Sony is finally killing off Betamax video tapes

Four decades after launching the Betamax video format, Sony has finally announced it will stop selling video tapes

Sony has announced that it will stop selling Betamax tapes in March 2016 – over forty years after the ill-fated video format was first launched and 13 years after the company last made a player.

“Sony will end the shipment of Betamax video cassettes and micro MV cassettes in March 2016,” the company said in a Japanese-languagestatement on its website.

“As a result, the recording media of the Betamax format in our company, and shipping of the recording medium of the micro MV format, will come to an end.”

Sony launched Betamax in 1975, a year before JVC’s rival the VHS cassette. The two companies fought viciously for control of the emerging video system market in the late seventies, with JVC eventually becoming the market leader.

Although many felt Betamax was the superior format – due to its more accurate colour replication, superior resolution and smaller tapes – it was hamstrung by high prices and a shorter recording time than the two- or four-hour VHS tapes.

Betamax video tapes  Photo: Sony

Some have also suggested that Betamax lost the video tape format warsto VHS because Sony refused to mass produce pornographic films.

Both video cassette tape formats were superseded by the video CD in 1993, and the DVD in 1993, which in turn have largely been replaced by digital downloads and online streaming technology.

Sony stopped making Betamax recorders in 2002, after years of producing it in ever smaller quantities, but it continued making tapes for die-hard fans. It has also not produced a compatible video camera for the Micro MV cassette since 2005.

Sony claims that it has sold a total of 18m Betamax devices worldwide since launch.

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