Universal bands up with Blu-ray

Studio celebrates 'emergence of single format'

Diehard HD DVD backer Universal quickly threw its support behind Blu-ray on Tuesday in the wake of Toshiba’s pullout from the rival high-def format earlier in the day in Japan.

Craig Kornblau, president of Universal Studios Home Entertainment and Universal Pictures Digital Platforms, pledged the studio’s aggressive support of high-def discs, calling the emergence of a single format “cause for consumers, as well as the entire entertainment industry, to celebrate.”

Paramount, the sole other major backing HD DVD, is expected to follow suit out of necessity.

Toshiba said it would stop production of HD DVD players next month in a more rapid pullout from the technology than expected. Electronics concern accelerated its exit after pullouts by major retailers last week (Daily Variety, Feb. 19).

Par initially supported both formats but endorsed HD DVD exclusively late last summer in a move that drew criticism by some in the Hollywood community, including “Transformers” helmer Michael Bay.

The Blu-ray Disc Assn. and Entertainment Merchants Assn. also lauded Toshiba’s move, stressing the need for a redoubled push behind Blu-ray to persuade consumers of its superiority. Last year, consumers spent less than $300 million on sales of both high-def formats — a tally that lags behind the standard DVD sales at a similar point in that format’s evolution. Studios rang up $15.38 billion in disc sales Stateside last year.

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