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Warner Bros. Sides with Blu-ray

Warner Home Video to Release All HD Discs in Blu-ray, Cease Production of HD-DVD 1/04/2008 08:03:00 AM Eastern

The HD disc wars are heating up as the industry heads into the 2008 International Consumer Electronics Show. In a significant win for Blu-ray, the HD optical-disc format created by Sony, Warner Bros. Entertainment announced that it will release its HD movie titles exclusively in Blu-ray by mid-2008 and drop support for HD-DVD, the format created by Toshiba and backed by Microsoft.

DVD

Warner Home Video, which previously supported both formats, will continue to release new titles in HD-DVD until the end of May, then move HD releases solely to Blu-ray. The decision -- announced Friday afternoon by Barry Meyer, chairman and CEO of Warner Bros., and Kevin Tsujihara, president of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group -- was a bold move for Warner Bros., which tried to stave off a format war at last year's CES by introducing a third format, Total HD, which would be compatible with both Blu-ray and HD-DVD players.

Warner Bros. said it was making the move based on strong consumer preference for Blu-ray.

“Warner Bros.’ move to exclusively release in the Blu-ray disc format is a strategic decision focused on the long term and the most direct way to give consumers what they want,” Meyer said in a statement. “The window of opportunity for high-definition DVD could be missed if format confusion continues to linger. We believe that exclusively distributing in Blu-ray will further the potential for mass-market success and ultimately benefit retailers, producers and, most important, consumers.”

“Warner Bros. has produced in both high-definition formats in an effort to provide consumer choice, to foster mainstream adoption and to drive down hardware prices,” added Time Warner president and CEO Jeff Bewkes in a statement. “Today’s decision by Warner Bros. to distribute in a single format comes at the right time and is the best decision both for consumers and Time Warner.”

Warner Bros. wasn't the first major player to choose sides in the format war. Last June, rental giant Blockbuster tapped Blu-ray as its HD format of choice, while in August, Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks Animation announced that they would exclusively release new HD titles in HD-DVD.

Interestingly, Warner Bros.' announcement of its decision to back Blu-ray came just days after it announced that Chris Cookson, its longtime technology chief, was leaving to head up technical operations at Sony Pictures and serve as the studio's technical liaison to all Sony divisions, including its consumer-electronics arm.

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