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Toshiba to Bow Cheaper 3rd Generation HD DVD Players

6 Aug, 2007 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Toshiba America Consumer Products LLC will debut third-generation HD DVD players in the United States beginning in September. The company cited “aggressive growth” in demand for high-definition television.

The new players include the 1080i HD-A3 at $299.99, 1080p HD-A30 at $399.99 and HD-A35 at $499.99. The 1080p resolution is the highest HD signal currently available.

With exception of the A35, all prices mirror retail prices for second-generation HD DVD players.

“With a majority market share in unit sales of next-generation DVD players, consumers are speaking loud and clear, and they are adopting HD DVD as their HD movie format of choice,” said Jodi Sally, VP of marketing for Toshiba's digital audio visual group.

The new players, with the exception of the HD-A3, feature CE-Link, which enables them to communicate with, and be controlled by, the remote control of a networked HDTV.

As a result, users will be able to start playing an HD DVD movie with a single touch of a button on their TV remote.

The players are also network-enabled similar to previous HD DVD editions, which allows for connectivity to the Internet.

“A mandatory Ethernet port in all HD DVD players ensures that consumers can receive updates to their units to support the latest offerings from the studios and maximizing their investment in the format,” said Yoshi Uchiyama, VP, Toshiba Digital A/V Group.

The consumer electronics manufacturer's decision to bow third-generation HD DVD players at prices comparable to second-generation units did little to generate a response from the Blu-ray Disc Association.

Andy Parsons, SVP, industrial solutions business group, Pioneer Electronics and spokesperson for the BDA, said pricing, regardless of format, was a matter left up to individual manufacturers.

He said the price cuts weren't surprising since initial retail prices from both HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc player manufacturers were dependent upon where they wanted to enter the market, i.e. high-end vs. low-end.

Pioneer's Elite Blu-ray player debuted at $1,500 and remains priced at a relative high-end $1000.

Parsons said the technology inherent in both format's players wasn't dissimilar and that pricing is often just a strategic decision. He remained steadfast that home entertainment is a content-driven, not hardware-driven, business.

“I think it is very reasonable to expect that trend to continue because if pricing of the hardware becomes a relevant factor as we move further into this early adopter phase then I'm certain manufacturers will respond accordingly,” Parsons said.

He admitted that Toshiba has been a leader in price reductions with next-generation optical media, but wondered if that was enough.

“It doesn't seem that [the price cuts] have been very successful getting more studios to join their cause,” Parsons said. “Without the content I just can't see, no matter how inexpensive their players are, how they are going to build that into a mass market format.”

Universal Studios Home Entertainment is the sole major studio backing HD DVD, while Warner Home Video, Paramount Home Entertainment and New Line Home Entertainment also support Blu-ray.

Jim Noonan, SVP, worldwide promotions and communications, Warner Home Entertainment Group, said the price cuts on the new Toshiba players would have no effect on the Warner Home Video's HD DVD release slate.

But he said it wouldn't hurt either.

"If it sells more hardware it will sell more software, which is a good thing," Noonan said.

The Weinstein Company and distributor Genius Products also support HD DVD exclusively.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Lionsgate, New Line Home Entertainment and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment all solely back Blu-ray.

“If you can't watch Disney films or Spider-Man on your inexpensive Toshiba player, I can't see how that is going to make much difference,” Parsons said.

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