HD DVD cancels CES press conference after Warner's snub

In a shocking response to news today that Warner Bros. would make its high-definition movie releases only available on Blu-ray, the HD DVD Promotional Group has canceled its Sunday press conference at CES, and its meetings with the press.

The HD DVD Promotional Group, alongside Toshiba and Microsoft, had planned a cocktail party and press conference to tout the success and improvements in both the HD DVD format and hardware players, which saw heavy sales during the holidays thanks to falling prices.

But the party was cut short by Warner's surprise news that it wouldn't be taking part. Apparently, the studio did not give HD DVD advance notice of its decision to go Blu-ray only, and recently reassured the public of its continued support for both formats after rumors of an exclusivity deal began to surface.

Believe it or not, Warner actually played a role in the development of HD DVD and had endorsed the format from the beginning. It's also a member of the DVD Forum, from where HD DVD was borne. While it's not clear what exactly led the studio to change its mind, there is much speculation that Sony offered Warner a large incentive.

"Based on the timing of the Warner Home Video announcement today, we have decided to postpone our CES 2008 press conference scheduled for Sunday, January 6th at 8:30 p.m. in the Wynn Hotel. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause," the HD DVD Promotional Group said in an e-mail to the press Friday evening.

"We are currently discussing the potential impact of this announcement with the other HD DVD partner companies and evaluating next steps. We believe the consumer continues to benefit from HD DVD's commitment to quality and affordability -- a bar that is critical for the mainstream success of any format," the e-mail continued.

Toshiba, meanwhile, issued a press release of its own Friday night, which pulled no punches in expressing the company's disapproval of Warner's decision. Although, it's not clear whether Toshiba has any potential recourse against Warner, aside from hinting the studio may have violated contractual agreements.

"Toshiba is quite surprised by Warner Bros.' decision to abandon HD DVD in favor of Blu-ray, despite the fact that there are various contracts in place between our companies concerning the support of HD DVD. As central members of the DVD Forum, we have long maintained a close partnership with Warner Bros. We worked closely together to help standardize the first-generation DVD format as well as to define and shape HD DVD as its next-generation successor," the release stated.

"We were particularly disappointed that this decision was made in spite of the significant momentum HD DVD has gained in the US market as well as other regions in 2007. HD DVD players and PCs have outsold Blu-ray in the US market in 2007."

The HD DVD Promotional Group is expected to make further announcements as CES gets underway Monday. HD DVD still has exclusive backing from both Paramount and Universal, which means it's unlikely the so-called high-def "format war" will be over anytime soon, even with Warner changing allegiances.

HD DVD will continue to have a presence on the CES show floor, and BetaNews will be on top of all new announcements.

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