Now that Blu-ray has won the format war with HD DVD, we can all relax and buy Blu-ray players and not have to worry about what physical format our discs are, right? Maybe not. A new challenger, based heavily on HD DVD, has emerged: China Blue High-definition Disk (CBHD).
Toshiba has licensed its HD DVD technology to the CBHD group for use in China. The format now has the official backing of the Chinese government and some analysts think it could be the global per-unit HD leader in as little as 12 months. It's already outselling Blu-ray in China. That's because compatible players are selling at three times the rate of Blu-ray players. In addition, the discs are cheaper to make than Blu-ray discs.
It'd be easy to assume that the new format would be a China-only issue, but, as English is the second most-spoken language in Asia, and China can be bullish about exporting its tech, you could see as many Western movies in English show up on CBHD as on Blu-ray. That means the possibility of an export grey market -- one thing Blu-ray doesn't need at the moment.
So far it appears the only major US studio on board with CBHD is Warner, but, given the size of the Chinese audience and its appetite for Hollywood movies, it would be foolish for the other studios to ignore the format for long.
Together with streaming HD, this could be a one-two punch against Blu-ray that may turn into a knockout. The smug backers of the Blu-ray format need to take these threats seriously.