Warner Taking Total Hi Def to Retailers

It was just after the clock struck 2007 that Time Warner let slip that it planned a hybrid disc format designed to end the so-called "format war" between Sony’s Blu-ray and Toshiba’s HD DVD for the high-definition DVD marketplace. Now that CES is upon us, Time Warner is touting the format very loudly—and has already lined up support from major retailers.

Time Warner’s "Total Hi Def"—or Total HD—optical disc combines Blu-ray and HD DVD formats by putting Blu-ray on one side of the disk and HD DVD on the other, enabling studios and other producers to go to market with a single disc which works in any next-generation DVD player a consumer may have, regardless of whether it’s Blu-ray or HD DVD. According to the company, Total Hi-Def offers both single and dual-layer support for both sides of the disc, enabling 15 or 30 GB capacities on the HD DVD side and 25 or 50 GB capacities on the Blu-ray side.

The idea is that with Total Hi Def, consumers wouldn’t have to worry about the format of movies and other content they buy and rent, or whether it’s compatible with their DVD player, game system, or computer: Total Hi Def would work in all of them. Retailers would like Total Hi-Def too: instead of carrying the same content in two different formats, they could stock one version for everybody.

"The Total Hi Def disc is about giving consumers complete choice, providing creators and artists the greatest possible distribution of their work, and helping retailers thrive in the marketplace," said Kevin Tsujihara, President of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group, in a release. "By eliminating potential apprehension over formats, we believe this new disc could help consumers fully embrace the greatest home entertainment experience available."

Of course, there are some hurdles: studios and distributors would need to embrace Total Hi Def and release content in the format; retailers would need to carry it; and, of course, consumers would need to embrace it. Today Time Warner announced that Best Buy, Circuit City, and Amazon.com were all on board to support the Total Hi Def format, and said retail prices for Total Hi Def titles would not be significantly different from single-format high-definition DVDs.

Some analysts have criticized Warner’s Total Hi Def format as yet a third next-generation disc format which will further confuse consumers and hnder adoption of next-generation DVD technology in the marketplace; to date, consumers have shown little willingness to commit to either HD DVD or Blu-ray, and are largely sitting on the sidelines waiting for the battle to end.

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