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Warner, LG Electronics to Circumvent Format War

4 Jan, 2007 By: Erik Gruenwedel

With both sides of the high-def packaged media format war seemingly entrenched for the long haul, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group and LG Electronics Jan. 4 announced plans to bow dual format software and hardware, respectively, next week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Warner's Total HD would feature a movie in both the HD DVD and Blu-ray formats on one disc — a move designed to thwart consumer confusion and reluctance toward choosing between competing hi-def formats.

“While Warner Home Video has enjoyed a market advantage by producing products in both high-definition formats and it continues to support HD DVD and Blu-ray, we believe the Total High-Definition Disc will ease the way to mainstream consumer adoption of these formats,” said Ron Sanders, president, Warner Home Video. “In addition, Total HD offers a much-needed solution to our retail partners by providing some relief to the current inventory and space issues presented by having to offer consumers standard DVDs as well as two separate high-definition formats.”

South Korea's LG Electronics said it would launch the world's first dual-format high-definition disc player, capable of playing both Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD content. The unit will be released in the United States in early 2007.

HD DVD, which bowed on Toshiba players and major studio content last April, and Blu-ray, which followed suit last fall, thus far have both experienced stagnant results at retail.

Best Buy in November quietly refocused its hi-def player marketing efforts from a proactive approach to a standalone flat-panel HDTV display that required consumers make the first move.

A company spokesperson said it would be irresponsible for consumer electronics retailer to push one format over the other.

“If customers ask, we will explain to them there are two competing formats,” said spokesperson Brian Lucas. “And if they buy one now, there is a chance it won't be the one that wins. That is a tough thing to sell.”

Warner, which supports both formats, has long sought a compromise solution, beginning last May when it released Rumor Has It… on a combo HD DVD/DVD disc — the same day as the regular DVD.

Steve Nickerson, SVP of market management for Warner, said at that time the studio would be releasing a series of “hybrid” discs to ease the transition among consumers from standard to high-def DVD.

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