Warner Wins Retail Support for Hybrid High Def Disc

In the midst of a Consumer Electronics Show (CES) that has featured a slew of high-definition (HD) products and announcements, Warner Home Video unveiled its “Total Hi Def” disc late Tuesday.

The company boasts support from major retailers for its innovation, which it hopes will alleviate consumer confusion over whether to purchase DVDs and players that subscribe to the competing Blu-ray or HD DVD formats. Best Buy, Circuit City, and Amazon.com will make room on their shelves for the dual format discs.

The Warner disc, as well as LG Electronics’ dual-format high-definition DVD player, also announced at CES this week, are positive developments, said Steve Kovsky, principal analyst for digital TVs at Current Analysis. Until the format issue is resolved, the HD marketplace will remain slow, he predicted.

“The transition from standard DVD to high-definition DVD is not going to be anything like the switchover we saw from VHS to DVD, which was very quick,” Kovsky told TechNewsWorld. “At this rate, with these competitive stumbling blocks, the rate of conversion from DVD to high-definition DVD is going to be slow. Neither side is backing down.”

Total HD Solution?

With the format wars raging in the spotlight of CES (the Blu-ray camp is once again claiming victory over HD DVD, while HD DVD backers announced several new hardware alliances), Warner hopes consumers will appreciate its gap-bridging product. Total Hi Def discs contain content in the HD DVD format on one side and Blu-ray on the other.

Warner is convinced that a confusing format dilemma will result in slower consumer adoption of HD technology. Indeed, consumers have been forced to choose one HD format without knowing whether their favorite titles would be released in it or how long that format would survive.

“Unfortunately, consumers are very confused,” Kovsky stated. “This Warner disc helps, because it does eliminate the issue of whether or not the disc [will] work in the consumer’s player. It’s a step in the right direction, but it’s still a baby step.”

The LG Factor

If LG Electronics finds success with its Super Multi Blue BH100 DVD dual-format player, which plays both high-definition formats, then Warner’s hybrid disc could get left out in the cold. If hybrid players take off, there may not be a need for hybrid discs.

However, a dual-format disc seems cleaner, Kovsky said, and LG may run into issues with the HD DVD camp in the near future. Based on discussions about LG’s new product at CES earlier this week, Kovsky suspects LG will either stop using the HD DVD moniker or find itself in a lawsuit.

“The HD DVD camp doesn’t consider the LG player an HD DVD compatible product,” he pointed out. “The player does not support some of the advanced features in the HD DVD format, and HD DVD has not blessed this product.”

Warner Bros. announced that discs in Total Hi Def will be available in the second half of 2007. LG’s BH100 hybrid player will be available during the first quarter with price tag of US$1,199.

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