How Football Helped Kill Betamax

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Every decade or so, consumers begin to get very frustrated with a mass media industry that can’t seem to settle on a specific format. Currently, people who own super high-resolution 4K televisions are wondering whether it will be HDR10 or Dolby Vision that will emerge as the leading picture quality standard. Prior to that, HD-DVDs were vying for shelf space with Blu-ray discs.

While these rivalries go all the way back to Thomas Edison’s wax cylinder for recording music (he lost out to the disc-based gramophone), only one became an outright punchline. In the 1970s, Sony’s Betamax videocassette format lost a highly contentious struggle to become the dominant home video format to JVC’s VHS standard.

One of the major reasons? American football.

In terms of quality, there was no comparison. When Betamax tapes and machines debuted in 1975, they offered vibrant colors and sharp renderings of pre-recorded and homemade cassettes. VHS, which debuted in 1977, was bulkier and flunked most head-to-head evaluations of the two formats.

But there was a compromise that consumers had to live with if they opted for Betamax’s sharper image: Tapes were only an hour in length, which meant that buying or recording movies required juggling two cassettes. VHS, on the other hand, offered two hours of recording space—plenty of time for many feature films.


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Sony was confident consumers would value picture quality above all else. And in today’s market, where televisions can reveal virtually every pore on a person’s face, that strategy makes sense. But early adopters were more concerned with how practical these new devices were, a fact that Sony didn’t appear to prioritize. When American hardware manufacturer RCA expressed interest in producing cassette recorders, they knew that U.S. consumers would want to record sporting events for delayed viewing. Because American football broadcasts can often exceed three hours, RCA told Sony they needed a cassette that could accommodate the games.

Sony was indifferent. They didn’t want to give up picture quality in exchange for length. But Matsushita, which partnered with JVC to make VCRs, saw the logic in it. RCA’s first machine, the VBT200, allowed users to slow the VHS tape down to create four hours of recording time. Football fans could time-shift games, recording them to watch whenever they liked.

That wasn’t the only reason VHS eventually superseded Betamax: Sony’s machines were expensive, whereas JVC was happy to let other manufacturers make units and engage in more competitive pricing. VHS tapes and machines were plentiful, and even though Sony eventually caught on and offered Betamax machines with longer recording options, the format soon retreated into a small sub-category of professional A/V technicians. Sony made their last Betamax unit in 2002 and the last tapes in 2015.

Harry Potter Cast Remembers the Late Alan Rickman

© 2009 - Warner Bros.
© 2009 - Warner Bros.

The world lost some of its most iconic celebrities in 2016, including ​Carrie Fisher and David Bowie. For ​Harry Potterfans, the January 14, 2016 death of ​Alan Rickman hit hard. Unsurprisingly, his castmates were also deeply impacted by the actor's death and have spoken out several times over the years about the magic he brought to the set.

"Alan Rickman is undoubtedly one of the greatest actors I will ever work with," ​Daniel Radcliffe wrote about Rickman a couple months after his death. "He is also, one of the loyalest and most supportive people I've ever met in the film industry."

Over two years later, the cast of Harry Potter is ​remembering Rickman to Entertainment Weekly.

Both ​Evanna Lynch, who played Luna Lovegood, and director Chris Columbus remember Rickman for being stoic on the outside, but very sweet on the inside.

"You’re thinking, it’s the guy from Die Hard and going, 'Oh my god.' If he’s in a serious mood, he’s intimidating as hell. But suddenly I had dinner with him ... and when he smiled, he just became the warmest, nicest human being in the world," Columbus said.

"Alan Rickman, pretty much every day of filming, he had a whole troop of little children [visiting]," Lynch remembered. "It was the most bizarre scene to see Snape in this black robe ... surrounded by all these happy little children who were just chatting away to him.”

Oliver Phelps and Warwick Davis recalled Rickman's affinity for iPods.

“I remember once he’d come back from an awards show ... and in the gift box was an iPod, when they’d first come about," Phelps said. "I remember being next to him ... and I ended up showing Alan how to work an iPod, which was not what I thought I’d ever do in my life. He was a very approachable guy once you saw past Snape’s wig."

"I started to wonder, what does Alan Rickman as Professor Snape listen to on his iPod?" Davis stated. "An audiobook? Some Shakespeare? Some classical music? Some techno beats? I don’t know. I never did ask
him, and I wish I had. I’d love to have known.”

​​Rickman's final role was in Alice Through the Looking Glass.

Game of Thrones Star Sean Bean Talks Reprising Ned Stark Role for Prequel Series

Nick Briggs, HBO
Nick Briggs, HBO

Former ​​Game of Thrones star Sean Bean had a brief run on the show before his character, Ned Stark, literally lost his head.

During a recent interview with ​The Hollywood Reporter, Bean shared his take on whether he'd be willing to reprise his role for the Game of Thrones prequel series. Since next year's eighth season will also be the ​series' final season, fans are eager to get their fix through the prequel series, which is set to start filming next year.

When Bean was asked if he'd consider being a part of the prequel, he said, "I don't know how we can be ... I don't know how anyone can be, since they're going backwards, I'd be younger. Now, we all look a little bit older."

Before you get your hopes up and put all of your faith in the magic of digital editing, which could potentially make Bean appear younger, the actor appears to have doubts about reprising his role in general. He shared:

"I'm always a bit reluctant to go back to shows under a different format or guise ... But you never know with something like this, it just depends on the time frames ... I think if the quality was maintained. You know, the kind of thought behind it, if it didn't look as though it was an add-on just to capitalize on earlier success."

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