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Disney Announces Blu-ray Support

Buena Vista, Calif. – The battle for supremacy in the high-definition optical disc format race took a sudden turn, Dec. 8, when Disney’s Buena Vista Home Entertainment (BVHE) division announced its non-exclusive support of the Blu-ray Disc Format for next-generation high-definition media.

The announcement came less than a week after Warner Home Video, Universal Studios Home Entertainment and Paramount Home Entertainment, each announced their support of the rival HD DVD format.

By joining Sony Pictures in the Blu-ray camp, BHVE has divided the battlefield of studios pledging support for the next-generation optical disc formats. Twentieth Century Fox Home Video remains as the only major studio to have not announced support for a format, although it joined the board of the Blu-ray Disc Group in October to participate in the format’s development. It is also a member of the DVD Forum, which has backed the HD DVD format.

In fact, most of the studios’ announcements have been “non-exclusive” meaning they could opt to jump camps if any one side starts to build momentum in the market.

According to a statement announcing the decision, BVHE will “begin releasing content non-exclusively” in the Blu-ray Disc format, “when hardware launches in the North America and Japan.”

Both camps have announced plans to launch hardware in the United States in late 2005 or 2006, although Panasonic, Sharp and Sony have already launched Blu-ray Disc recorders in Japan.

Buena Vista Home Entertainment also announced that it will become a member of the Board of Directors of the Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA).

The decision will make possible the distribution of high-definition movies from Disney’s film libraries which include Walt Disney Home Entertainment, Hollywood Pictures Home Video, Touchstone Home Entertainment, Miramax Home Entertainment, Dimension Home Video and Disney DVD.”

“Blu-ray’s excellent combination of advanced functionality, picture quality, data capacity, room for future growth, and advanced rights management for new consumer usage options will provide consumers with an outstanding interactive filmed entertainment experience,” said Robert Chapek, president of BVHE, in a prepared statement.

The move may make it more attractive for the two camps to come together to develop a unified standard, as happened with DVD. But big differences in disc thickness and the processes by which data is read on the discs present difficult obstacles in melding the two systems, industry experts have said.