Superman in the two colors of high-def (Source: Engadget HD)
Warner's hybrid high-def discs pushed back until next year

In early 2007, Warner Bros. announced at the Consumer Electronics Show that it was developing a hybrid disc format that would be playable in both Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD players. The dual format disc, called Total HD, was heralded as solution to customer confusion over the current format war.

Total HD was originally planned to hit the market by the latter half of this year, but according to Video Business, that won’t happen until early 2008. Warner senior VP of marketing management Steve Nickerson wants to assure customers that the state of Total HD is not in jeopardy, and that movies are on the way.

“There is no expiration date on the viability of this concept, so we’re not in a rush to do it,” Nickerson said. “We’ll do it when it makes sense and when it's right.”

Warner says it plans to launch the format with 10 to 20 titles and to have retailers display them all together, separately from the HD DVD and Blu-ray section to differentiate them.

The movie studio hopes that its Total HD disc will encourage consumers to purchase high-def movies, as the dual format discs would be essentially future-proof should one format prove to be victorious.

“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, at the CES unveiling. “By eliminating potential apprehension over formats, we believe this new disc could help consumers fully embrace the greatest home entertainment experience available.”

Warner, one of the studios that supports both formats, says it will continue its practice of dual releases for the time being. “Our research shows that there is demand for each of those products,” said studio VP Dan Miron. “We are trying to evaluate [how to best treat] each one of these releases.”

The Total HD disc would also simplify point of sale issues for retailers by reducing the shelf space required to carry two versions of the same content. But until either one format wins by the end of 2007 or all studios start manufacturing Total HD discs – technology which Warner is sharing with the industry for free – then retailers will have to view Total HD as a third format on its shelves.

“With high-def, we’re trying to put Blu-ray and HD DVD on the same disc. Total HD is not coming until first-quarter 2008. We will find shelf space,” added Miron.

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