How Did DVDs Steal The Spotlight From VHS?

Posted by Chloe Christine Allerton on

In the late 90s and early 2000s, an upgrade hit the streets and kicked VHS to the curb. It was shinier, newer and more compact; it was the DVD, also known as the digital versatile disc. 

For an almighty 20 years, VHS tapes were the most beloved form of entertainment. They recorded home movies and family footage and came pre-recorded with all the latest Hollywood releases. How is it that such a popular and admired format became so outmoded? 

When did the DVD take over occur? 

DVDs were created and developed in 1995, yet they were not the first version in the 1960s optical recording technology was utilised, known as LaserDisc. LaserDisc was closely followed by CDs in the 80s and then compact discs in the 90s. These new forms of entertainment were supported by several companies such as Toshiba, Time Warner, Hitachi, Mitsubishi Electric, Phillips and Sony.  

In August 1995, a format war broke out between VHS and Betamax, an ad-hoc group known as the Technical Working Group. It was formed from five computer companies IBM, Apple, Compaq, Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft. They were unable to conclude upon a single assembled standard. The TWG threatened to exclude both compact discs and SD unless a decision was made. Phillips and sony permanently ended the format war when they decided to incorporate technologies from all, resulting in the standardised DVD. 

DVDs were exalted for their higher video and sound quality, exceptional lifespan and interactive capabilities; naturally, home entertainment distributors embraced the change expeditiously. DVD players exceedingly dropped in price, making them more accessible than ever before. In the blink of an eye, DVDs were number one, and the rental model was replaced for the purchasing model, all in the same stretch. 

Following the release of DVDs, two of the leading video game consoles pledged to create a gaming console with DVDs as the source medium. Playstation and Xbox both grasped the opportunity and quickly distributed their consoles with DVDs as their source medium for games and other software. 

In the mid-2000s, many retail chains declared they would cease to sell VHS equipment, the last known company to manufacture VHS apparatus was Funai, Japan. Sadly, they discontinued production in 2016 due to falling sales and a shortage of components. 

Why are DVDs more popular than VHS tapes?

There are a variety of advantages to DVDs that saw them rise to fame over VHS: 

  • Better picture and sound quality
  • Abilities to skip and restart a film 
  • Interactive Menu’s 
  • Additional footage (outtake and directors commentary) 
  • It can be played on various devices 
  • Longevity 
  • Slim and compact 

DVDs were simply superior to VHS in every way. The only known positive to VHS tapes over DVDs was their ability to skip through advertisements; for instance, film trailers, some DVD releases do not allow this. Yet, despite this, when compared to the many other advantages that DVDs hold over VHS, there really is no competition. 

Today, DVDs face competition from the likes of Blu-ray technology; however, this format is not as straightforward. Blu-ray discs are costly, and most consumers are satisfied with what they have, so what’s the purpose of switching? 

Last Updated: September 2021

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