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Warner Still Loyal To Dual HD Formats

Despite reports that Warner Home Video has been offered lucrative payments to follow Paramount’s path and become an exclusive HD DVD high-definition disc provider, the company’s president Ron Sanders told TWICE at CEDIA Expo that the company has enjoyed strong sales in both formats and will likely continue to support both until that changes.

Sanders also revealed that Warner will be releasing all four “Harry Potter” movies on high-definition discs in time for the holidays, and confirmed reports that Warner’s plans for its TotalHD flipper disc remain on hold.

The following is a Q&A interview with Sanders during a gathering of Blu-ray Disc Association members at the custom electronics trade show.

TWICE: What is the status of your plans for TotalHD?

Sanders: “We’re concerned that as the only ones publishing on it, it would be hard to make it go. We’re still looking at it, though. We’re still talking to retail, but it’s kind of on hold right now.”

TWICE: With plans for THD on hold, what do you think about the new dual-format players on the market?

Sanders: “I’m excited about dual-format players, it takes out that worry about picking the wrong format, and with the studios lining up on one or the other format it’s kind of a nice solution, but until the price points come down — they are still around $1,000 — it’s not going to be a mass product. As more and more drives go into computers for both formats, I think that will drive the price down for drives going into set tops.”

TWICE: Have you received offers from HD DVD or Blu-ray to be exclusive with either format, as Paramount recently did with HD DVD?

Sanders: “We’re talking to both sides and it’s crazy right now. We remain committed to both for the time being. We’ll see how the fourth quarter plays out. The consumer is still kind of divided, and we still believe that we should offer the content in both formats. Now, we will watch the marketplace very closely, and see how it plays out, but for now we are supporting both.”

TWICE: Do you actively encourage retail accounts to stock both formats?

Sanders: “We do. There are no special incentives to support both but they will chase the consumer, and the consumer wants both. In software, new release titles are selling around two to one, Blu-ray to HD DVD. But it varies by any given title.”

TWICE: What do you expect will happen?

Sanders: “It’s really hard to handicap. Right now it’s like a Mexican standoff. If the consumer continues to support both formats, the industry will as well. It will be really pivotal what Toshiba does this fourth quarter in hardware. If they sell through everything they ship, and it’s a big number at the price points that are coming out, then I think [HD DVD] will be around for a long time. If they don’t, then it could go Blu-ray’s way. But Toshiba is getting very, very aggressive on pricing, which is putting pressure on Blu-ray player manufacturers to bring prices down. As a content company we just want more hardware in the homes. Right now it looks like there is price pressure on both sides because there are two formats — more pressure than there would be if there was only one format. So, for our interests, more razors means we’ll sell more razor blades down the road.”

TWICE: How are you finding HD disc sales so far?

Sanders: “We are just thrilled at how well they’ve been doing. Our top seller to date has been “300”… [and] “By Christmas, we’ll probably do half a million units in high definition for “300,” so the marketplace is off and running.”

TWICE: What reaction have you observed to the Web-enabled extras you’ve included in select HD DVDs and what are the plans to add similar capability to Blu-ray?

Sanders: “I think with Blu-ray 2.0 coming this fall, we are going to see a lot more Web-enabled content. We’ve had quite a number of downloads of ring tones on our “300” connected DVD and HD DVD.”

For the complete interview with Warner’s Sanders see