HD DVD Launch Looking Fuzzy

The looming format war between HD DVD and Blu-Ray for the winning next-generation DVD format looks to be getting started with a couple of spitwads rather than the “shock and awe” campaign HD DVD-maker Toshiba might have wanted. Reports from Reuters put initial shipments of Toshiba HD DVD players far lower than expectations, and now it appears virtually no HD DVD content will be available then the players go on sale March 28.

Reports and private sources indicate 10,000 or fewer of Toshiba HD DVD two promised players are being shipped to U.S. retailers, a number which is fueling speculation of low sales projection. Furthermore, no other manufacturers have announced timelines for introducing HD DVD players into the U.S. market, although several have demonstrated forthcoming units at electronics trade shows, and South Korea’s LG Electronics just announced it plans to support HD DVD.

Why wouldn’t consumers jump at the first HD DVD players? Perhaps because it appears essentially no HD DVD content will be available when the players launch. Warner Home Video says it may not have its first set of HD DVD title available until mid-April due to technical problems. Mega-retailer Wal-Mart has had to cancel pre-ordered for Warner Home Video HD DVD titles, and electronics retailer Best Buy has reportedly removed Warner’s HD DVD titles from upcoming advertising. Universal Studios Home Entertainment hasn’t announced when its first HD DVD titles will go on sale, although the company said in January it plans to release a dozen titles out of the gate. Similarly, Paramount announced a broad slate of HD DVD titles in January, but has set no release dates for any HD DVD titles.