Originally Posted by BobY
No, it didn't offer the best price/performance ratio, which is always what drives mass consumer success.
Betamax players were mostly a bit more expensive than VHS *and* consumers desired longer recording times than Beta originally provided but VHS did provide.
"Best" is in the eye of the beholder. At the time most people felt Beta had better picture quality, but lower price and longer recording time was more important to consumers, as long as picture quality was acceptable.
When RCA was looking to get into VCR's, Sony's engineers flat-out refused to lower the tape speed of Beta to get a longer recording time because *they* felt the picture quality was unacceptable.
When RCA then went to JVC with the same request for VHS, JVC refused on the same grounds, but JVC's parent company, Matsushita (Panasonic), overruled them. The rest is history.
There is no way to know yet if any Hi-Def disc format will be a mass consumer success, but based on history, the format that provides satisfactory performance at a lower price always wins over a format that provides better performance at a higher price.
The history of VHS v Beta also includes an interesting side story that I believe is true and in fact I believe has been admitted in legal proceedings. I haven't actually read the court filings to know first hand it is true however. Before Sony developed the Beta VCR for a consumer market or at about the same time, Sony designed and built a prototype of an M-Load VCR but Sony preferred the U-Load design used with Beta. A Sony engineer showed this M-Load design to a JVC engineer who took it and JVC further developed it and called it VHS. For a while Sony advertised that before we invented Beta, we invented VHS. JVC filed a suit to stop this despite the fact it was technically correct, Sony didn't hold the patent to VHS and agreed to stop the advertisements in the settlement. I do recall seeing the ads and wish I had saved one.
I believe what BobY indicates is true though and how I recall it. At that time, RCA was an important brand in the US and although the dumb idea of slowly running tape with such poor picture quality made no sense to me, it was a huge marketing success. I don't think many people actually used the ELP speed often and certainly no major pre-recorded releases I ever saw used it either.
I loved Beta, but when SVHS became affordable in about 1991, I purchased my first VCR with a VHS logo on it. I had purchased SuperBeta in about 1985 and EDBeta about 1988 and it was excellent for analog NTSC recording, but way too expensive. I loved SVHS because of the value and almost indistinguishable recording quality compared to EDBeta, better than SuperBeta. I ultimately sold my EDBeta VCR around 1996 or 1997 at a nice profit, very fortunate and very rare for me. I usually lose a lot, buying products early and selling them. I used SVHS and SuperBeta until I got my first D-VHS VCR in 2000. I really haven't used an analog VCR for SD recording since. The best analog VCR format by a long shot I have ever seen is W-VHS, and that is the tiniest niche format ever.