Blu-ray's new threat: CBHD--based on HD DVD

HD DVD might win the format war against Blu-ray. No, this is not a repeat from 2006.

Matt Hickey
With more than 15 years experience testing hardware (and being obsessed with it), Crave freelance writer Matt Hickey can tell the good gadgets from the great. He also has a keen eye for future technology trends. Matt has blogged for publications including TechCrunch, CrunchGear, and most recently, Gizmodo. Matt is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CBS Interactive. E-mail Matt.
Matt Hickey
2 min read

Now that Blu-ray has won the format war with HD DVD we can all relax and buy Blu-ray players and not have to worry about what physical format our disks are, right?

Maybe not. Besides outside pressure from the combination of high-speed broadband and HD streaming media, a new challenger has risen to seriously challenge Blu-ray's superiority. And it's based heavily on its oldest rival: HD DVD.

Meet China Blue Hi-definition Disk (CBHD), a new HD video disk format based heavily on Toshiba's HD DVD format. Toshiba has licensed its technology to the CBHD group for use in China. The format now has the official backing of the Chinese government and some analysts think it could be the global per-unit HD leader in as little as twelve months. It's already outselling Blu-ray in China.

That's because compatible players are selling at three times the rate of Blu-ray players. In addition, the disks are cheaper to make than Blu-ray disks.

It would be easy to assume that the new format would be a China-only issue, but as English is the second most-spoken language in Asia, and China can be bullish about exporting its tech, you could see as many Western movies in English show up on CBHD as you do on Blu-ray. That means the possibility of an export grey market, one thing Blu-ray doesn't need right now.

So far it appears as if the only major U.S. studios on board with CBHD so far is Warner, but given the size of the Chinese audience and its appetite for Hollywood movies (any street corner in Shanghai will net dozens of pirate copies of U.S. blockbusters) it would be foolish for the other studios to ignore the format for long.

Together with streaming HD, this could be a one-two punch against Blu-ray that may turn into a knockout. The smug backers of the Blu-ray format need to take these threats seriously. The format can't be selling as well as Sony and its friends had wanted, so combined with the alternatives, it's clear something needs to change.