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NME Deal Aims At VMD Production

New Medium Enterprises (NME), a London, England-based developer of a new multilayer red-laser optical disc format capable of playing high definition content, said it will release over 100 HD titles using its technology in the United States later this year.

The company said content will include “several Broadway shows” and will be playable on a new class of optical disc players and PC drives that are backward compatible with standard DVDs and CDs.

The system, which NME calls Versatile Multilayer Discs (VMD), is billed as “a low-cost, true high-definition solution utilizing red-laser DVD technology and its industrial infrastructure.”

The technology employs a DVD-sized translucent multi-layer optical disk capable of storing up to 100GB of data, including high-definition video.

The VMD platform will support 1,920 by 1,080i/p HD content at a 40Mbps bit rate for playback using its 20GB to 40GB red-laser optical discs. The VMD technology will allow a storage capacity of up to 100GB, NME said.

VMD players and burners — both stand-alone and installed in PCs — will be backward compatible with DVDs and CDs. The company said VMD players and burners will be offered “at market prices in the range of prevailing DVD players, burners and discs.” The first products are expected to be delivered in the United States by the end of the third quarter or early fourth quarter.

VMD “is the only low-cost, high-end offering to the discerning consumer comparable to contemporary DVD market prices,” according to a company statement.

Mahesh Jayanarayan, NME CEO, told company to “accelerate its launch of different HD formats in the U.S. to accommodate the computer market,” following a recent tour here.

In that effort, NME is opening a U.S. operation, based in Dallas, and headed by executive VP Jeff Burrow, a long-time sales and marketing executive for DirecTV. The NME U.S. operation will handle sales and marketing of VMD optical discs, VMD players, as well as content acquisition and aggregation, the company said.

Burrow told TWICE he is currently working on distribution logistics for both hardware and software, adding the company will sell products to retailers, and may offer some hardware and software directly to consumers through an e-commerce arrangement.

While the company’s goal is to have 100 titles available as hardware becomes available, Burrow said he was not at liberty to discuss titles or studios, at this time, adding that content so far includes some plays and independent products.

The company is optimistic that some feature film titles will be available in the first wave.

“Balancing content with hardware is an ongoing battle,” Burrow said, adding that players will be “fully backward compatible with almost anything that’s out there now. We want to give the consumer who is looking to buy a DVD player an option of being able to play all of the DVDs that are out there today, plus be able to watch some high-definition content for the same price or only a little bit more than the cost of DVD player.”