LOS ANGELES – Warring factions in a battle for control of next-generation DVDs on Wednesday unveiled products at wildly varying prices, reflecting their views on what it takes to jump-start an multibillion dollar industry.
One camp, known as HD DVD and championed by Toshiba Corp. holds the view that consumers will buy high-definition DVDs and players, but only at the right price.
In keeping with that position, Toshiba at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Wednesday said it would offer the first high-definition players in March, priced at $799 and $499.
Those prices are below what a member of the rival camp, known as Blu-ray and led by Sony Corp. (SNE), is asking. Blu-ray member Pioneer said it planned to offer a Blu-ray player in May, priced at $1,800.
Failure of the two factions to reach a unified standard has set the stage for a formats war akin to the VCR vs. Betamax battle of the 1980s. Each side hopes to reignite the sagging $24 billion home video market with new players and discs that offer greater capacity and interactive features.
"We have philosophical differences. We think the new products are targeted at early adaptors, focused on performance and not price. This is an elite model," said Andy Parsons, a spokesman for Blu-ray and a senior vice president at Pioneer Electronics, a unit of Pioneer Corp.
Hollywood studios also unveiled slates of titles for the next-generation DVDs. Sony Corp.'s Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, News Corp.'s (NWS) Twentieth Century Fox and Lions Gate (LGF), all of which are exclusively supportive of HD DVD rival Blu-ray, released names of titles for the Blu-ray format.
Fox said it will release 20 Blu-ray films in a first wave this year that will include hits like "Fantastic Four" and "Ice Age." Sony Pictures Home Entertainment said it will release 20 titles on Blu-ray beginning this spring, including "The Fifth Element" and "Hitch."
Lions Gate's slate includes "Saw," "Reservoir Dogs" and "Lord of War."
Viacom Inc.'s (VIAB) Paramount Pictures, one of several studios supporting both HD DVD and Blu-ray, will release titles for both formats, including "The Italian Job" and "Tomb Raider."
Time Warner Inc.'s (TWX) Warner Bros. also plans to announce titles for both formats.
General Electric's (GE) Universal Studios, the lone studio supporting only HD DVD, said it will announce titles later on Wednesday.
Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), which has long supported Blu-ray, recently decided to also join HD-DVD after Blu-ray failed to comply with certain technology requests it proposed.
Sony's Blu-ray appears to have amassed more allies, including Apple Computer (AAPL), Panasonic and the greater share of movie studios.
Ted Schadler, an analyst with Forrester Research, said HD DVD's aggressive pricing may help its hand.
"HD DVD is clearly treating this is a loss leader. For Toshiba, it's less risky to lose money on the players than it is to lose the war altogether. It's now a game of chicken to see who can drop the price the fastest in order to drive adoption faster," he said.