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The Real Reason Betamax Lost The Format Wars
The skirmish between Betamax and Video Home System (VHS) began brewing in the 1970s, but it wasn’t until commercial videotape players became affordable to the general public that the war erupted. Sony was convinced that its Betamax tape format was a far superior quality recording — and it wasn't wrong.
Sony's format had an overall better image with more vibrant colors, remained more stable when fast-forwarding or rewinding, and was physically smaller. Betamax also had better resolution, clocking in at 333 x 486 with 250 lines of horizontal resolution compared to VHS tapes at 320 x 486 and only 240 lines.
Betamax tapes initially could only record up to one hour, while the VHS format allowed up to two hours. Sony was convinced that no one would need or want to record longer than an hour because it had been a television standard for so many years, which turned out to be wrong.
In addition, Sony wouldn’t allow its videotape players to be made without direct oversight. This decision ultimately helped lead to the demise of the Beta format as it fostered competition between the various companies making the VHS players and, in turn, eventually drove the prices down to a level far more affordable than Sony's high-priced machines.