Warner Bros. is set to introduce a high definition DVD disc that can hold films and TV shows in rival and incompatible formats, the latest sign that the yearlong format war is long from over.
Warner Bros., a unit of Time Warner Inc., said it developed the "Total HD Disc" to help break the stalemate between HD DVD, developed by a consortium led by Toshiba Corp., and rival Blu-ray, backed by Sony Corp. Both deliver sharper pictures and increased space for special features.
All but the most adventurous consumers have stayed away from choosing sides in the battle for fear of being stuck with the losing technology, much the same as happened when VHS and Betamax battled it out for videotape dominance in the 1980s.
Initially, Hollywood studios lined up behind one or the other formats. Warner Bros. first backed HD DVD, but then decided to release films and TV shows on both formats.
Some studios, such as Paramount Pictures, a unit of Viacom Inc., have followed Warner Bros. in backing both formats. Only Universal Studios, a division of General Electric Co., is releasing films exclusively in HD DVD.
Sony Pictures, a unit of Sony Corp., 20th Century Fox, which is owned by News Corp., and The Walt Disney Co. have remained staunch defenders of Blu-ray.
Retailers and others had hoped the rival camps would compromise on one format, or that one would prove dominant.
But the decision by Warner Bros. to accommodate confused consumers by placing both formats of films on a single disc shows that the battle continues.
"The Total High-Definition Disc allows consumers to fully embrace high-definition viewing," Ron Sanders, President of Warner Home Video said in a statement Thursday. "Warner Bros. was a force in creating the current market dominance of the standard DVD, and we hope that THD will make it easier for the average consumer to enjoy this next level of technology."
Details of the disc, such as whether Warner Bros. would license the technology to rival studios, are set to be released next week at the International Consumer Electronics show in Las Vegas.
Other compromise solutions are in the works.
LG Electronics said this week they plan on marketing a dual format DVD player. Other electronics makers are expected to follow suit.
Warner Bros. has also patented a disc that can contain three versions of a film _ one in each of the rival high-def formats and a third that can be viewed on standard definition players.