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Toshiba Kicks Off HD DVD Promo Tour

In preparation for the March rollout of HD DVD players, Toshiba began the next phase of an HD DVD launch campaign Feb. 20, conducting demonstration tours in key retail outlets in 40 cities across the country.

The promotional campaign is scheduled to run through April and includes consumer and media demonstrations as well as sales and product training for selected dealers.

The retail demonstrations are part of an integrated marketing communications plan Toshiba is using to back the launch of its HD DVD format. As previously announced, the company said it still plans to deliver its HD-XA1 ($799.99, suggested retail) and HD-A1 ($499.99 suggested retail) models in March.

“The multitiered initiative is designed to educate retail salespeople, provide them with support materials to aid in the sale of the HD DVD players and continue to increase consumer awareness of HD DVD players,” according to a company statement on the program.

“A major component to the success of HD DVD will be a strong presence and understanding by our key retail business partners, whose role will be critical to consumer adoption,” said Jodi Sally, marketing VP, Toshiba America consumer products digital A/V group. “With our strategic, integrated marketing initiative and the support of our many promotional and retail partners, we are poised to lead the way into consumers’ homes with a next generation of DVD technology.”

Toshiba said it is supplying participating dealers with a specially developed in-store display that will allow for HD DVD software “in conjunction with Toshiba’s existing HDTV in-store presence,” according to statement.

Mark Knox, a spokesman for an alliance of HD DVD format supporters, said supporting studios are expected to have a strong supply of HD DVD titles available at launch.

Studios, including Warner Bros., are using special distributors to work with CE accounts that don’t normally carry software, Sally said.

In addition, some video rental stores, including the NetFlix online rental store, are also expected to carry some titles at launch.

Meanwhile, an interim spec for the Advanced Access Content System (AACS) used to protect both HD DVD and rival Blu-ray Disc content was made available Feb. 17, clearing the way for Toshiba’s HD DVD rollout next month. Failure to complete the AACS specification resulted in prior delays in the United States and Japan last year.

Knox said AACS, which is primarily software, will be added to finished players in a flash-memory upload.

In November, Toshiba launched the first phase of the integrated marketing campaign by posting a dedicated teaser Web site devoted to the features and benefits of HD DVD.

“Partnering with key retailers in major markets across America, this tour will help Toshiba deliver the product information our customers want in a face-to-face environment that allows them to interact with Toshiba on a more personal level, a key objective of our overall integrated communication efforts,” said Tina Tuccillo, Toshiba marketing communications VP. “We also realize that not everyone can attend an in-store demonstration of HD DVD. That is why this tour is only one component of our integrated plan to promote the introduction of HD DVD in the U.S.”

The campaign will also include an extensive print, online and television advertising targeting HDTV consumers during the tour.

Toshiba said it will supply collateral materials as well as a specially designed Toshiba HD DVD micro-web site that will include product and software information along with up to the minute details on upcoming product demonstrations, and where to pre-order players.

“The HD DVD micro-site is ideal for customers who would rather learn about HD DVD on their schedule, from the comfort of their homes, said Tuccillo. “This format allows us to deliver frequent updates and promotional information to our customers, wherever they need it and wherever they are.”

The HD DVD format will also enjoy support from “Microsoft, HP, Sanyo, NEC and many other IT and CE companies, and major movie studios including Warner Bros., HBO, New Line Cinema, Universal Studios and Paramount Pictures,” Toshiba’s statement said.

HD DVD will deliver packaged content in high definition to HDTV sets.

In addition, the players will provide interactive “Advanced Navigation” features, also referred to as “iHD.”

The HD-XA1 and HD-A1 players will play back HD DVDs, standard DVD videos and music CDs, including both MP3 and WAV files.

Both models connect to HDTV sets via a HDMI jack and output copy-protected HD content (through the HDMI output) in the native format of the HD DVD disc — either 720p or 1,080i.

Standard-definition DVDs can be up-converted for display at 720p or 1,080i (through the HDMI output), Toshiba said.

Sally said the AACS will allow HD content over analog component video outputs; however, studios will have the ability to constrain image quality to 960 by 540 resolution over such jacks if they choose. Image-constrained titles must be clearly identified on packaging under the AACS license.

The following is list of the first 10 markets and stores on Toshiba’s demonstration tour (with store locations in parenthesis):

The first 10 markets on Toshiba’s demonstration tour are New York, Boston, Chicago, Washington, Miami, San Francisco, Seattle,Los Angeles, Dallas and Atlanta.