On the heels of the annual Consumer Electronics Show, the New York Times had a good read this morning about the fuzzy future of Blu-Ray. It kind of made me chuckle because The Times, much like most mainstream news outlets, didn’t touch the one element of this story that really shouldn’t be ignored.
As you may know, the Adult Entertainment Expo kicks off in Vegas while the CES crowd is still around. That’s no coincidence. Think for one moment about the link between cutting-edge video technology and the adult industry. Going back to the days of reel-to-reel stag films in my grandfather’s day, adult films have long been at the forefront of the next video technology. A couple of years ago, when the battle between Blu-Ray and HD-DVD was still heating up, I asked one of the show’s organizers about the direction that his industry might take and was kind of surprised by the answer.
Aside from the chuckles we had about the crisp, clear quality of a high-def picture and the physical flaws of some of the on-screen talent, this guy said that the industry itself would probably put out some titles in Blu-Ray or HD-DVD but that he wouldn’t be surprised to see the adult industry skip the HD war altogether and focus more on the next wave - video that could streamed or downloaded directly to a PC or TV. Fast-forward to today and that’s basically what The Times story is saying about the mainstream:
Blu-ray’s backers, including Sony and the Walt Disney Company, face a growing chorus of skeptics that says the window for a high-definition disc format may be closing fast. One reason is that discs of all kinds may become obsolete as a new wave of digital media services starts to flow into the living room. On Monday, for example, the Korean television maker LG Electronics plans to announce a new line of high-definition televisions that connect directly to the Internet with no set-top box required. The televisions will be able to play movies and television shows from online video-on-demand services, including Netflix.
“The Blu-ray format is in jeopardy simply because the advent of downloadable HD movies is so close,” said Roger L. Kay, president of Endpoint Technologies Associates. a research and consulting company. “Streaming video from the Internet and other means of direct digital delivery are going to put optical formats out of business entirely over the next few years.”
Thanks to sites like YouTube, the concept of watching a streaming video over the Internet has already hit the mainstream. That, in turn, has sparked some adult-oriented copycats (except with revenue models.) Now, just as the idea of delivering Web-based video content directly to the living room TV starts to grow in the mainstream, so does the presence of the adult industry in those same business models. Vudu, which leads the industry in offering HD titles via its service, also has a discreet AVN (Adult Video Network) channel. The company says it has hundreds of titles from leading adult studios available and, for some titles, a high-def offering. It has also built-in discreet billing, password-protected privacy controls and competitive pricing to rent or own.
Getting back to the point, it seems that, once again, the adult industry is at the forefront of cutting-edge video technology and sets the stage for what’s ahead in 2009 in the mainstream. Oh sure, Blu-Ray backers will continue to advocate for their technology at CES this week. But, a stone’s throw-away at the other convention, folks there have already moved on to the next phase. The mainstream would be wise to do the same.