Will Video on Demand see the end to bitter format wars?

by Pete Broadbent on 4 October 2010

The history of consumer video has always comprised of winners and losers.  Back in the day there was a battle between Betamax and VHS. VHS won and held the market for well over a decade until the DVDarrived in the early 90s. By 2000 DVD had become the preferred method of video distribution.

Another battle came with the emergence of HD when Blu-ray went head to head with HD DVD. Toshiba released the first consumer-based HDDVD player in 2006 beating Blu-ray to the market by about three months. After a protracted format war HD DVD conceded  victory to Blu-ray in 2008.

The challenge all these formats shared was the fact that they required expensive proprietary technology that the consumer had to purchase at great cost. If an early adopter backed the wrong horse they were left high and dry with a device with nothing to watch on it. If the consumer happens to purchase the winning format, they then have an everlasting cycle of renting or purchasing media to watch on it.

So what’s next…

As discussed in our report Video on Demand: Playing Catch Up? the VoD market is set for growth. Video on Demand content is currently either hosted by the major broadcasters or accessible from an aggregator like YouTube.

The major broadcasters have made a significant investment in their services and our research shows that the BBC iPlayer currently leads the pack, but how long will this last? Gone are the days when 1 format can dominate for 10+ years.

Sky Anytime+  is launching later this year and will contain a library of over 500 movies, boxsets and documentaries. Apple has  re-launched apple TV which allows users to stream HD content direct to their TV via an easy to use (and cheap) device.DVD rental company LOVEFiLM have already started diversifying into both VoD with LOVEFiLM Player and direct TV access.

Blu-ray vs. HD DVD could well be the last format war we will encounter for physical video media but competition in VoD is only just beginning. Will the broadcasters be agile enough to compete with social media and aggregators?

Only time will tell, but at this rate we won’t have to wait long.

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