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Paramount Adds Support For Blu-ray Disc

The Blu-ray Disc Association kicked off the 2005 CEATEC Show here last week on an up note, following an announcement from Paramount Home Entertainment that it will no longer solely support the HD DVD optical disc format.

Paramount, which was among the earliest studios to announce HD DVD support, said it now intends to support both formats, making it the first movie studio to do so. In a statement, Paramount executives said they decided to also embrace Blu-ray Disc due to the format’s growing list of supporters and the plans to have Sony’s next generation video game console — the PlayStation 3 — include support for Blu-ray Disc.

Paramount also cited new data on cost, manufacturing and copy protection solutions as contributing factors.

Ironically, days earlier Microsoft and Intel announced exclusive support for HD DVD in next-generation IT products (see p. 6), including the next Windows OS, citing among other things HD DVD’s flexible managed-copy capabilities. However, Microsoft did not announce whether it intended to add HD DVD support to its next generation gaming console — Xbox 360 — down the line.

Mark Knox, an advisor to the HD DVD promotion group who attended CEATEC, downplayed Paramount’s announcement, saying, “Paramount, Warner Bros. and Universal are already in the process of encoding their titles [for HD DVD]. I think [the announcement] was just the studio at some executive level, deciding to play it safe. It doesn’t impact the fact that they are committed to and in the process of developing HD DVD titles.”

Toshiba executives recently announced that the launch of the first consumer HD DVD players in the United States would be delayed until early 2006, citing the desire of studio partners to have a full-scale launch of both software and hardware. Knox confirmed that some U.S. retailers would be getting HD DVD players to use for demo purposes during the holiday shopping season to prime the market.

Toshiba plans to launch the first HD DVD player in Japan by the end of 2005, and listed a number of Japanese titles that will be available at launch.

Meanwhile, manufacturers supporting Blu-ray Disc showed a number of new Blu-ray Disc players and/or recorders that are planned to reach market shortly, including some of the industry’s first machines to include support for BD-ROM discs. Early Blu-ray Disc recorders launched here only support rewriteable and rewriteable Blu-ray Disc formats. The new machines will support forthcoming pre-recorded software, including titles produced on the 50GB dual-layer format.