Here at the C3 blog, I write a lot about media fandom and brand fandom, but not as often do I write about fans of media technologies themselves. Of course, some major media companies have developed their products as lifestyle brands as well, such as Apple, but I'm referring here to the fascinating campaign that has been getting some attention of late by HD DVD fans to support that format vis-a-vis Sony's Blu-ray format for high-definition DVD releases.
For those who have not heard about these campaigns, see a Web page like HD NOW Online, a site that features a petition for greater support of Toshiba's HD DVD format with a petition that has thousands of signatures on it. These fans of the HD DVD format are asking that more studios support the HD DVD format with more releases, touting it as "the best and most consumer-friendly next-generation video format" which is available "at one-half, to one-third, of the price of the 'other brand.'"
The HD DVD format dropped below the Blu-ray DVDs in the first quarter of the year but has since risen again, thanks in part to an organized support system for the release of HD DVD products. (See this commentary for more on HD vs. Blu-ray DVD sales from the slant of HD DVD activists.)
TelevisionWeek's James Hibberd provides a fascinating account o what he calls a staged "group buy" of new HD DVD titles in the past week, as proponents of the format wanted to give it a boost in sales for those who keep close track of the numbers. He writes, "The group claims to have purchased nearly 1,000 HD DVD titles from Amazon.com and, temporarily at least, catapulted HD DVD sales past the rival Sony Blu-ray format."
BBC's version of Planet Earth, for instance, in HD DVD format was the first HD title to break Amazon's Top 5.
Of course, this support for the brand is more than just Toshiba brand loyalty. It is also about desperation. It is likely that only one of these technologies will become the industry standard, and Sony is doing all it can to entrench its brand. Toshiba users, hoping to make sure that their investment in an HD DVD player does not slowly disappear in the quicksand of oblivion, are doing all they can to support the brand and universal HD DVD players.
No one wants to own the new equivalent of the Betamax or laserdisc. Sony is hoping that moves like embedding its Blu-ray technology in its Playstation 3 will help keep it from winning this format war instead of repeating its Betamax failures against the VHS technology.
As I mentioned back in August, these format wars are not new to television, as the battle for colorization technologies was a major part of the very early days of commercial TV. I wrote, "In this case, high-definition is a completely new technology, and many people are not wanting to jump into either format at this pint, in fear that they will amass an impressive video archive, only for it to become as obsolete as the laser disc."
I wrote about these types of industry squabbles back in January, pointing out that:
I know I've personally been caught in the recordable DVD war between the minus DVDs and the plus DVDs, recently buying a whole set of + that won't work on my Toshiba DVR. While the industry continues a battle that matters little to the public except when it costs them money and annoyance, it's good to see a couple of products launched that keep that public in mind and the viewer experience, rather than quibbling and posturing within the industry. I know substantial profits are involved for whoever wins this format war, but it only causes a hassle for users and exposes how insensitive to the viewer experience the industry can sometimes seem.
This battle is far from over, but the collective activist movements of the Toshiba HD DVD users is an interesting new chapter in this battle and one that is likely not soon to be resolved.