesn’t have as many people changing the channel during commercials as the 1 o’clock or 4 o’clock NFL games on CBS and FOX that may have competition in the time slot, or other sports to contend with in the afternoon. 

So there’s two quick reasons for a huge audience to get a better taste of what HD DVD is. But what about Monday night, you ask? I’d say the Sunday night slot betters that as well—the game begins a little earlier, and the last quarter of the season NBC has the advantage of the league’s “flex schedule” that began last season by which it can look ahead at the schedule and take the apparent best matchup and make it the Sunday night game if it was originally scheduled for the afternoon.

That assures a gripping football game—and a prime opportunity for HD DVD to score some points with viewers. What affect do you think this ad campaign will have on the format battle?

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Arlen Schweiger - Contributor, Electronic House Magazine
Arlen writes about home technology installations and product news and reviews for electronichouse.com and Electronic House magazine.

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