China: Self-made Disc War Could be Brief

Another video-disc format battle appears to be shaping up inside the world's most populated nation.
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For Blu-ray proponents, this is going seem like déjà vu all over again. All over again.

The battle between the victorious Blu-ray Disc format and once-rival HD DVD may be long settled elsewhere in the world, but another video-disc format battle appears to be shaping up inside the world's most populated nation. And once again Blu-ray is among the two contenders.

Two Chinese companies—Shinco and TCL Corp.—are releasing disc players suited for the country's own format, the China Blue-High Definition (CBHD) scheme (which, ironically, is based very closely on HD DVD).

CBHD is being backed by the China High-definition DVD Industry Association and the DVD Forum. But Blu-ray proponents were the first to get hardware and titles into the Chinese market when Sony Pictures released some of its movies and Blu-ray players titles last fall. However, Warner Brothers said last month it would release its titles in HD DVD—in effect, siding with the country's unique CBHD format and thus giving CBHD backers a temporary leg up on the competition, according to several Asian-based Web sites.

Also, if price makes a difference in a nation of 1.3 billion people, CBHD packaged content will be only a half or a third the initial price points of Blu-ray. While Blu-ray titles from Sony and others in China are expected to cost about the same as in North America, Chinese-made CBHD discs likely are to be no more than $10. CBHD players, on the other hand, will initially run in the $250–$300 range.

Without the direct (or indirect) backing of the Chinese government, it's hard to see how Blu-ray can win in a communist nation that houses nearly one-fifth of the world's population. So while Blu-ray may have won over much of the free world, it's unlikely to win the day in China anytime soon.