The VCR (videocassette recorder) was introduced by the Sony Corporation, a Japanese company, in 1975. It started out with a smaller home "videocorder" known as Betamax, which at first competed heavily with the larger VHS (video home system) format. Competition between the two formats kept prices of the home VCRs too high for most consumers. In the early 1980s VHS emerged as the winner of the competition and prices dropped to a more reasonable range. Soon sales were soaring and, by the end of the 1980s, 70 percent of the American public owned a VCR.
Since a VCR gives viewers the ability to tape television programs and watch them at their convenience, a phenomenon called "time-shifting" has emerged. Americans can now watch taped programs whenever they wish and can also fast-forward through commercials, a practice known as "zapping." This offers greater flexibility to viewers and lessens the impact of television advertising. While the price of VCRs was dropping, video rental stores became widespread during the 1980s. The motion picture industry at first feared it would lose theater audiences but soon found that movies and VCRs could prosper together. As movie studios began reaping the rewards of video sales, a whole new movie market emerged. Companies like Disney began producing direct-to-video movies, creating a new category of films exclusively for the VCR.
Further Information: Olesky, Walter G. The Video Revolution. Chicago: Children's Press, 1986.