April 30, 2009 Chinese electronics manufacturers TCL and Shinco have launched the first generation of players for China’s own newly developed high-definition video format, China Blue High Definition, which is set to rival the existing Blu-ray disc (BD) technology and galvanize the local market.

China Blue High Definition – shortened to CBHD – is the name of a next-generation optical disc format, based on Toshiba’s HD DVD format and backed by the China High-definition DVD Industry Association (CHDA), as well as the Optical Memory National Engineering Research Center and DVD Forum. The CHDA includes some of the world’s leading consumer electronics, information technology and media manufacturing companies.

China has developed the format primarily as an alternative to BD. While CBHD and BD have features in common – both use a blue-violet laser to read 12cm high-capacity optical discs – the main difference is centred on price. In China, CBHD players are expected to retail for up to 40 percent less than the cost of BD players.

The reason CBHD players are cheaper is because China owns the intellectual property and doesn’t have to fork out for patent royalties. According to the CHDA: “(The) CBHD disc can be compatible with the DVD disc in physical format so that they can share production lines. It is well known that China is the country with the largest yield of DVD discs. Chinese manufacturers produce around ten billion DVD optical discs every year, which is about 30 percent of global yield.”

This, says the CHDA, has resulted in a shorter development period, which has saved costs.

CBHD discs also have a lower disc capacity at 30GB (dual-sided), compared to 50GB of data for BD. CBHD is protected by the same AACS copy protection schemes as BD, but a new Chinese protection system is planned to be developed in China independently.

The greater similarity of CBHD discs with dual-layer DVD makes it easier for existing DVD manufacturers to produce CBHD titles. The CHDA is confident the format will receive strong support from content providers with several of them members or founders of the Chinese industry group.

Warner Bros has already announced it will release 100 CBHD titles in China this year, with titles such as the Harry Potter series, The Golden Compass and Speed Racer selling for between USD$7.25 and USD$10.15 (50-70 Yuan).

China’s Record Company (CRC) in Shanghai has also completed the first production line for 30GB CBHD discs. Japanese Memory-Tech Corp, which developed the CBHD system, and CRC have established a government-controlled music and video company and a post-production company for compiling and authoring CBHD Discs in China.

The Chinese Government is supporting CBHD and helping to fund some manufacturers to accelerate the manufacture, distribution and adoption of the format.

According to estimates, some 27 million Chinese households are anticipated to own HD TVs in 2009, 47 million by next year and 72 million in 2011, which creates a sizeable market for CBHD players.

The first CBHD players will start from about 2,000 yuan (about USD$293), significantly cheaper than BD players.

Li Dongsheng, chairman and president of TCL, believes the company can sell 10 million CBHD players this year.

Paul Best

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