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HD-DVD picks up Hollywood support

Significant boost as studios pledge content

The group supporting the HD-DVD optical disc format for high-definition video has received a boost in its battle against the rival Blu-ray Disc format with pledges of support from a number of Hollywood studios.

The format will be used by Paramount, Universal, Warner Brothersand New Line Cinema, the HD-DVD group said on Monday. In addition, Warner Brothers said it would be used by TV company HBO.

The studios didn't announce the names or number of titles to be released using the format, and there was no mention of timing, with the exception of a pledge from Universal to have content available by Christmas 2005.

"We want them to start to releasing as many titles as soon as they can," said Yoshihide Fujii, president and CEO of Toshiba's digital media network company, a backer of the disk format.

The support is a coup for the group because it is the first time that any Hollywood studio – with the exception of Sony Pictures, which is owned by Blu-ray Disc-backer Sony – has come down firmly on the side of one of the formats. In October, Twentieth Century Fox Film joined the Blu-ray Disc Association but stopped short of committing to release any content in that format.

HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc use blue lasers in their optical systems. The discs are the same size as CD or DVD discs but offer data storage capacities several times greater than that of DVD. The extra capacity provides enough room to hold high-definition versions of movies and other content.

At present the only hardware available is for the Blu-ray Disc format. Sony and Panasonic have released HDTV (high definition television) recorders in Japan, and Sharp will sell a similar product shortly. However, these machines don't include support for the Blu-ray Disc movie format, which is still being standardised.

On the HD-DVD side, Toshiba, NEC and Sanyo all say they are on schedule to release hardware in 2005.


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