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High-Def Disc Backers Tout Competing Formats at Digital Hollywood

24 Oct, 2006 By: Jessica Wolf

SANTA MONICA, Calif. — Boosters from both the HD DVD and Blu-ray camps are already looking ahead at long-term success.

Speaking here at the fall Digital Hollywood Conference, Andy Parsons, SVP of product development and technical support for Pioneer Electronics, backer of Blu-ray, said there are plenty of ways Blu-ray will be at the forefront of high-def consumer's minds.

By the end of the fourth quarter, there will be Blu-ray players from Samsung, Panasonic, Phillips, Pioneer and Sony, he said.

These manufacturers represent the same brands that consumers see as they go to purchase new high-definition TVs and that brand connection has an impact, he said.

“If you walk into a national retailer you are going to see all of these products,” Parsons said. “It's sending a very clear message that Blu-ray is a safe buy.”

On the software side, consumers also will quickly see just by product on shelves that for five studios (Buena Vista Home Entertainment, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Lionsgate, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment and MGM Home Entertainment), Blu-ray represents the only way to get high-def movies, Parsons said.

“Content availability is the most persuasive thing to consumers,” he said.

There will be 13 million HDTV sets sold in the United States by the end of this year, making up 38% of the overall TV sales market, he said.

Next year, consumers will buy 16 million new HDTV sets, and by 2010, HDTV sales will make up 70% (or 25 million units) of total set sales.Blu-ray proponents also are looking forward to the quick uptick in penetration from Sony's release of 400,000 PS3 units to American retailers Nov. 17.

There could be half a million of the Blu-ray-enabled PS3s hooked up and ready to go as early as Nov. 18, Parsons said. The Japanese market gets 100,000 units of the device about a week earlier and those are expected to fly off shelves as well, he said.

Sony has said there should be 6 million PS3 units sold through into the global market by the end of March, Parsons noted.

“That's a huge number of Blu-ray players,” he said.

Mark Waring, director of the Sanyo Technology Center, spoke on behalf of competing format HD DVD. Waring said there isn't really any research to support the idea that all gamers, even if they rush out to buy the newest PlayStation device, will translate into high-definition movie buyers. Also, for devoted Xbox gamers who may also crave movies in high-def, the most affordable entry will be Microsoft's HD DVD add-on drive, available next month for $200.

HD DVD's best claim to sustainability comes in the fact that it will be the format that most rapidly reaches mass market pricing, Waring said.

Toshiba has second-generation players of its two HD DVD players, which will be out before the holidays and will drive the price on the first-gen players down, which are already half the price of comparable Blu-ray players, he pointed out.

“Price does matter,” Waring said. “And it matters more every day. The expectation from the mainstream market is that the price will go down.”

If the argument is that content is key, then HD DVD is ahead, Waring said. There are nearly 50% more HD DVD titles already on store shelves than Blu-ray titles and more are getting announced every day.Waring also said it is important to remember that no studio on either side of the high-def line has officially said they will exclusively release high-def discs on one format only.

“In cases like these, the trend is migration to a non-partisan position to follow market demand,” he said. “I think we are going to se a continuing trend of studios becoming more format agnostic.”

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