Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Length Does Matter

I have long known about the Betamax and VHS war. My father at one point owned 3 Beta machines, actually he may still. He had so many because one could play but not rewind, so he had one that didn't really work but could still be used to rewind the tapes, and I don't know why he had the third. The fact that VHS won in the big VCR battle in the late 1970's and early 1980's has always been a mystery. I have often heard people say Beta was a superior system but then could never figured out why VHS became the standard. This format war is a classic marketing study and there are a number of theories behind its outcome. Firstly, the Betamax, by Sony, did have better quality video with a higher resolution. Also Beta was the first VCR realsed system to be successful with consumers. It was shortly followed by JVC's format for home recording, the VHS. While the VHS had lower quality video, it had longer recording times. It is commonly agreed that this is how VHS won the war, that early Beta could only record for 1 hour but VCR came out at a recording time of 2 hours and continually offered twice the length as both the systems improved. Beta refused to sacrifice their picture quality to create longer recording times. Betamax eventually achieved 5 hours but by then VHS had 10.6 hour tapes. Good marketing campaigns, a slightly cheaper price tag, and the ease at which the public was able to rent VHS machines are also attiputed factors to JVC's win. This all sounds familar, and a little boring, I am sure I have heard it before.

But then I heard about the porn....

Recently another theory was explained to me, that the porn industry is what determined the outcome of this battle. It was said that pornography played a huge part in this and ultimately decided the winner. Porn was not available on Betamax but it became readily available on VHS. It has been incorrectly stated that Betamax lost to VHS because Sony refused to license porn and that Sony pressured others not to manufacture Beta tapes with adult content or share technology with the porn industry. This is untrue. While Sony does have troubles with the adult industry and apparently has a longstanding policy not to manufacture anything with adult content, they have no control over the licensing or other companies who use the format. Porn did play a part in this though. Sony thought that the consumers of a VCR would be using the system to record TV shows, so they focused on the 1 hour recording length. The market actually desired prerecorded movies more, so JVC was in a better position with its longer recording times. Prerecorded movies at this time were predominately pornographic. Bottom line: People wanted porn. JVC's VCR wins.

3 comments:

Hezabelle said...

Will porn back dvd or blue ray? HIGH DEF PORN!

Anonymous said...

Well now I know...and knowing is half the battle.

ERin

Erin said...

"Just talk about porn...just talk about porn!"