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In hoping this might be appropriate for this forum, I was curious how things were decided when beta and vhs squared off in the 80's? How was it that VHS emerged? Was it consumer driven, porn, or did the studio's heavy hand decide the market went the VHS route? What signaled the end of the war?


I was only about 8 or 10 years old at the time, but I guarentee you I probably would have gone beta. My dad however was wise (lucky) enough to pick vhs, and I remember thinking he was weird, heh
 

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Sony introduced Betamax with 1 hour recording time. They assumed the primary use for the VCR was to timeshift television programming. JVC introduced VHS with 2 hour recording time, so that people could record movies and timeshift TV programming. Betamax had somewhat better image quality, but people preferred the ability to record movies to having a somewhat better looking image. In addition, Betamax was a bit higher priced than VHS and if I recall correctly, Betamax licensing fees were a bit higher than those for VHS. It took Sony more than a year to match the 2 hour recording feature. By then VHS had a significant hardware lead in the market which they never relinquished. The hardware lead gave VHS an advantage with the studios for prerecorded tapes, which further hurt sales of Betamax vcrs. In the end, JVC simply understood the consumer better and had better pricing and better licensing arrangements...in other words, JVC outmarketed Sony in consumer vcrs.


Don't feel too sorry for Sony though. Betamax lasted about 15 years and Sony absolutely dominated the professional video market with their Betacam format and made a TON of money there (profit margins are much higher in professional markets).
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stewed /forum/post/0


In hoping this might be appropriate for this forum, I was curious how things were decided when beta and vhs squared off in the 80's? How was it that VHS emerged? Was it consumer driven, porn, or did the studio's heavy hand decide the market went the VHS route? What signaled the end of the war?


I was only about 8 or 10 years old at the time, but I guarentee you I probably would have gone beta. My dad however was wise (lucky) enough to pick vhs, and I remember thinking he was weird, heh

Some background and links here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Videotape_format_war


I still have a big box of beta tapes, but no working player.


-Bill
 

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An aspect of that war that no one seems to remember is that blank videotape cassettes were $25 in the early days. At that price point, the difference in 3 hours of recording time and 6 hours of recording time represented a significant financial investment. In addition, VHS recorders were also more price competitive than Beta recorders.


In my memory, the studios were a minor player in that format battle because the home video market didn't exist at the time. (In fact, as Hollywood does with ANY new technology, most of the studios resisted home video because they DIDN'T want the public owning copies of their films. They were in the exhibition business and actually campaigned against home video at the beginning.)


The big question was whether or not viewers would pay to own movies AT ALL, when they could see them free on TV. (Because the prerecorded video industry was in its gestation period, the issues of edited and unedited, various versions, etc. weren't even in play. The idea of collecting movies was ridiculous to the majority. Movies were something you saw first- or second-run and then forgot about until they showed up on "NBC's Saturday Night at the Movies" or the "ABC Sunday Night Movie".)


This was where porn played its role. It provided a credible reason (beyond time-shifting, which was the earliest motivator for home video) to buy into ANY home video format. Why sneak out in a raincoat when you could masturbate in the comfortable privacy of your own home? Copulation secured the future of home video.


The world is QUITE different these days so, to my mind, the connections between the HD DVD/BD conflict and VHS vs. Beta aren't as analogous as some seem to think. Nonetheless, what may be pertinent from the VHS/Beta conflict is that from its beginnings, the home video market has been very price sensitive (duh, big surprise there), so a strategy of premium product at a premium price may not be the right answer.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by boblinds /forum/post/0


An aspect of that war that no one seems to remember is that blank videotape cassettes were $25 in the early days. At that price point, the difference in 3 hours of recording time and 6 hours of recording time represented a significant financial investment.


In my memory, the studios were a minor player in that format battle because the home video market didn't exist at the time. (In fact, as Hollywood does with ANY new technology, most of the studios resisted home video because they DIDN'T want the public owning copies of their films.) The big question was whether or not viewers would pay to own movies AT ALL, when they could see them free on TV. (Because the prerecorded video industry was in its gestation period, the issues of edited and unedited, various versions, etc. weren't even in play.)


This was where porn played its role. It provided a credible reason (beyond time-shifting, which was the earliest motivator for home video) to buy into ANY home video format. Why sneak out in a raincoat when you could masturbate in the comfortable privacy of your own home?


The world is QUITE different these days so, to my mind, the connections between the HD DVD/BD conflict and VHS vs. Beta aren't as analogous as some seem to think.

When I mentioned the studios, I wasn't talking about consumer purchase. I was referring to the rental market. The fact that many movies weren't available for rental in Beta definitely hurt sales of Betamax vcrs.
 

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Our number one concern at the time was the lack of a 2 hour recording mode for beta. And by the time I personally bought one, it was already too late for beta.


As for image quality, they both sucked but weren't bad for the time. I don't recall beta looking significantly better in actual usage with lower end equipment (which was the stuff in our price range).
 

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As I recall, the rental market actually emerged after the VHS vs. Beta war had been well underway; which is one of the reasons that Beta tapes were seldom available for rental. VHS already dominated the consumer market so rental stores went with the highest demand format.
 

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It sounded like the porn industry did NOT decided the first format war ...it was all about the pricing and the fact you can record twice more with vhs than betamax. At that time, both media were expensive and this was very important. Its quite funny how myths become the bible truth if you repeated enough.
 

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Well you look at the current war and think... Well Toshiba is beating Sony in the price point and either side has a recording feature nor do I think it would be a big deal anyways since the average person has a Tivo anyways.


If people are smart the cheaper format should win. Who would want to spend $1,000 when they could get it for $500?


I don't think this is much at all like the beta/vhs war other than the fact that Sony has not learned a lot and will fail once again!
 

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Quote:
It sounded like the porn industry did NOT decided the first format war ...it was all about the pricing and the fact you can record twice more with vhs than betamax. At that time, both media were expensive and this was very important. Its quite funny how myths become the bible truth if you repeated enough.

You can call them myths all you want, but they porn industry did help sway the VHS victory.


As much as people want a black and white view of the market, honestly it's just not that simple. The porn industry WAS a factor, just like price, quality etc.


I'm sorry, but your post seems like you are downplaying the odds in our favor. You cannot draw a black and white comparison of VHS=longer=win and Blu-Ray=Longer=win.


It's going to come down to MANY factors. Price, Quality, Support (porn industry and others), Luck, and a lot of others.


I don't care who wins, I'm not supporting a specific side, however let's be honest here. Porn did impact the VHS win, wether it will impact HD-DVD is yet to be seen.
 

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I don't believe the porn industry DECIDED the VHS/beta format war.


However, I do believe it influenced it significantly. The ability to have access to adult films in one's own home was a very powerful thing, when there was no real option for it before.


In the context of the HD DVD/Blu-ray war, I don't think it's the same thing, as there are already many ways to get porn video into one's home. Nonetheless, if the porn support on the HD formats is very one-sided, then it could most definitely influence the war.
 

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Porn was very important ot VHS success indeed. I remember talking to sales people at the time and they got a sense that many of the people rushing in and buying $1000 VHS decks were doing so to avoid the need to go to an adult theatre and the potential embarassment of getting caught.


Beta as some have mentioned here, had a length problem as well. It couldn't hold a Feature Length Film on 1 tape with the quality needed. I remember seeing some movies split across two Beta tapes.


Neither HD DVD or Blu-ray have a problem with holding a full film. Many have made storage out to be more than it really is. 200GB mean absolutely nothing to movie distribution IMO.


Sony learned back then that they needed content and it didn't take them too long to buy Columbia ensuring that they had movie and music content for whatever proprietary formats they wished to push in the future.
 

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Sony bought Columbia Pictures from Coke in 1989 . I am not sure that I would call that "quickly".
The format war was mostly decided by the early 80's, but Beta did not drop from the consumer market until the mid-90s.


One other major factor in VHS's favor vs. Beta was that JVC licensed VHS far and wide early, where Sony took a more proprietary approach with Beta. The licensure of VHS widely ended up making JVC quite a bit more money that it would have made had the format stayed proprietary.


Bill
 

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Come on ...price was the main reason why VHS won in the first place ...porn was an afterthought. The porn industry followed the most economical distribution method ...after consumers already decided themselves. Who in the right mind would pay more for half the content IE recording tv shows?
 

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Originally Posted by SyHD /forum/post/0


Come on ...price was the main reason why VHS won in the first place ...porn was an afterthought. The porn industry followed the most economical distribution method ...after consumers already decided themselves. Who in the right mind would pay more for half the content IE recording tv shows?

ie. It wasn't just price. It was price and technology implementation.


IIRC, there was nothing stopping beta from having 2 hours, except Sony's arbitrary decision to refuse to allow it initially.
 

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Originally Posted by BuGsArEtAsTy /forum/post/0


ie. It wasn't just price. It was price and technology implementation.


IIRC, there was nothing stopping beta from having 2 hours, except Sony's arbitrary decision to refuse to allow it initially.

Sony didn't refuse to allow it. Sony introduced Betamax before VHS was introduced, and didn't think 2 hour recording was necessary, and hadn't figured out how to do it yet.
 

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Originally Posted by fa8362 /forum/post/0


Sony didn't refuse to allow it. Sony introduced Betamax before VHS was introduced, and didn't think 2 hour recording was necessary, and hadn't figured out how to do it yet.

OK, I guess it is a matter of interpretation between you and me then.


I just checked Wikipedia and they claim that RCA had discussed with Sony the possibility of a 4-hour betamax player, and while 4 hours was not possible, 2 hours may have been. Nonetheless Sony said no to 2 hours.


Furthermore, Sony knew full well of VHS's development before they released beta.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by BuGsArEtAsTy /forum/post/0


OK, I guess it is a matter of interpretation between you and me then.


I just checked Wikipedia and they claim that RCA had discussed with Sony the possibility of a 4-hour betamax player, and while 4 hours was not possible, 2 hours may have been. Nonetheless Sony said no to 2 hours.


Furthermore, Sony knew full well of VHS's development before they released beta.

At the end of the day (and still during mono Beta, prior to stereo Beta), they have L830 which is approximately 3.5 hours of playback at the highest quality.
 

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You can go into a whole lot of "if, ands or buts" but the deciding factor was the number of different titles on VHS vs. Beta. I started out with a Beta machine and the number of titles was about 1:1. After about a year or so, I noticed the rental stores started having more titles in VHS. After another year I bought a VHS deck and never looked back and neither did the rental industry.


It's all about the content...


b2b
 
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