Amazon Puts A Bet On Both DVD Formats
May 2, 2006
Amazon, the largest US online retailer, has entered the developing show-down over high-definition video formats, with a new "DVD on demand" service.
The service allows content owners to produce discs in either of the competing new formats in response to demand. The retailer has already begun selling a limited selection of films in the new HD-DVD format on its US site, including discs produced through its CustomFlix subsidiary, which transfers analog material to digital format.
Amazon said CustomFlix would also start working with HDNet, the US high-definition television network, to "digitise hundreds of high definition titles" from its licensed film catalogue for sale on Amazon, and that this "initiative will dramatically increase the number of high-definition titles available in the US market this year".
The format battle over DVDs pits Sony's Blu-ray format against Toshiba's HD-DVD, is like a modern day VHS versus Beta war.
Both sides are trying to persuade studios to release DVDs on either one or both of the formats, with Sony having secured commitments from all the major film studios except Universal Pictures.
However, the new formats also present a challenge to smaller content providers, with the risk of building costly inventory in whichever format eventually loses out.
Mark Cuban, president of HDNet, said that the deal "allows customers interested in HD content to simply choose whatever format they want".
"Discs are produced as customers order, so there won't be any wasted inventory depending on which format becomes more popular for a specific title."
Amazon is currently selling just over a dozen high-definition titles in the HD format, including Million Dollar Baby, Apollo 13 and The Last Samurai.
It said it would shortly make available titles in Blu-ray formats, which is expected to launch in the US in the autumn.
Toshiba this month launched the first high-definition DVD player to become available in the US for $500, using the HD-DVD format.
Amazon is currently pursuing a range of initiatives aimed at responding to the threat presented to its core non-digital media business by digital technology.
Separately, it is also reported to be preparing to launch its own digital downloading service for music and movies.
In October, it launched a "digital locker" feature on its US site that is being used to stream both exclusive video and music material linked to physical sales and pre-orders of new CDs by both Bruce Springsteen and Pearl Jam.
Source: MSN News