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Sony, Gemstar team up On DVD technology

The BDZ-S77 is Sony’s first device with the high-capacity Blu-Ray technology, which uses a different kind of laser and other advancements to cram up to 50 gigabytes of information on a recordable DVD-like optical disc.

The various versions of recordable DVDs now available in the United States can hold about a 10th as much information as Blu-Ray discs. As a result, such discs are inadequate for recording high-definition TV programming, a big deal in Japan where as many as seven channels are now broadcasting full schedules in HD.

Sony and eight other big consumer-electronics companies developed the Blu-Ray format to meet that need, though many of the companies have no plans to introduce Blu-Ray equipment in the United States because of studio opposition over piracy concerns. Nonetheless, by incorporating the Gemstar guide into its device, Sony means to simplify the process of recording TV shows from both terrestrial and satellite broadcasters. The BDZ-S77 debuts in April in Japan.

Disney Interactive will set sail with Bethesda Softworks, the company behind recent role-playing vidgame hit “The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind.” They will publish a role-playing title based on the upcoming Disney movie “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.”

The role-playing vidgame will be developed for play on PCs as well as the Microsoft Xbox and Sony PlayStation 2 consoles. It will be set among buccaneers of the 17th century, allowing players to make their way through the world as either a law-abiding merchant seaman or lawless pirate, hiring crew, finding treasure and sailing ships.

The Disney movie, based on the long-running ride at Disneyland, is being produced by Jerry Bruckheimer. It stars Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush and Orlando Bloom, and is directed by Gore Verbinski (“The Ring”).

Disney Interactive also will have titles based on the upcoming Disney/Pixar “Finding Nemo” animated feature debuting May 5, as part of its three-picture deal with publisher THQ. The game will debut three weeks before the movie and will include a coupon for a free ticket to the movie inside each game.

Vidgame company Mythic Entertainment scored a $32 million investment from TA Associates, a private equity and buyout specialist.

Virginia-based Mythic is best known for producing “Dark Age of Camelot,” a massively multiplayer online role-playing game, somewhat similar to Sony Online Entertainment’s “EverQuest” and Electronic Arts’ “Ultima Online,” which has thrived since its debut in late 2001. “Camelot” now has about 220,000 monthly subscribers.

TA VP Jonathan W. Meeks said games such as “Camelot” are just beginning to win some mass-market acceptance, and would likely provide the next wave of growth in the vidgame business, which grossed an estimated $10.3 billion last year.

Mythic has created a dozen other online titles, some for partners such as AOL and Gamestorm. “Camelot” is distributed in the United States by Vivendi Universal Games and by Capcom in Japan.

TVGateway LLC has reorganized, naming a new team of managers led by TV vet Bill McCall, and putting emphasis on advanced cable services such as HDTV, video-on-demand and digital video recording.

McCall, an exec whose resume includes management roles in TV tech ventures such as CableLabs’ “OpenCable” initiative and TCI’s interactive TV venture with Microsoft, named a team of execs, including: VP of product and marketing Terri Swartz; general counsel Jonathan Chambers; VP of operations Bob Kelly; senior director of affiliate relations John Bell; director of strategic development Chad Lucien.

The company is preparing to release the second version of its interactive program guide, which integrates access to the advanced services with more prosaic basics. TVGateway was founded by Worldgate Communications and cablers Adelphia, Charter, Comcast and Cox.