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Reports of Warner picking Blu-ray Disc premature, for now

Right now, the high-definition optical storage war is waged on the grounds of studio exclusivity. If you want to watch Transformers in high-definition, you’ll need an HD DVD player. If you want to watch Spider-Man 3, you’ll need a Blu-ray Disc player.

Due to no fault of either format, but rather the companies backing them, consumers require both machines in order to view the latest home releases in full 1080p glory – unless of course if a given release is available on both formats.

After Paramount and DreamWorks jumped over to exclusively support HD DVD, the last major studio with its feet on both sides of the field is Warner. Releasing major hits such as 300 on HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc, Warner benefits from both early adopter markets. Reports from last month’s Blu-ray Disc media event pegged the possible end to Warner neutrality, citing comments from Dan Silverberg, VP of high-definition media for Warner Home Video.

“One thing that may be changing is our strategy,” Silverberg said. “When both formats launched and hardware prices were high, we made a decision to support both formats and let the consumer decide. But now that hardware pricing is affordable for both Blu-ray and HD DVD, it appears consumers no longer want to decide — so the notion of staying in two formats for the duration is something we are re-evaluating now that we are in the fourth quarter.”

Given that Silverberg’s comments took place a Blu-ray Disc event, those within an earshot of the VP would likely have been ecstatic when he said, “We can definitely talk Blu-ray... We are committed to the format.”
Internet forums dedicated to the debate over the two high-definition formats went into a frenzy following Silverberg’s hint that Warner may be leaning towards exclusive Blu-ray Disc support. After days of silence, however, Warner Home Video told High-Def Digest that the comments recorded by Home Media Magazine are “misquoted and misconstrued.”

“I can tell you that Warner's position has not changed, and I know that Dan did not intend to suggest that wasn't the case,” said Jim Noonan, SVP of Strategic Promotion and Communication for Warner Home Entertainment Group. “We support both formats and we have made no decision to alter that policy, nor are there any such announcements coming, or being planned.”

From a business standpoint, Warner right now is enjoying the upside of being able to sell its high-definition movies to both crowds, leaving little incentive to go exclusive.

Noonan continued, “Like any major company, we are always reviewing our strategies in every aspect of our business, it is what smart companies do. I can't say what may happen five, ten years down the line. But right now, Warner Bros. has made no decision to change course. We are still onboard with both formats, and will continue [with a strong line-up of new releases and catalog titles], just as we have in the past in supporting HD DVD and Blu-ray.”




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