Flashback 2008: Toshiba Gives Up HD DVD

Ten years ago this week, a protracted format war between the Sony’s Blu-ray format and the Toshiba-backed HD DVD format, each vying to be the anointed successor to DVD, was averted when Toshiba announced that it would stop making HD DVD players, even though close to a million players had been sold and more than 400 HD DVD titles had been released in the U.S.

The decision to pull the plug came 22 months after Toshiba launched the first HD DVD player in April of 2006, beating Blu-ray to the punch by two months (Sony released the first Blu-ray player in June 2006).

Toshiba’s official press release, issued on February 19, 2008, read in part:

Toshiba Corporation today announced that it has undertaken a thorough review of its overall strategy for HD DVD and has decided it will no longer develop, manufacture and market HD DVD players and recorders. This decision has been made following recent major changes in the market....

[Editor’s note: By this time Sony had broad support, while Toshiba was supported primarily by Microsoft on the hardware side and Universal, Paramount, and DreamWorks Animation on the studio side. Warner, which had been supporting both formats, withdrew its support from HD DVD a month earlier and Netflix and Best Buy followed soon thereafter.]

"We carefully assessed the long-term impact of continuing the so-called 'next-generation format war' and concluded that a swift decision will best help the market develop," said Atsutoshi Nishida, President and CEO of Toshiba Corporation….

Toshiba will begin to reduce shipments of HD DVD players and recorders to retail channels, aiming for cessation of these businesses by the end of March 2008….

Little more than a month before Toshiba’s announcement, Home Theater’s Shane Buettner, an avowed fan of HD DVD, posed a question he already knew the answer to (emphasis added):

Since Warner dropped its bomb on the format war on January 4th, the clock has been ticking on Universal and Paramount, the remaining HD DVD exclusive studios. When are they going to give up the ghost and go Blu?

Reports flew fast and furious over the next week that Paramount had an "out clause" in its contract with HD DVD, and that Universal's own pact with HD DVD was at a close, not to be renewed again. But what have we actually heard from either studio? …. No new title announcements, nothing significant that could possibly constitute a significant vote of confidence for the embattled format let alone a boost….

Toshiba recently announced a "new marketing strategy," which seems eerily similar to the old one but with even deeper discounts.... Is this about fighting back and gaining market share, or is it about dumping remaining inventory? ….

The perception here and elsewhere is that the war is over, and all that is left is for these two studios to make it official…. HD DVD fought the good fight and fought it extraordinarily well for longer than anyone thought possible.

drny's picture

I no longer use my 11 plus year old Toshiba HD Dvd player to watch HD DVDs (I still have a dozen or so). I do use it in a secondary room for CD's and audio DVD.
I purchased my First Bluray player within three months of the HD DVD player as the writing was on the wall.
I also purchased all my HD DVD movies on bluray as they were re-released on the winning format.
I'm batting .500 by the way. I got it right with DVD vs. Beta, wrong on HD DVD vs. Bluray.

Puffer Belly's picture

I think you mean VHS vs. Betamax and not DVD vs. Beta.

Ovation123's picture

I bought my first player (an A2 Costco variant) as an inexpensive test of whether hi def discs were going to look noticeably better than DVD on my setup. They did. I bought a second one (A3) in January 2008 as a backup player. Acquired 160 or so titles (of which about 20 have been re-bought as BD), almost all at firesale prices (1-3$/title). I still watch them, though Warner titles are hit and miss (high failure rate). I guess I’ll fully replace the titles I really want when both players die—but I’ve had no problems with them so far.

Of course, I also own two MiniDisc players (one portable, one home deck), so keeping obsolete formats in play is a bit of a hobby. I even dabble with shortwave when I have time.

trynberg's picture

What a shame. I still have an A35 in my rack. At the time, it loaded HD-DVD discs far faster than any BD player and the discs were also less infested with junk at the beginning. Also, navigation still works better than BD to this day. Without the PS3, the battle would have gone the other way I think.