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Adult industry to decide format battle

Electric Blu-ray?

As with Betamax and VHS, the adult-entertainment industry is likely to decide between Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD in the battle to replace DVDs for high-definition content.

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

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

"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.

The pornography industry generates an estimated $57bn (about £31bn) in annual revenue worldwide and has always been fast to use new technology, according to analysts.

Adult movie studio Digital Playground, which claims to have produced the largest number of high definition movies in the industry over the past three years, said it is choosing Blu-ray Disc for all of its 'interactive' films because of its greater capacity. It also selected Blue-ray because Sony chose the format for its PS3 (PlayStation 3) box, due out in November.

The co-founder of Digital Playground, who goes by the one-word name "Joone", said the fact that Sony chose Blu-ray guarantees his studio an instant home audience.

"PlayStation 3 is going to be the Trojan horse that will get a lot of numbers into the home theatre systems - the living rooms," said Joone, who is also a movie director. "Technology-wise we’ve chosen Blu-ray, which doesn’t mean we won’t support both formats but as far as having really cool technology and a lot of storage for future proof, Blu-ray is a good format."

Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD are the optical-disc formats that are positioned as replacements for DVDs with high-definition content.

Blu-ray is not only backed by entertainment giant Sony, but Panasonic, LG, Philips 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 such as Toshiba, NEC and Warner Home Video.

Gartner analyst Paul O’Donovan believes the industry’s support of either DVD format will be a "strong factor" toward general acceptance 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 a victory within a range of 18 months to five years.

Steve Hirsch, head of the adult film studio Vivid Entertainment, said he’s currently using the HD-DVD format because it was the first to come out, but his studio will begin burning to the Blu-ray format as soon as it’s available.

"The adult industry has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to technology. We don’t have any theatrical distribution issues nor do we have big box retailers, like Wal-Mart and Blockbuster, to cater to. We’re forced to find distribution wherever we can," Hirsch said.

Hirsch, who founded Vivid Entertainment in 1984, looked back to the porn industry in the 80s: "It was the adult industry which jumped right in and released movies on both VHS and Beta. We pushed the actual technology more than anyone else," he said. "The adult industry has always been ahead when comes to technology."

But not everyone believes the format war will be determined by the adult movie industry. Steve Duplessie, founder of research firm Enterprise Strategy Group and a Computerworld columnist, said the 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. But I don’t believe the porn industry will drive the format. Like any other industry, it will supply what the consumer wants," he said.


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