CES - HD DVD gets boost from adult film industry

HD DVD is taking an early lead over Blu-ray Disc in the battle to replace DVDs due in part to early backing by the adult film industry

Early support from the adult film industry may be helping HD DVD to take an early lead over Blu-ray Disc in the battle to become the next-generation DVD format.

Wicked Pictures, one of the leading names in adult films, released the first HD DVD adult video at a trade show this week in Las Vegas. Digital Playground plans to release its first HD DVD adult film on Jan. 18, and several others say they'll follow suit later in the year.

It may not seem like a big deal. But, like it or not, the adult industry has long been a first mover in using new technologies, and urban legend says the industry played a huge role in making VHS the winner in the video cassette fight with Betamax years ago.

"If Blu-ray isn't adopted by the adult industry, then HD DVD will win out," said Jake Richter, an analyst at Jon Peddie Research.

There are several reasons the adult industry is turning to HD DVD instead of Blu-ray Disc, including primarily the lower production costs and better technology support, adult companies say.

"It's a lot less expensive to use HD DVD," said Jackie Ramos, vice president of DVD production at Wicked Pictures, at the Adult Entertainment Expo in Las Vegas, which runs parallel with the International Consumer Electronics Show.

Wicked faced a huge hurdle because neither the HD DVD nor Blu-ray Disc camps seemed willing to help the adult industry mass-produce their films on high-definition discs, Ramos said. But some members of the HD DVD camp -- whom Ramos declined to name -- finally lent a hand.

"Suddenly we got help, and boom, we were able to move forward and do it," he said.

Blu-ray never offered such help. Wicked had no access to the "stampers" it needed to reproduce its films in bulk, Ramos said. Still, Wicked has not ruled out Blu-ray Disc and hopes to work with the format some time in the future.

Another concern raised about Blu-ray was its installed user base. Part of the reason ClubJenna plans to release its first high-definition title on HD DVD is due to concerns that the rival format isn't aimed at its target audience, according to Jay Grdina, the company's president. The PlayStation 3 appears to be a central part of the plan to increase the number of Blu-ray Disc players in use, but game consoles target a younger audience than ClubJenna would like, he said.

ClubJenna plans to release its first HD DVD title in March, and aims to put out a total of 10 this year.

Richter says the HD DVD name will ultimately help it win the format war because it's an easier connection for consumers. "If you buy an 'HD TV,' the natural choice is to buy an 'HD DVD' player to go with it," he said. "Are there any 'Blu-ray TVs'? No."

He said there is truth to the legend that the adult industry helped decide the battle between Betamax and VHS, and that the comparison appears to fit the current situation. As in the current fight, it was harder for adult film makers to get technical help from Betamax.

But Wicked's Ramos demurred on the VHS/Betamax question. "I don't think the adult industry decided that. It was one factor, but not the factor," he said.

He had his own prediction on who will ultimately decide the winner between HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc.

"It will probably be Wal-Mart," he said.

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