Ah, the emails and voice mails were flying fast and furious yesterday after Paramount and DreamWorks made their little announcement about going HD DVD exclusive. At just after 4 p.m. in New York, Fox and MGM put out a press release saying they were unveiling "an aggressive global Blu-ray Disc release strategy, including 29 new release and 'must-have' catalog titles that runs through the end of the 2007 calendar year."
The release went on to say that Fox intends to put out "at least one state-of-the-art title per month featuring numerous BD 'firsts'" and highlighted the fact that "Blu-ray was out-performing HD DVD 2-to-1 at retail in 2007." Among the 29 new releases, my eye was drawn to Master & Commander, Ronin, Cast Away, Independence Day, A Bridge Too Far, 28 Days Later, The Day After Tomorrow, and the Die Hard trilogy.
After the email went out, the phone started ringing: All the CNET the home-theater editors were contacted, so the PR folks at GCI Group in LA were working overtime, trying to do a little damage control. The basic message was, they may have this, but we have a whole more of that. And, did you hear that the Paramount deal doesn't include any of Spielberg's movies and that the deal only ran for 18 months? Tit for tat. Tat for tit. The war was raging.
Then, thanks to a New York Times article, word got out this morning that indeed (as I suspected), someone was getting paid off. The article noted that, "Paramount and DreamWorks Animation together will receive about $150 million in financial incentives for their commitment to HD DVD, according to two Viacom executives with knowledge of the deal but who asked not to be identified." Microsoft denied paying anything, but wouldn't rule it out as a tactic in the future. There was no word on who might be paying Universal for its exclusive HD DVD agreement, but you gotta think there's a pretty sweet deal in place there, too.
The end result? Most people seemed either amused or pissed. The media came across a little cranky about what looks increasingly like a protracted battle. "So Far, Consumers Lose In Battle Between Blu-Ray, HD DVD," was the headline for a story that's running today on NY1, courtesy of Tech Beat reporter Adam Balkin. Yesterday, Balkin came to my office and interviewed me on camera. He must have got about a dozen sound bites. The one he went with happens to sum up my opinion of the current status of the war pretty well:
"The problem right now is that you're almost going to have to pick your format by the studios you like," I said. "The impact may ultimately be that people just don't buy any of the next-gen players. 'Shrek' is going to look pretty good on DVD, so you just buy the DVD and call it a day."