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Warner Near Closing Deal to Support Blu-ray

5 Oct, 2005 By: Thomas K. Arnold

Warner Home Video is close to finalizing a deal to support Blu-ray Disc, sources close to the negotiations say, which would mean the No. 1 DVD supplier would become the second major studio this week to say it will publish content on the Sony-developed next-generation optical disc format.

But like Paramount Home Entertainment, which made a similar promise Sunday, Warner won't abandon its commitment to release titles on the rival HD DVD format, as well, sources say.

Previously, Warner, Paramount and Universal Studios Home Entertainment had said they would release titles on HD DVD, albeit on a nonexclusive basis.

If the Warner deal goes through, the scorecard would stand at five of the six majors committing to release product on Blu-ray and three saying they will release product on HD DVD. Of those three, only Universal has not yet announced for Blu-ray.

While the odds are now clearly tilted in favor of Blu-ray, observers say that until Paramount, Universal and Warner fully abandon HD DVD, the format — ironically, developed by Toshiba in response to a studio “wish list” of specifications — is not dead.

And of those three studios, Warner is the least likely to abandon ship, sources say. Warner and Toshiba have a long history together, dating back to when Toshiba made cable boxes for Time Warner. Toshiba later took an equity stake in Time Warner Entertainment and subsequently the two companies jointly developed DVD, for which they share patents.

The studio realignments were the talk of exhibitors and attendees at the giant CEATEC 2005 electronics exhibition outside Tokyo, the Associated Press reported. The wire service quoted an executive with Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., which backs Blu-ray Disc, as saying, “the format war is coming to a close.”

In a related development, the IDG News Service reports that Intel Corp., which along with Microsoft Corp. last week announced it had joined the HD DVD Promotion Group, is open to also supporting Blu-ray if its backers commit to allowing the copying of content from discs onto home multimedia servers.

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