Sony Execs Hit Like Stunned Mullets After HD DVD Decision

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Senior Sony executives are according to one senior insider acting like “Stunned Mullets” today following the decision by key Blu-ray partner JB HiFi to drop its exclusive support for Blu-ray and start selling the Toshiba backed HD DVD format.

According to the Federal Government web site on Australian colloquialism, to act like a stunned mullet is described as being “Dazed and confused, someone who will wander ‘like a stunned mullet’; in a furious rage, they will be ‘mad as a cut snake’ and in a state of undeniable anger”.

The change of mind by JB HiFi has not only stunned Sony, but the whole CE industry after Scott Browning the Marketing Director decided earlier this year to only support Blu-ray. At the time he was quoted as saying “Consumers don’t give a rat’s arse about products. They are more about buying an experience and Blu-ray delivers that,” he said.

Sony at the time fell at Browning’s feet for the gushing support with just about everyone in Sony using JB HiFi’s decision as a key marketing tool in their battle against the HD DVD format. Today Sony executives were very quiet.

 

Normally they are extremely responsive to media questions, particularly about Blu-ray, however earlier today not one senior Sony executive responded to our calls. Among the executives called were Carl Rose Managing Director of Sony Australia, Michael Ephraim Managing Director of Computer Entertainment and the Managing Director of Sony Pictures (and Chair of the Blu-ray Disc Working Group) Michele Garra, who last week ran a Blu-ray press conference where Sony bragged about its exclusive relationship with JB HiFi. 

SmartHouse did learn that a joint Sony board meeting of all parties is being held today at Sony BMG where the decision by JBHiFi to support HD DVD alongside Blu-ray is expected to be discussed.

Later in the day Jenny Geddes, Corporate Affairs Manager for Sony Australia, issued a comment on behalf of Sony where she said, “Based on recent media reports, we wish to reiterate that JB Hi-Fi is an important business partner of the Sony Group and we have been delighted with the company’s backing of the Blu-ray Disc format since launch”. 

She added, “We will continue to work closely with them and all of our other retail partners, to support and promote the Blu-ray Disc format”.

The decision by JB Hi Fi to support the HD DVD format after openly supporting the Blu-ray format at the recent Blu ray Disc Working Group press conference is a bitter blow for Sony, which last week was telling the media that it and Blu-ray would be the only ones to survive the HD format war between Toshiba the creators.

 

However Browning, who is one of the most experienced CE retail marketing executives in Australia, disagrees. He believes that both formats will survive and that content will be the driving factor. He should know, as JB HiFi is one of the biggest sellers of music and movie content in Australia. 

Said Browning, “The fact that movie houses like Paramount are behind the HD DVD format along with the likes of Universal and DreamWorks is key. I believe that more content providers will get behind the format and that the likes of Microsoft which is a big supporter of the HD DVD format will bring out an Xbox with a built in HD DVD player. This is a given.”

“Toshiba is a great company and next year we look forward to working with them across computing, HD DVD and their LCD TV offerings,” he concluded.

Talking to Appliance Retailer web site Current JB Hi-Fi chief executive officer Richard Uechtritz said today the move was not a back flip but a studied response to changing industry trends.

“You make a decision one day and you change it the next as different information and facts come to life,” he said. “We feel there is a market for high definition and it’s as simple as that.”

Uechtritz said that while Blu-ray was still the market-leading format for DVD players in Australia, HD DVD has taken the lead in Europe and the US.

“In our minds it is somewhat inevitable for the medium term that there will be two formats,” he said. “JB customers will want it and we rather they buy it from JB than elsewhere.”

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