In a surprise announcement, Warner said Wednesday that it is pushing back the planned fall launch of its first Total HD dual Blu-ray/HD DVD combo releases until early 2008.
The hybrid format, which Warner first announced earlier this year at the Consumer Electronics Show, was originally planned to hit stores in time for the fourth-quarter holiday shopping season. As recently as this past March, all production and replication hurdles appeared to have been cleared for launch.
The sudden and unexpected news of the delay for Total HD came yesterday during the Entertainment Supply Chain Academy in Los Angeles, where confirmed the studio confirmed it would be delaying the debut of the hybrid Blu-ray/HD DVD format until early 2008.
"There is no expiration date on the viability of this concept, so we're not in a rush to do it," explained Warner VP Steve Nickerson..
Nickerson also stated that the studio intends to launch Total HD with between ten and twenty titles, allowing retailers to display them together in one section so they don't get lost amid the growing number of home video formats currently hogging store shelves.
Warner was also quick to point out that it is not planning to abandon either Blu-ray or HD DVD releases in the interim. Despite limited shelf space at retail, the studio believes there is a market for both high-def platforms, one that they will continue to satisfy with dual-format releases.
"Our research shows that there is demand for each of those products [Blu-ray and HD DVD]," said studio VP of sales planning and operations Dan Miron. "We are trying to evaluate [how to best treat] each one of these releases."
The timing of Warner's announcement, as well as the studio's apparent lack of urgency in bringing Total HD to market, may strike some as curious. With Blu-ray continuing to outpace HD DVD in overall disc sales since the start of the year, some industry observers have speculated that if such sales trends continue, the format war could be all but over by the end of fourth quarter 2007 -- long before Total HD has a chance to gain a foothold in the marketplace.
We'll certainly keep you posted on any further developments in this ongoing saga. Stay tuned!