NEW YORK – Toshiba Corp.'s U.S. unit may delay the launch of its next-generation DVD player for several weeks to coincide with the April debut of movies that play in the new HD DVD format, the company said on Thursday.
Championed by Toshiba, HD DVD is one of two competing formats hoping to breath new life into the slowing $24 billion home video market. The rival format is Blu-ray, created by a group led by Sony Corp. (SNE).
In January, Toshiba America Consumer Products said it would in March ship its first players, the HD-XA1 and HD-A1, for $799 and $499, respectively.
"Toshiba is currently working with the studios as well as our retailers, to finalize the sale date of our players," the company said in a statement. In order to maximize the launch of HD DVD, we intend to synchronize the launch of our players with HD DVD title releases."
Last week, Time Warner Inc.'s (TWX) Warner Home Video said it would release its first titles, including "Million Dollar Baby," and "The Phantom of the Opera," on April 18.
By contrast, Sony Pictures has said it aims to deliver its first movies in the Blu-ray DVD format to U.S. stores in late May to coincide with the entry of compatible disc players, from makers like Samsung Electronics Co.
However, Sony has delayed the release of its PlayStation 3 console until early November, a launch that is expected to give a huge boost to the installed base of the Blu-ray technology.
Both Blu-ray and HD DVD offer far more capacity than current DVDs, but the competing groups' failure to agree on a unified format has paved the way for a costly battle like the VHS/Betamax war of 25 years ago that caused widespread customer confusion.
Several retail chains have already voice annoyance with the fact that there are two new formats, which will force them to carve out space in their stores for sundry devices related to both formats, including the players, the movies, other programing and accessories.
Still, the payoff could be very lucrative. Warner Home Video said it expects motion picture industry sales of next-generation DVDs to reach as much as $750 million in the last quarter of this year.