Sony Denies Preventing Adult Content On Blu-Ray

Technology analyst is also critical of any similarities to the VHS v. Betamax argument.

Antone Gonsalves, Contributor

January 23, 2007

3 Min Read

Sony on Tuesday denied claims that it was preventing the porn industry from using the Blu-ray high-definition format developed by the consumer electronics giant.

Media reports have quoted adult-film directors and producers accusing Sony of pressuring others not to manufacture Blu-ray discs with adult content or share technology with the porn industry. The result, according to reports, has been a migration by adult filmmakers toward HD DVD, a competing format.

Sony dismissed the claims saying it has no control over the licensing of Blu-ray, and has no problem with the adult industry using the format. "There's no prohibition against adult content," Lisa Gephardt, a spokeswoman for Sony Corp. of America, said. "We don't tell people how they can use the licenses they get from the Blu-ray Disc Association."

Indeed, the BDA, which handles all licensing for Blu-ray technology, said in a statement that the group is "an open organization that welcomes the participation of all companies interested in using and supporting the format, including those that represent the full spectrum of genres in the content industry."

The adult industry is seen as a major driver behind the use of technology in the entertainment industry. Hollywood studios, for example, have adopted innovations in Internet video developed by adult filmmakers. Some experts believe that if the adult industry chooses HD DVD over Blu-ray, then the former would get a major boost over its rival in the market. They argue that the porn industry's adoption of VHS in the VCR era helped that format win over Sony-created Betamax.

Other analysts, however, do not agree. "VHS taking off had nothing to do with porn," Jon Peddie of Jon Peddie Research, said. "It was one fourth or one half the price of Betamax. Porn did not propel VHS. No one can prove that."

Sony's troubles with the adult industry apparently stems from its longstanding policy not to manufacture DVDs or videocassettes with adult content. Sony is one of several companies in the United States that replicates media for entertainment companies. "Sony disc manufacturing will not manufacture adult titles," Gephardt said. "We have never done it, and we have no plans to." The policy, however, is Sony's, and has no impact on any other company, the spokeswoman said.

The use of high-definition formats in adult content, along with other movie genres and TV programming, remains at the early stages. Within the adult industry, producers have found that high-definition pictures are so clear and detailed that it actually hurts, rather than enhances, the movies. Skin moles, facial wrinkles and other imperfections are more readily seen on the porn stars.

There's also the higher cost of a high-definition DVD. "I don't expect it to take off," Peddie said. "It's too expensive." That could change once high-definition content becomes mainstream, but that is expected to take a few years.

In the meantime, many Hollywood and consumer electronics manufacturers are taking sides in support of either Blu-ray or HD DVD. Goldwyn-Mayer, 20th Century Fox, Walt Disney Pictures, and creator Sony are exclusively releasing DVDs in Blu-ray, while Universal Studios is distributing only in HD DVD. Among player manufacturers, Sony, Hitachi and Philips favor Blu-ray, while Toshiba and NEC support HD DVD.

Warner and Paramount Pictures are the only two major studios that are releasing movies in both formats.

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