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Show a Bonanza for Home Theater Forum

19 Jul, 2007 By: Stephanie Prange

LAS VEGAS — Rival high-def format backers wooed the influential Home Theater Forum with a mini price war at EMA's 2007 conference.

After Toshiba kicked off the event with a $99 offer for an HD DVD player, the group received a coupon for a free $600 Panasonic Blu-ray player in gift bags at the Blu-ray party Tuesday, according to Forum members.

Yesterday during a Q&A with the video enthusiasts, Universal Studios Home Entertainment's Ken Graffeo said the group could get the Toshiba HD A2 player for free or purchase the XA2 for $299. He also threw in a copy of the upcoming Heroes — Season One HD DVD, which is out Aug. 28.

The crowd reacted with loud applause.

Still, they didn't let executives off the hook. Forum members peppered HD DVD backers with questions on the damaging effects of the format war. One pointedly asked Universal's Graffeo if he felt pressure, representing the only studio exclusively supporting HD DVD.

“I feel it every day,” Graffeo said, stressing the greater support for the format among foreign suppliers. “We talk about this every day and we feel confident with the decision that we made.”

Graffeo and members of the HD DVD Promotional Group touted the pricing and extra-feature benefits of the format to the Forum in a demo session in addition to the Q&A.

Microsoft's Kevin Collins demonstrated the interactive capabilities of HD DVD, including a feature that lets viewers find out their insurance costs after car crashes in The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift.

Some Forum members said they didn't need fancy interactivity, but preferred more extras on the disc.

The value-added extras on an HD disc must be at a “higher level than DVD,” Graffeo said, adding that every player plays HD DVD's features while some Blu-ray players don't service all that format's features.

HD DVD backers also held up the increasing inclusion of HD DVD drives in Toshiba, HP and Gateway PC notebooks as a hardware plus for the format.

“If Blu-ray can count PS3s [as format players], I think it's OK if HD DVD counts PCs,” said consultant Michael Greeson of the Diffusion Group.

Greeson talked about the power of low prices, mentioning $199 as a sweet spot for mass adoption of an HD player.

“What drove DVD was pricing,” Graffeo added.

One attendee asked Microsoft's Collins if the reason the company supported HD DVD was merely to counter game rival Sony Corp., which has the Blu-ray-enabled PlayStation 3.

He said Microsoft made the decision to go with HD DVD because it supported managed copy at the time, costs less to replicate and its interactivity features.

Retailer Robert Zohn of Value Electronics professed his unabashed support for HD DVD, saying it bothered him when Blu-ray-supporting executives said the format war was over.

“They didn't win it from my customer base,” he said, noting that HD DVD executives were very accessible while his Sony rep won't even return his phone call.

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