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Monday, August 29, 2005

VHS joins the 8-Track... that great garage sale in the sky.

That's the gist of this Washington Post piece that ran yesterday. In 2003, DVD rentals surpassed those of VHS for the first time. Circuit City and Best Buy have stopped selling them. Fox and Warner Bros. are phasing out new releases on VHS.

Of course, VHS tapes won't disappear overnight... almost 95 million U.S. households still own VCRs. (How many still use them?) But Chaney notes that the upcoming home video release of "Star Wars: Episode III" will eschew VHS for DVD.

My suggested epitaph for the beloved black cassette: "The VHS tape's in the ground, nevermore to kindly be rewound."

Media formats, of course, tend not to stand still as new playback technologies emerge (in audio: wax cylinders, 78s, 33s, 45s, reel-to-reel, 8-tracks, cassettes, CDs, MP3s). Writer Jen Chaney observes smartly, "In the current clash between the developing high-definition DVD formats Blu-ray and HD-DVD, we will still hear the echoes of VHS vs. Beta." At what point will DVDs start vanishing? Will the movie industry ever get comfortable with purely digital distribution - just bits over the network?


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