Disney backs Sony's Blu-ray DVD format

It is being billed as the DVD equivalent of the Betamax versus VHS video format battle of the early 1980s. Disney announced yesterday it has signed up to Sony's Blu-ray technology for the next generation of DVDs, joining Sony Pictures Entertainment and MGM Studios.

It is being billed as the DVD equivalent of the Betamax versus VHS video format battle of the early 1980s. Disney announced yesterday it has signed up to Sony's Blu-ray technology for the next generation of DVDs, joining Sony Pictures Entertainment and MGM Studios.

Sony will go head to head with Toshiba, whose HD-DVD technology has already been adopted by number of major film studios.

The next generation of DVDs will have much greater storage capacity and higher definition picture and sound quality. Sony say their DVDs will allow eight or more hours of high-definition content - movies, in other words.

However, it is likely that, like Disney, most studios will not sign exclusive deals with either hardware manufacturer. It is more likely that DVDs will initially come in both formats, as was the case originally with video players, until a clear winner emerges.

The battle is seen as crucial to the future of Sony and Toshiba. Sales of DVDs have rocketed over the past few years as consumers have replaced their VHS videos.

Sony will not want to be reminded that they lost the video battle very quickly, despite a general acceptance that Betamax video players were not only smaller than VHS models but had better picture quality.

Of the major studios, only Twentieth Century Fox has not announced which format it will back. Should it go with Sony, the market will be split almost down the middle - 47 per cent with Sony and 45 per cent with Toshiba. The balance will be made up of releases by independent studios.

The first hardware carrying the next-generation DVD technology is likely to be Sony's PlayStation 3, due for release in March 2006. Toshiba's HD-DVD is expected to follow shortly afterwards.

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