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For High Definition TVs, Blu-ray Gets a Big Supporter

Warner Brothers, Hollywood's top seller of DVDs, decides against a competing video technology. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is the VOA Special English Economics Report.

Competition often means waiting for people to make a choice.

That was the case with VCRs, video cassette recorders. During the nineteen eighties, people had two choices: VHS and Betamax. The VHS format won the competition. Betamax disappeared from all but professional use.

More recently, the VHS, or video home system, format has been disappearing as people choose DVD players.

But now the two newest kinds of DVD players are in competition. Blu-ray and HD DVD are both designed for use with high definition televisions. These produce bigger, sharper pictures. They work best when showing movies or TV programs made in true high definition.

But high def takes up more memory, so a new kind of DVD, digital video or versatile disc, was needed.

Blu-ray and HD DVD are similar in technology. Both use a blue laser to read the information on the disc. But HD DVDs cost less to produce. They can be made with existing equipment, while Blu-ray DVDs cannot. But a Blu-ray disc holds more memory: about fifty gigabytes compared to thirty gigabytes for an HD DVD.

Two major Hollywood studios, Paramount Pictures and Universal Pictures, have agreed to release movie only in HD DVD. The Toshiba company is the main supplier of the players.

Sony, on the other hand, supports the Blu-ray format, as do the movie makers at Walt Disney, Twentieth Century Fox and MGM.

Then earlier this month, Hollywood's biggest seller of DVDs announced its choice in the fight between Blu-ray and HD DVD. Warner Brothers will support only Blu-ray starting in June.

The company says having two kinds of high definition DVDs on the market has led to confusion with the buying public. So far, sales of the new high-definition disc players have been slow. An estimated one million players of both kinds have been sold.

This week, Toshiba announced that it would cut the price of its HD DVD players by forty to fifty percent. Some of its players are now under two hundred dollars.

But many people think Blu-ray has won the competition with HD DVD. Time will tell. For those who cannot make up their minds, there are some players that can play both.

And that's the VOA Special English Economics Report, written by Mario Ritter. For more business news, and for transcripts and MP3s of our reports, go to I'm Steve Ember.