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CES: Warner Bows Total HD Disc

As expected, Warner Bros. officially introduced its new high-definition optical disc format, Total HD, at the CES show in Las Vegas on Tuesday night.

The new format, which Warner has created in partnership with engineers from disc manufacturer Cinram, has the ability to record movies in both the Blu-ray high-definition format created by Sony and backed by most major studios, as well as the HD-DVD format created by Toshiba and backed by Universal and Microsoft. Warner Bros. Chairman and CEO Barry Meyer hopes the new format will help spur sales of hi-def titles.

"The market has experienced consumer confusion and hesitancy," says Meyer. "That is not conducive to growing a new business."

The Total HD disc will play in either a Blu-ray or HD-DVD player, which Warner Home Video SVP Steve Nickerson demonstrated by playing a Total HD disc of "Superman Returns" in a Toshiba HD-DVD player, a Panasonic Blu-ray player, and the new dual-format Blu-ray/HD-DVD player introduced this week by LG Electronics.

Warner's pitch is to nip the format war between Blu-ray and HD-DVD in the bud by recording movies in both formats on a single Total HD disc, which has the ability to store 15 or 30 gigabytes on the red-laser HD-DVD side and 25 or 50 GB on the blue-laser Blu-ray side. Ron Sanders, president of Warner Home Video, says manufacturing the Total HD disc won't be "materially more expensive" than making a Blu-ray or HD-DVD disc, and will save Warner from manufacturing separate discs in both formats.

According to Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group president Kevin Tsujihara, Warner won't seek any licensing revenues for the Total HD technology, which he says is "not a technology play, but a solution."

Representatives from Amazon, Cinram, HBO, Time Warner and New Line were there to support the new format. Amazon vice president Greg Hart said that by limiting the number of formats that consumers have to choose from, Total HD has the potential to make buying high-definition movies a much easier proposition for Amazon shoppers.