The cutting room floor

This week my news analysis covered the latest battle in what some have dubbed the "format wars" between Toshiba's HD DVD format and Sony's...

This week my news analysis covered the latest battle in what some have dubbed the "format wars" between Toshiba's HD DVD format and Sony's Blu-ray disc format. Shortly before the HD DVD Promotional Group was set to hold a press conference at the CES in Las Vegas, Warner Bros. announced it was pulling out of its partnership with HD DVD and switching over to Blu-ray. While the people I spoke with at Blu-ray are downplaying any kind of final victory in the format wars, some influential bloggers have already opined that Warner's shift to the Sony format tips the balance in Blu-ray's favor too far for HD DVD to recover. Toshiba, apparently not going down without a fight, put out a string of press releases, citing their disappointment with Warner's pullout, but trumpeting their recent slash in prices for the HD DVD player.

I spoke with both sides of the battle field, Andy Parsons, and Michael Hoog, for Blu-ray disc, and Ken Graffeo from the HD DVD Promotional Group. Here are some of the additional comments from both entities, that wound up on the cutting-room floor. A little long for a standard blog, but I figured, if they took the time to go on the record and say it, I might as well publish it.

I asked Hoog, Co-Owner, Corporate Advocates, the agency that represents the Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA) what the format's communications efforts will be going forward.

"I think the biggest piece is two-fold," Hoog said, "One, we're still helping consumers understand that Blue-ray is a safe buy. The big issue going forward is helping them understand the benefits of hi-def, and getting them to move to Blu-ray."

"I expect that there will be significant efforts…to continue in the consumer education front,” Hoog added. “When a consumer comes in and plays with it, the value is apparent. Part of the effort is ‘how do you expose consumers to the product?’ I think you’ll see a big push for that in 2008.”

Hoog also talked briefly about the efforts on the other side to downplay the loss of Warner Bros. and hype its plans to adjust the prices.

“Their message has been fairly consistent,” Hoog said. “They talk about themselves as the less expensive format. Yes it’s a cheaper unit, but I think that’s a tough proposition for them now. To a certain extent they kind of have to be.”

Andy Parsons, chair of BDA's US promotions committee, spoke similarly of HD DVD's messaging.

"Toshiba probably has a lot of players to move. It’s a tough sell; they just lost a little less than half their content. If I were in their shoes I would do something similar because they have a lot of players to sell. People aren’t necessarily convinced that increased advertising can pull a rabbit out of their hat. We don’t want to give them any indication that we’ve won, hooray, hooray, but it’s tough to imagine how the other side is going to overcome this.”

On the BDA's reaction to winning Warner Bros. and the media's role in analyzing the format wars, Parsons said:

"We were quite excited for a number of reasons. We’re now 70 percent of the Home Video content, by the end of May, there’s going to be a clear message to consumers where their purchase should go. Consumers shouldn’t worry about jumping into Blu-ray. For a while people were advising consumers to avoid going with one or the other, we’re at a point where consumers can say Blu-ray is most likely to prevail. We feel good about not having to do that any longer."

"Ironically [the media's declaration of victory is] being done already. The articles that are hitting...seem to be proclaiming the end of the format war more than we have. [The media] is saying: 'It looks like it’s over, HD DVD is not going to make it work.' We’ve been monitoring the blogs and comments on these stories and they seem to be convinced that we’ve won. We’re going to have to continue to tell our story."

Ken Graffeo, co-president of the HD DVD Promotional Group said his partners are "staying the course" since Warner Bros. pulled out. He said internally, the timing of Warner's announcement actually created a bit of an advantage, because all of the principal players were either in Las Vegas or en route to the CES, so they were able to get on the same page. Graffeo said the group remains committed to their format.

"The message we have always focused on is a consistent experience at an affordable price. The HD DVD player plays every DVD. You’re still getting a better experience. Toshiba’s prices are half the price on the Blu-ray side."

In addition to the pricing difference, Graffeo said he wants communications to center on the way the format war is being reported in the media. Namely that few consumers have even made the switch to hi-def, and that Toshiba's efforts are still focused on grabbing a greater market share of mass consumers.

“It’s very important to look at how it’s being interpreted. The 70 percent figure is not about where the business is. What needs focusing is 'how are people going to get the best experience?' From a press standpoint, there’s been so much about a format war, but the consumer doesn’t view it that way. People are looking for movies in the best quality. What we need to do is focus with the consumer, so they understand the attributes of HD DVD. The press needs to have a broader scope of consumer awareness. We're going after mass market."

Graffeo concluded that they will be reaching out to bloggers to straighten out what they perceive are inaccuracies in reporting.

"We’ve always been very aggressive. When we’re actively communicating, we’re communicating the facts," he said.

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