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Warner reveals plan to resolve DVD stalemate

Hollywood film studio debuts Blu-ray and HD DVD-compatible DVD disc at CES

Major Hollywood studio Warner Brothers has introduced a new dimension to the next-generation DVD format war, with the development of a third DVD disc standard that is compatible with both Blu-ray and HD DVD players.

The new format, known as Total HD, was introduced to the market at last month's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.

The new technology enables three layers of content to be formatted on one Total HD disc, allowing it to be theoretically used in conjunction with up to three competing DVD format players.

It would also eliminate the need for the costly development of hybrid Blu-ray and HD DVD players, such as the model introduced by South Korean consumer electronics giant LG at CES 2007, and potentially accelerate the uptake of next-generation DVD technologies, by eliminating confusion among consumers about the competing technologies. It could also potentially prove a major boon for retailers, eliminating the need to stock DVDs of both standards.

One potential drawback to Warner's push for format standardisation is the fact that its studio rivals have already sided with either of the next generation formats and invested millions in developing content based on the respective technologies.

Sony, MGM, 20th Century Fox and Walt Disney Pictures are currently producing DVD content exclusively using the Blu-ray format, while Universal Studios is a staunch supporter of HD DVD. Warner and Paramount are producing content based on both standards.

However, given the positive reception the technology received at CES, it would seem that popular opinion might force studios to consider a compromise to break the stalemate, which has negatively impacted consumer perceptions of both technologies and led to disappointing sales of players based on the formats.

The studio rivals have however reached consensus on the development of a new technology licensing arrangement that will enable consumers to burn movies they buy online onto ‘use anywhere' DVDs. The Oflix standard, developed by DVD technology proponent Sonic Solutions, features a digital ‘lock' known as a ‘content scrambling system' (CSS). It has received the full support of studios, TV networks and other content creators and comes standard on pre-recorded DVDs. All DVD players will be equipped with a key that fits the lock and allows for playback.

"We are encouraged to see efforts like Sonic's creation of Qflix that address the need for industry standard protection," said Chris Cookson, chief technology officer at Warner Bros.

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