Studios Strike HD-DVD Deals For Holiday 2005
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL November_29,_2004;_Page_B1
With holiday shoppers gobbling up millions of popular DVDs over the weekend, Toshiba Corp. and three major movie studios are expected Monday to announce plans to make new high-definition DVDs available by Christmas 2005.
According to people familiar with the matter, the studios -- including Viacom Inc.'s Paramount, General Electric Co.'s Universal Studios, and Time Warner Inc.'s Warner Bros. -- are planning to release up to two dozen titles each in time for next year's holiday season in the so-called HD-DVD format that is backed by a group of Toshiba-led partners.
The move shows that Hollywood is getting serious about moving ahead with the "next generation" DVD format, which it so far has been reluctant to embrace.
Although millions of Americans have yet to buy even a standard DVD player, Hollywood has been plotting the next generation of DVD for years. Until recently, studios figured they should delay the next generation for as long as they could, maximizing sales in the current format. But the studios have been speeding up their plans lately as sales of standard DVD players have tapered off. Amid signs that piracy is cutting into sales far more than predicted, the studios also reason that they should move more quickly toward the new technology because of its superior antipiracy features.
Thus, the studios want to get started making next-generation DVD a hot product for next Christmas and beyond. Such efforts are typically slow to bulid; the first year DVD players came out, only 300,000 players sold; studios anticipate a similarly slow pickup for next-generation DVD.
To get things going next year, the studios plan to offer what they expect will be top-selling new releases. That means special-effects packed movies aimed toward affluent men, perhaps films like Paramount's Steven Spielberg-directed "War of the Worlds," Universal's "Doom," and Warner Bros.'_"Batman Begins." Those are expected out next summer, in plenty of time to get on DVD by the holidays.
A holiday rollout is key, studios say, because that's the time when people are most likely to drop the big bucks needed to switch over to the new format. By next Christmas, an HD-DVD player should cost around $1,000. To work properly, it needs a pricey high-definition TV. By Christmas 2006, the prices are expected to drop to $500 for a player.
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