12.13.2004 11:08 AM
Disney backs Sony's Blu-ray for new DVD format

Walt Disney Co. will support the Blu-ray standard for next-generation DVDs backed by Sony, but kept open its options for a rival format championed by Toshiba Corp, Reuters reported. Disney cited superior quality and overwhelming backing by consumer electronics manufacturers as key reasons for its decision.

Sony, Dell and several other electronics and computer industries developed Blu-ray technology. Toshiba, with NEC and Sanyo Electric, is backing a competing standard, HD-DVD.

The high-definition DVD and Blu-ray technologies use blue lasers, which have shorter wavelengths than conventional red lasers and allow discs to store more data.

Disney said it would start releasing movies on the Blu-ray format as soon as players became available in North America and Japan, which strategic planning chief Peter Murphy said he expected in 2006.

Murphy told Reuters that the studios are looking for the right format to release their content. That is a combination of consumer adoption of the players and the platform, content protection, and adequate capacity. He said he thinks Blu-ray has achieved that status.

Murphy also said the agreement with Blu-ray was non-exclusive and that Disney would release content in other formats if they met the studio’s criteria for consumer adoption, content capacity and copyright protection.

Disney’s announcement comes nearly two weeks after Toshiba said it had won support from Warner Bros, New Line Cinema, Paramount Pictures and Universal Pictures, representing about 45 percent of Hollywood’s U.S. sales of prepackaged DVDs.

Support from U.S. film studios is vital in the format battle, just as it was when the VHS standard prevailed over Sony’s Betamax two decades ago.

Blu-ray also has the support of Sony Pictures and the tacit backing of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, recently acquired by a Sony-led consortium.

It is also counting on FOX Entertainment Group’s Twentieth Century Fox, which recently joined the Blu-ray Disc Association board, but a FOX spokesman said the studio was still evaluating both formats and had not committed to either.

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