Toshiba Reels as Warner Bros. Dumps HD DVD

Toshiba Corp. executives had a tough moment Sunday, when they had to face reporters just two days after its HD DVD movie disc format was dealt a potentially fatal blow by the defection of Warner Bros. Entertainment to a rival technology.

"It's difficult for me to read the comments of the pundits that HD is dead," said Jodi Sally, vice president of marketing for digital audio and video at Toshiba America Consumer Products.

She was speaking at a news conference ahead of the International Consumer Electronics Show, which starts here Monday.

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Sally indicated that Toshiba would continue its fight with a Sony Corp.-led group to dominate the market for a replacement to the DVD.

"We've been declared dead before," Sally said.

Only two major U.S. studios now support HD DVD, while five support Sony's Blu-ray disc. Warner is the last studio to put out movies in both formats, but will stop publishing HD DVDs in May.

Akio Ozaka, head of Toshiba America Consumer Products, said the company was surprised by Warner's announcement Friday.

"We were particularly disappointed that the decision was made in spite of the significant momentum HD DVD has gained," Ozaka said.

HD DVD players, practically all of which are made by Toshiba, had their best sales ever in the fourth quarter of last year, Ozaka said.

Sally said HD DVD players represented 49.3 percent of the players for high definition discs sold as of Dec. 22, quoting figures from market research firm NPD.

However, the figures don't include sales of Sony Corp.'s PlayStation 3 game console, which plays Blu-ray discs. The format also has consistently beaten HD DVD in the number of discs sold.

While Toshiba sounded a defiant note, a media event scheduled for Sunday evening by the North American HD DVD Promotional Group, which includes Intel Corp. and Microsoft Corp., was canceled because of Warner's defection.

"We are currently discussing the potential impact of this announcement with the other HD DVD partner companies and evaluating next steps," the group said in a statement.

Warner said its decision to drop HD DVD was based on consumers' preference for Blu-ray.

The availability of two competing formats, and the confusion and uncertainty it's sowed among buyers, has been widely blamed for the slow adoption of high-definition players in general.