Sony gets boost as Warner hedges bets in DVD duel

Sony won a crucial boost on Friday in a war over new DVD formats as Warner Bros became the latest Hollywood studio to announce its support for the struggling electronics icon’s Blu-ray technology.

Warner Bros is already a member of a rival format group led by Toshiba, which said on Friday that the Time Warner unit continued to collaborate closely with the group towards a commercial launch of its HD DVD technology.

Warner said it would now also release its films in the Blu-ray format, joining US movie giant Paramount Home Entertainment which is also hedging its bets by making films for both formats.

“Consumers will soon be able to enjoy a large selection of catalogue favourites and contemporary hits from Warner’s vast library on the Blu-ray format,” said Warner Home Video president Jim Cardwell.

Sony, which is struggling to revive its core electronics business and recently forecast a loss of 10-billion yen ($90-million) for the financial year to March 2006, has much riding on the success of Blu-ray.

It described the decision by Warner Bros to join the Blu-ray board of directors as “a significant step in the consumer adoption of the format”.

“With the addition of Warner Bros, five of the six major studios now support the Blu-ray disc format, together representing approximately 80% of the Hollywood studio content.”

The studios had pushed the Sony and Toshiba camps to settle their differences and develop a single format in an effort to avoid a replay of the VHS-Betamax war between two types of video cassette tapes in the late 1970s.

But the two sides failed to reach a deal and currently plan to push ahead with their separate technologies.

Toshiba issued a statement saying it “strongly believes the HD DVD format will eventually win broad support as the more superior format”, adding that it is committed to launching the new product early next year in the United States.

Next-generation DVDs are billed as offering cinematic quality images and opening up new possibilities in interactive entertainment.

Sony’s Blu-ray disc is expected to have a greater storage capacity than the HD DVD but also to be more expensive to make, at least in the short term, as the format has greater differences from current-generation DVDs.

Among other studios, Walt Disney, Sony Pictures Entertainment and Twentieth Century Fox are members of the Blu-ray association while Universal Pictures has given its support to HD DVD.

Other supporters of the Blu-ray technology include Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Samsung Electronics.

HD DVD’s hardware backers include US technology giants Microsoft and Intel, Japanese electronics group NEC and Sanyo Electric.
- Sapa-AFP

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