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Is Blu-ray Recording Stillborn?

Now that BD-Live functionality appears to be virtually a basic feature in a majority of the 2009 Blu-ray Disc players planned for 2009, the obvious next question is when will we see Blu-ray Disc recorders? Don’t hold your breath.

Sure, we’ve seen variations on the theme in Blu-ray writing drives for PCs and in Sony’s high-end server introduced more than a year ago, but why do basic Blu-ray Disc home recording decks continue to be absent from potentially the largest market in the world?

The answer you may have already guessed has been repeated to us over and over like a broken record through the last decade – the content industry.

Still fretting about the next Napster, studios have used a variety of ingenious tactics to keep CE makers from bringing Blu-ray Disc recording decks to these shores, even as they displace Blu-ray player-only products in Japan.

Understandably, the studios want to replicate with high definition the success they enjoyed with DVD, and that format launched with a player-only model before the first DVD recorders followed several years down the line, to a much cooler reception.

But how will the presence of Blu-ray Disc recording decks be received? Will people suddenly subscribe to HBOHD, StarzHD and ShowtimeHD to make copies? Or worse, will they start ordering video-on-demand to burn Blu-ray Discs? Is that so bad?

Even after DVD recording decks became available at bargain basement prices, the DVD market continues to flourish, and studios have discovered a huge business in selling popular television series on disc in standard definition 480p. The shows could have been easily recorded for free when they were first broadcast.

Yet the studios have effectively forced the removal of any recordable digital interface from our HDTV sets and satellite TV boxes with the argument that high-definition is going to change everything.

As if chipping away at the Betamax home recording rights case through the Digital Millennium Copy Right Act isn’t enough, some studio lobbyists are now trying to force the FCC to rethink its position on selectable output control — and give the studios the ability to decide if you should even be allowed to continue viewing programs in HD on legacy HDTVs equipped with only unprotected analog inputs, such as component video.

And they continue to exert their copy restrictive influence on the development of tru2way bi-directional cable box standards, as indicated by Reid Sullivan, Samsung audio/video products marketing VP, who told TWICE: “We have the capability to bring a BD recorder into the U.S, but need to carefully assess the opportunity considering the amount of content available to record, the size of the market for archiving personal HD content, and how tru2way development progresses.”

In the end the studios may have already won the war against Blu-ray recorders. By dragging the process out, DVRs, which offer no practical method for creating archival copies, seem to have replaced the need for an optical disc-based recording format. Andy Parsons, Pioneer Electronics strategic product development senior VP, said “We had high hopes for the category when DVD recorders first entered the market about eight years ago, but we found that integrated DVRs seemed to resonate more.”