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Warner's Total HD Details Revealed

Warner revealed some critical details for its Total HD disc format, which will have Blu-ray and HD DVD transfers on opposite sides of the same disc.

The salient details are that the discs will have full dual-layer capacity on both formats, meaning a "fully loaded" disc would carry a 30GB HD DVD on one side and a 50GB Blu-ray Disc on the other. These discs won't be in production until late 2007, and while no pricing is yet Warner execs claim that the discs won't cost "materially more" to produce than current single format HD discs. That's a hint that the discs don't necessarily need to carry a price premium over single format HD releases.

When discussing why Warner wants to be in the dual-format business, execs cited consumer confusion and hesitancy as hindering HD adoption while people wait for a winner in the format war. But with Total HD they claim the wait is over.

Forecasts for HD DVD have 2.5 million players in the market by the end of 2007, and over 6 million Blu-ray players in that same time frame. And, forecasts have 80 million HDTV households. To give an idea of how ubiquitous that is, Warner claims DVD to have penetration into 88 million households. And Warner wants to be in the HD business as a whole, not just the HD DVD business or the Blu-ray business. And retailers of course will be more than happy to say goodbye to dual HD SKUs.

Offering perspective on how big the HD business is, Warner claims that while 305,000 DVD players were sold in that format's first year, there are now 775,00 HD disc playback devices in the market. As mentioned, HD hardware units for year two are anticipated to reach almost nine nillion units; DVD, the fastest growing consumer format ever, had only 1.3 millionn units in the market by the end of year two.

Other tidbits included that while other studios are evaluating the Total HD disc, Warner remains the only committed studio. If other studios decide to adopt the format, there are HD DVD and Blu-ray fees; in other words, Warner doesn't get royalties.

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