Report: Universal opts out of HD DVD exclusivity

<i>Variety</i> says major Toshiba high-def video player supporter will not renew its sole support of the format when it expires in May.

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Last week, Warner Bros. shook up the next-gen format war with a seemingly impromptu announcement that it would be abandoning Toshiba's HD DVD high-definition video playback format in favor of Sony's Blu-ray standard beginning in May. The blow to HD DVD was followed by a vicious left hook, when the Financial Times revealed that fellow HD DVD supporter Paramount may capitalize on an out clause in its exclusivity contract with Toshiba that specifically pertained to Warner Bros.' defection.

Though the Viacom-owned Paramount officially continues to stand by its HD DVD exclusivity decision--as does format supporter Microsoft, despite recent reports that Blu-ray support for the Xbox 360 wasn't out of the question--Universal Studios would be the sole major-studio standard bearer for the HD DVD format. However, it now appears Universal may be readying the haymaker that will down Toshiba's video playback standard for the count.

Variety reports that Universal Studios has ended its HD DVD exclusivity deal, though it will continue to only support the format until its current arrangement with Toshiba ends May 31. The report did not indicate whether Universal will exclusively support Sony's Blu-ray format after that date. Speaking to GameSpot, a Universal Studios representative confirmed that, for the time being, the studio will continue to support HD DVD, though they would not say whether Blu-ray support is also on the agenda.

Sony's Blu-ray high-def video player, which is prominently advertised as one of the primary draws of the PlayStation 3, enjoys the lion's share of support from major motion picture studios. In addition to Warner Bros., the Walt Disney Company, 20th Century Fox, and Lionsgate all support the format exclusively. New Line Cinema and HBO, both subsidiaries of Time Warner, also reportedly revealed during the 2008 Consumer Electronics Show that they would follow Warner Bros. as Blu-ray exclusive studios.

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