Warren Lieberfarb seems to think the current Blu-ray/HD-DVD format war should never have happened.

In a story from Variety, Lieberfarb "the former president of Warner Home Video, was instrumental in the negotiation of a truce between two rival groups promoting incompatible formats. This, of course, created billions of dollars in disc-sales revenue for the entertainment business and a healthy stream of royalty revenues for his parent company, Time Warner."

He feels that "the right aggressive moves could've prevented Blu-ray and HD-DVD from befuddling consumers when those formats hit store shelves last year with two separate offerings."

However, Lieberfarb first saw Blu-ray picking up steam "in January 2002, at the annual Consumer Electronics Show, when tech concerns Matsushita and Philips joined forces with Sony."

"It was clear to me that a cartellike consortium was being created for the purpose of forcing a de facto standard on other manufacturers," Lieberfarb states.

Lieberfarb wanted the companies working on next generation DVDs to "continue collaborating on standards within the DVD Forum, a group that had been created in 1995 to foster discussions among studios and electronics makers."

He cited concerns with "Sony, Matsushita and Philips" and "he asked Time Warner's outside antitrust counsel to explore strategies for getting the U.S. Dept. of Justice to launch an inquiry. But Time Warner had other priorities, and at the end of 2002 Lieberfarb was axed."

Blu-ray supporters obviously have problems with being cast in a negative light. Especially "Andy Parsons, chair of the U.S. promotion committee of the Blu-ray Disc Assn. and an exec at Pioneer." Parsons does acknowledge that the aforementioned companies "did not have any particular interest in presenting the Blu-ray format through the DVD Forum. They believed they had something very different from the DVD format, with more storage capacity."

This probably explains why Lieberfarb went on to work with Microsoft and Toshiba, two companies who have thrown their weight behind HD-DVD.

Lieberfarb feels "that if the studios had been less focused on creating bulletproof copy-protection and more fixated on getting the discs into the market more quickly, the work being done on HD-DVD within the DVD Forum would've proceeded more quickly." Addition to that, "HD-DVD might have beaten Blu-ray to market by an even wider -- and perhaps definitive -- margin. "

In the early going, there were talks to bring the rival formats together but Lieberfarb maintains "the negotiations never got beyond the preliminary stage."

Another factor in this has to do with Microsoft. Due to that companies "involvement with HD DVD, studios had concerns about the tech company dominating the so-called digital living room."

Despite all this back and forth fighting and gloating over sales, Richard Doherty, senior analyst with Envisioneering Group feels that none of this really helps either format. "The longer these guys battle now, the more that Bill Gates, networked media, personal video recorders and satellite become the rival format to high-definition DVD. Hard disc drives and fast network connections win in that scenario, not HD-DVD or Blu-ray."

Evan Jacobs