Citing superior quality and overwhelming backing by consumer electronics manufacturers, the Walt Disney Co. on Tuesday (Dec. 7) said it will throw its content support behind the Sony-backed Blu-ray hi

Citing superior quality and overwhelming backing by consumer electronics manufacturers, the Walt Disney Co. on Tuesday (Dec. 7) said it will throw its content support behind the Sony-backed Blu-ray high-definition DVD format, expected to reach retail shelves late next year.

Just last week, Warner Home Video, Universal Studios Home Entertainment and Paramount Home Entertainment announced their support for Toshiba's competing high-def DVD format, HD-DVD.

Disney executives said that beyond Blu-ray's superior high-def DVD technology, the studio's decision was largely based on the wide support that Blu-ray is getting from such DVD player manufactures as Mitsubishi Electric Corp., Sony and Thomson, among dozens of others, with additional support coming from personal computer makers Dell Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co.

In all, the Blu-ray camp has the backing of more than 90 consumer electronics and PC manufacturers, while the HD-DVD camp has the support of Toshiba Corp., NEC Corp. and Sanyo, among other manufacturers.

Industry giant Samsung is providing hardware for both formats.

"The realty is that this format war is not going to be won by content alone but in combination with the support from the DVD player manufacturers, who by sheer number vastly support the Blu-ray format," said Bob Chapek, president of Disney home video division Buena Vista Home Entertainment.

Disney's move helps even up the score for the Blu-ray camp, which has the support of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, which will soon have MGM Home Entertainment's vast library of titles under Sony's home video division.

The HD-DVD camp still holds the lead when it comes to content market share, having about 50% of all content committed to the format. With Disney's backing, the Blu-ray camp now has about 35% of Hollywood's filmed content.

Only 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment remains undecided, but Fox executives have seats on both HD-DVD and Blu-ray's boards of directors. By backing Blu-ray, Disney now has a seat on Blu-ray's board of directors.

"One of Disney's key priorities is to take advantage of new technologies to drive innovation and growth in order to create increased value for our shareholders," said Peter Murphy, senior executive vp and chief strategic officer of the Walt Disney Co.

With DVD sales showing signs of flattening, Hollywood's home entertainment chiefs see high-def or next-generation DVD as the avenue toward boosting DVD sales during the next five years and beyond.