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Warner Bros.: Retailers Happy About Hybrid High-Definition DVD

Time Warner Inc. (TWX) said top U.S. retailers would stock its proposed new DVD, which merges two competing formats on one disc, in a step toward getting consumers to pay more for better pictures and sound.

Best Buy Co. Inc (BBY), Circuit City Stores Inc. (CC) and Web seller Amazon.com (AMZN), will support the format, studio executives said on Tuesday.

The new DVD is Warner Bros' solution to the battle for DVD technology between Sony Corp.'s (SNE) Blu-ray Disc and Toshiba Corp.'s HD DVD — formats which both hold many times the storage capacity of current DVDs, and are roomy enough for high-definition movies.

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Consumers are holding off on purchases while the standards debate continues, analysts say.

Warner Bros.'s new disc, called Total HD, is expected to hit stores in the second half of this year. It said the decision to merge the two could spur sales and adoption.

"It behooved us to figure out a way to transition [consumers] from standard definition to high definition DVDs," Kevin Tsujihara, president of Warner Bros. Entertainment, told Reuters at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

"From our perspective we don't care if it's Blu-ray or HD DVD," he added. "We just want the transition to occur."

In a presentation executives said the prices of the discs would not be materially different from single-format discs and that the dual-format discs could be made dual-sided as well as single-sided.

Warner has thrown its support behind both formats, but others such as General Electric's (GE) NBC Universal are supporting only HD DVD.

At this year's show, technology companies aim to find other solutions around the fight. LG Electronics, for instance debuted a dual-format player that costs about $1,200.

But even before these new products are available, some media industry executives criticized the approach, saying it prolongs the battle by creating a third format.

Letting Sony and Toshiba do battle would lead to a quicker resolution, some critics say.

"If we end up with one format and diminish the confusion that consumers will experience, we get to the end game more quickly," Lionsgate Entertainment (LGF) studio director Steve Beeks said.

Tsujihara disagreed.

"I don't think it prolongs it," he said, comparing it to the video-game business where different formats are expected. "Consumer expectations are changing."

Warner Bros. said other studios were observing Total HD's performance, but declined to elaborate.

"From our perspective, it's good for consumers. It's more flexible and it takes away the whole fear of buying the wrong format," Tsujihara said.