Skip to main content



How VHS Conquered Betamax

We’re all familiar with VHS tapes––renting them from BlockBuster, rewinding them, having the tape rip out somehow. But much less people know about another videocassette format, Betamax. In the late 1970s and 1980s, VHS and Betamax waged a format war, and VHS emerged the victor.

Betamax was introduced in 1975––two years before VHS. It was adopted by some proportion of the market. It had a one-hour recording time, and great video quality. Later VHS was released to the public in 1977. VHS, although it had a lesser video quality, had a four-hour recording time, meaning users could fit whole movies and whole football games on one tape. Also, it meant that video rental companies could sell rentals of whole movies on a single tape.

Having the same format as the majority gave users direct benefit, because they would be able to rent videos as well as share them with friends.

Thus when VHS was released each pair of people played a coordination game:

                                         A

                               Betamax     VHS

B       Betamax         b,b               0,0

          VHS               0,0              v,v

While we can never know the exact payoffs b and v, we know that since VHS ultimately won the format war, p < v / (v+b) where p is the proportion of the population using Betamax.

Comments

Leave a Reply

Blogging Calendar

November 2015
M T W T F S S
« Oct   Dec »
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
30  

Archives