Death of the VHS

On the brink of a new civil war of video formats, we take this moment of silence to recognize the death of the Video Home System. We knew him fondly as VHS, but as it lived a long and full life, it is now officially over.

Variety offers:

After a long illness, the groundbreaking home-entertainment format VHS has died of natural causes in the United States. The format was 30 years old.

No services are planned.

The format had been expected to survive until January, but high-def formats and next-generation vidgame consoles hastened its final decline.

“It’s pretty much over,” concurred Buena Vista Home Entertainment general manager North America Lori MacPherson on Tuesday.

VHS is survived by a child, DVD, and by Tivo, VOD and DirecTV. It was preceded in death by Betamax, Divx, mini-discs and laserdiscs.

Although it had been ailing, the format’s death became official in this, the video biz’s all-important fourth quarter. Retailers decided to pull the plug, saying there was no longer shelf space.

The VHS had shown very little signs of life before giving in. Many thought it was dead already, but today its official. And like an aging Rocky Balboa, he will always be remembered as a champion for rising above and against unsurmountable odds as the victor of the Format War. We will never see a Format War quite like it. Many claim we are on the brink of a new format war, but I disagree. Its a Civil War of Video Formats.

The reason I call this a Civil War of Video Formats, as opposed to the iconic “Format War” is that this new conflict, unlike its predacessor, is truely a polarized war. Back when VHS and Betamax were going toe to toe, there were video stores that rented movies on both formats.

As my memory recalls it, you would walk into the National Video (the chain closest to my childhood home) and choose a movie from the shelves. The store was separated into two sides. VHS on the left, and Beta on the right. Down the middle was the employees’ register desk and heaps of candy and popcorn you had to pop on the stove.

As history will reveal, the superior quality and compact format of the Betamax tapes were eventually trampled by the low cost to produce and cheaper players that VHS produced. VHS ruled the 80s and 90s. Some competitors like Laserdisk challenged the throne, but VHS still rose above.

Now with this new dispute of Formats, we have complete studios offering their movies on only one format or the other. Unlike the gentlemanly war that VHS fought against Beta where all movies were offered fairly on both formats, this new civil war polarizes and forces the movie viewers to choose sides. No matter what player you choose to take a second mortgage out on, you will inevitably be left out of the loop when your new favourite title releases on a different format.

This is war. Bloody and raw. The only loser? The movie viewing public.

Comment with Facebook