Hero to Zero: The Decline of the VHS

In today’s technological age with DVDs, Blu-Rays, online streaming and catch-up TV, it’s no wonder that the likes of the VHS tape just couldn’t compete. However, when these plucky tapes first cropped up, it was revolutionary. Coupled with the VHS recorder, which allowed people to record live broadcasts to watch whenever they liked, this technology truly paved the way for the incredible achievements made in the realm of home cinema entertainment.

You may even still have some VHS tapes lying around, and possibly even an ancient VHS player. Let’s take a look at how VHS took the world by storm before its short-lived popularity was dwarfed by newer, better technologies.


The humble Video Home System (VHS) was developed by the Japanese company JVC in the early 1970s, it was released in Japan in 1976 and then in the US in 1977. At the time, these tapes were considered to be incredibly compact and small. They were popular for a number of reasons: they always started playing from wherever you left them off, you could fast forward through bits you didn’t want to watch, and you didn’t have to wait for any loading screens (maybe the old VHS still has something on today’s technology).

VHS tapes were as popular as DVDs are today. But things weren’t all smooth sailings for VHS; it had to beat out some rival tech to retain its spot in history as the standard for home videos.

Tech Wars

Despite what you might think, the DVD was not the VHS tape’s original rival; that title went to another competitor: Betamax. Betamax was released in 1975 by Sony in an attempt to create the standard for home video. JVC came out with the VHS player as a retaliation to this, and thus the Betamax vs VHS format war was born.

VHS was actually inferior to Betamax in terms of picture quality, but it was popular due to its ability to record two hours of programming on one tape, as opposed to one hour on Beta. This one major difference led to Betamax’s downfall, and VHS came out as the clear winner in this war. By 1987, 90% of the VCR market in the US alone was based on the VHS format. Interestingly, the porn industry actually played a pinnacle role in their success, as Sony would not allow pornographic content on its Betamax tapes.

Betamax attempted to compete by releasing a new version with a longer, two-hour run time, but this reduced the picture quality, which had been their key selling point over VHS. In 1985 they brought out the SuperBeta, which sought to fix the picture issue, but by this point their share of the market had already dropped to just 10%; the battle was lost.

But soon VHS came up against a new, more powerful rival: the DVD. And this brought about the VHS tape’s fall from grace and eventual disappearance into obscurity.

Steady Decline

However, VHS didn’t go down without a fight; in fact, it was only ten or so years ago that VHS tapes were officially out of production. The last major Hollywood film to be released in VHS format was ‘A History of Violence’ in 2006 – not counting ‘The House of the Devil’, released in 2010 on a promotional VHS to keep with the film’s intent to mimic 1980s horror films. Interestingly, the last company to still be manufacturing VHS equipment, Funai, only ceased production in July 2016, citing falling sales and a shortage of components.

VHS enjoyed its popularity for over twenty years. Film and home entertainment distributors adopted the DVD format to replace VHS as the primary consumer digital video distribution format around the 90s. This was in part due to DVD’s higher quality video and sound, superior lifespan and the fact that it could be interactive. When the initial costs of these discs dropped to a price that the every day consumer could afford, they became available for mass consumption and DVD sales skyrocketed.

Today, DVDs face competition from the likes of Blu-Rays and digital streaming services, but experts believe that we won’t see the same decline of DVD as we did with VHS, as the transition just hasn’t been as major as the switch over from VHS to DVD was.

In the meantime, if you still have an old collection of home movies on VHS tapes, you can convert your VHS to DVD and keep those memories safe. Don’t let those precious moments become obsolete like the VHS format; contact Video2DVD today to find out how we can help you transfer your VHS into a more up-to-date format.