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Four More Studios Back HD-DVD

As expected, the next-generation DVD format called HD DVD received independent commitments of support from four major Hollywood studios, announced Toshiba, one of the system’s developers.

The studios include Paramount Pictures, Universal Pictures, New Line Cinema and Warner Bros. Studios, Toshiba said.

The HD DVD format, which was jointly developed by Toshiba and NEC, has been accepted for development by the DVD Forum, which represents over 230 consumer electronics, information technology and content companies.

“Endorsement of HD DVD by these leading Hollywood studios is a great impetus to assuring the timely launch of HD DVD and to assuring that consumers have a range of attractive choices in both hardware and software,” said Tadashi Okamura, Toshiba’s CEO, in a formal statement announcing the endorsements. “Major Hollywood studios are expected to release a number of movie titles, including new releases, to support the smooth progress of HD DVD in its initial year. Hundreds of other titles will also be available from other international content holders.”

Toshiba said the studios selected its HD-DVD format, which is competing with the Blu-ray Disc system for standardization as a high-definition television optical disc storage system, due to its picture and sound quality, content security systems and its lower up-front cost to manufacture discs.

Because the system is based on elements of the existing DVD standard, manufacturers face lower costs to upgrade production facilities for the arrival of the new media, Toshiba said.

HD DVD innovations include higher resolution video and audio available on a suite of disc capacities adaptable for longer or shorter programs — along with advanced navigation, Web connectivity and new consumer options, Toshiba said.

A single, dual-layer HD DVD-ROM disc, which has a 30GB capacity, can hold as much as eight hours of high-quality, high-definition movie content, according to Toshiba.

Thus far, the DVD Forum approved the version 1.0 physical specifications for HD DVD-ROM, and version 1.0 of the HD DVD-RW format.

Completion of the HD DVD-R, a one-time recordable format, is expected by year end, Toshiba said. The Content protection system expected to be selected for HD DVD is the Advanced Access Content System (AACS), currently being developed by major international CE and IT companies and Hollywood studios.

The first HD-DVD players are planned to debut in late 2005 and should be widely available in 2006. Toshiba plans to launch its first HD DVD products, a CE player and recorder, in the fourth quarter of 2005, the company said. It will also produce notebook PCs with built-in HD-DVD drives at the end of 2005.