In a post on its website, Sony has announced that it will stop shipping its Beta videocassette format in March 2016.
The Betamax videocassette format came to the market in 1975, as the first consumer home video device, but within a couple years it was battling another video format, JVC’s VHS, for market dominance. VHS eventually won the “video format wars”, and the failure of Betamax, which provided better sound and image quality, has long been a case study in the vagaries of product development strategy.
JVC was also quick to open the VHS standard up to other technology companies, whereas Sony kept the Betamax license proprietary. Sony’s Beta format originally allowed only an hour of NTSC recording, whereas VHS’s slower playing time allowed for more content, including feature films. The longer playing time allowed VHS to become the platform for the video rental boom of the 1980’s and 90’s.
Sony plans to halt manufacture of the EL-500B, 2L-500MHGB and 2L-750MHGB videocassettes and the L-25CLP cleaning tape for Beta machines, as well as the MGR60 Micro MV cassette and the MGRCLD cleaning tape for Micro MV. Sony discontinued Betamax VCR hardware in 2002.
Sony suggested in its announcement that the termination plans for Beta could be mitigated by an expression of customer demand.