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Hi-def news: Paramount drops Blu-ray support

Just when you thought the end was in sight for the Blu-ray vs HD DVD war, along comes Paramount and announces that it is going to release movies exclusively on HD DVD

It's not often we see significant advances in the high-definition disc format war, but yesterday -- in a move that had us re-reading the press release with our mouths wide open -- Paramount announced that it would shift from supporting both formats, to exclusively releasing movies on HD DVD. The announcement also includes Dreamworks Animation, MTV Films and Nickelodeon Movies, all owned by media company Viacom.

The press release was keen to point out that this will affect films with a box office value of $1.5bn, including both Transformers and Shrek the Third. The exclusive deal begins with Blades of Glory, but there is no mention of the length of this deal.

Despite constant cries from the Blu-ray camp that the war is over, and that the Sony-backed format is the clear winner, there have been a number of important releases that should boost HD DVD. A number of TV shows, including Heroes and Battlestar Galactica are exclusively available on the format. Add to this the lower cost of HD DVD capable hardware and a new generation of players on the way from Toshiba, and the battle's looking far from over.

Will this announcement suddenly invigorate HD DVD sales? It's pretty unlikely. It has big implications for those of us who care about tech, but the public at large generally couldn't give two hoots about exclusivity deals. They are unlikely to commit to either format until dual-format players are ubiquitous and cheap, meaning they don't have to worry about which format they pick, or until one or other of the formats wins outright. The latter option is unlikely to happen anytime soon, as Sony proved with Betamax, which hobbled on for more than a decade with no more than a few dozen people buying players.

Could it be that other movie studios are starting to grow weary of Sony's format and the extra cost of Blu-ray production? Or could it be that they have been paid a large sum of money to back HD DVD? Either way, it's unlikely that this is a motiveless move and someone, somewhere has a plan. A bit like the Cylons... -Ian Morris