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Warner Brothers: Going All The Way With Blu-ray

Warner Brothers
CNBC.com
Warner Brothers

Warner Bros. has become the latest studio to back Blu-ray exclusively. The announcement scheduled for Monday at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas instead leaked out today with the studio now confirming the news.

There had been speculation for some time that Warner would go this way, but all along, Warner has been sending signals that it would not pick a side in the contentious battle for next-generation DVDs.

In fact, most experts agree that the jockeying among Hollywood heavyweights for one format or another has been the key reason for the slow adoption of the new technology. Disney and Fox have already made the choice, so Warner jumping on the Blu-ray bandwagon will be a difficult pill to swallow for the HD DVD camp.

Warner is a particularly big win for Blu-ray since it's not only a content pioneer, but tech pioneer as well, holding 11 patents and one of the key early supporters of HD DVD.

Of course, Warner's news comes amid a flurry of speculation that Apple Inc. will also give its nod to Blu-ray at the company's big Macworld trade show coming up on January 15.

Blu-ray, of course, has seen much of its success come from sales of Sony's PlayStation 3, since a Blu-ray player is included in that console. HD DVD has seen huge momentum recently, thanks to significant price breaks by retailers and the platform's chief backer, Toshiba.

Some Blu-ray backers have maintained that HD DVD has always enjoyed a price advantage, but without studios offering "dual platform" content, HD DVD would be at significant disadvantage, unable to offer all the content consumers were looking for.

The Warner Bros. decision to go Blu-ray becomes a serious problem for the HD-DVD camp, and could give companies like Samsung and LG a boost since at present, those are the only two consumer electronics makers that manufacture and sell dual-format players that play back films in both formats. For now.

With companies like NetFlix soon offering IPTV direct downloads of HD movies direct from the net, the days of a "format" war may be short-lived. Consumers soon will be able to go the web, rent or buy movies and watch them on their television no matter what format the studio backed. Some felt those days were still years away.

But as the format wars with "physical" media heat up, some tech companies may try to spur IPTV's adoption and availability. And that could eliminate the format wars gripping so many key players in consumer electronics.

HD DVD is backed by the likes of Toshiba and Microsoft . Sony is the primary supporter of Blu-ray, along with Dell, HP and others. Warner's news becomes a big problem for Microsoft, no question.

Questions? Comments? TechCheck@cnbc.com

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