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Next-generation DVD: Class is in session


The backers of the rival Bluray and HD-DVD high-definition DVD formats have given up fighting each other—at least for now—and are focused on campaigns to educate consumers about the new technology that will someday replace standard DVD.

The information campaigns are considered essential for high-definition DVD because of its newness to the market and the dueling formats. The NPD Group analyst Russ Crupnick noted that most consumers “are totally confused” about high-definition DVD during a July 18 seminar at the Home Entertainment Expo.

Walt Disney Studios is taking its efforts on the road this summer with its “Disney’s Magical Blu-ray Tour.” The shopping mall tour sponsored by Panasonic will begin Aug. 17 and hit a total of 18 malls across the country. The exhibit will feature interactive stations along with a mini-theater that will stage hourly demonstrations.

“It’s imperative that we continue to educate and engage consumers as to the advantages and exciting features that are unique to the Blu-ray format,” said Disney Studios chairman Dick Cook. The tour will begin at the Westfield Topanga Mall in Canoga Park, Calif., on Aug. 17 and move to Seattle, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Atlanta and Houston before winding up in Chandler, Ariz., on Dec. 23.

The backers of HD-DVD are also promoting their format with in-store signage, special bonus options and low prices. Toshiba said it would continue to sell its basic high-definition DVD player for $299—well below the $499 price of Blu-ray players—and include network connectivity for some titles.

Warner Home Video debuted Web-enabled bonus features for the July release of “Blood Diamond” that allows users to download bonus material from the Warner Web site through the HD-DVD player’s Ethernet port.

After more than one year on the market, high-definition DVD is still a niche product. Adams Media Research estimates high-definition players are currently in less than 1% of American homes.

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