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Quality content coming to new format. Van Helsing too

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CES 2005 While games publisher Vivendi Universal was touting its support for the Blu-ray Disc format yesterday, the movie business in which it owns a 20 per cent stake, Universal Studios, was announcing plans to release 16 HD DVD titles in the US.

It was joined by Paramount, which will ship the first titles from its initial 20-strong list of HD DVD products in Q4 2005, and by Warner Bros., which plans to lead the field with a catalogue of 50 HD DVD titles, again commencing Q4 2005.

Warner's line-up includes titles from Lord of the Rings producer New Line Entertainment - though the studio did not yesterday commit itself to offering those movies, in either their cinema or extended versions, on the new format. The 50-title list also include HBO productions The Sopranos and Angels in America.

All these releases will be pitched at the US home video market. None of the companies concerned were willing to discuss when European roll-outs are likely to take place. DVD-style region coding is expected to be imposed on all future releases.

It's also certain that a premium will be imposed on the new content, with disc prices only approaching those of DVDs today when the market matures. So like Super Audio CD and DVD Audio, HD DVD is likely to start out as a niche product, priced accordingly. Certainly, the studio representatives speaking to reporters yesterday gave no indication that price will be used to drive HD DVD into the mainstream. Instead, they're relying on the level of HD TV ownership to steer consumers toward the new format. ®

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