Time Warner Inc.'s Warner Bros. Entertainment has a peace plan for the battle between emerging high-definition DVD formats.
At this week's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the Burbank-based film studio will showcase a new disc that can play on either a Blu-Ray or an HD-DVD machine. The disc, called Total HD, contains two copies of the movie, one in each format.
"The solution we're looking for is actually on the player side, not the media side, but this helps Time Warner because it gives them a single product for both players," said Rob Enderle, president of Enderle Group, a technology consulting firm. "Right now retailers have the products in designated sections Blu-Ray here and HD-DVD there so that presents a problem."
Enderle believes the HD-DVD format will prevail, based on the number of drives and discs sold in the market. But Adrienne Downey, senior analyst at Semico Research Corp., favors the Blu-Ray, in part because most movie studios back it.
Walt Disney Co. in Burbank, Sony Pictures Entertainment in Culver City and News Corp.'s 20th Century Fox in Los Angeles plan to release films exclusively in Blu-Ray. Sony Corp. also provides the technology for the Blu-Ray format.
Meanwhile NBC Universal Inc. plans to sell its films in HD-DVD, while Warner Bros. and Viacom Inc.'s Paramount Pictures will deal in both formats. Toshiba Corp. developed the HD-DVD technology.
Downey calls Warner's Total HD a temporary solution but a positive step. "Anything that furthers the HD format as a whole, without forcing retailers to stock two or three versions of a product, is great," she said.
The current DVD market bears a resemblance to the VHS-Betamax fight of the 1980s. VHS won that dispute when most movie studios decided to sell their product in that format rather than give Sony, which controlled both a film studio and the Betamax patents, a virtual monopoly on home video distribution.
Enderle notes some new wrinkles in the current situation. He expects a number of companies at the Las Vegas show this week to hawk programs for downloading movies in either format, thus rendering the retailer dilemma moot. In addition, the crucial video game industry hasn't taken sides yet since no game currently comes in either HD-DVD or Blu-Ray, although Microsoft Corp.'s Xbox can play HD-DVD movies.
Also last week, LG Electronics announced it would unveil a DVD player at the Vegas show that will be able to play both the HD and Blue-ray formats. LG said it expects the player to "end the confusion and inconvenience of competing high definition formats."
Details on when the LG player will be available and its pricing will be released during the electronics show. If LG is successful, other DVD player manufacturers will likely follow.
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