Stringer talks a Blu-ray streak

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Sony CEO Howard Stringer affirmed the company's support for and belief in Blu-ray Disc, saying in an exclusive e-mail interview Monday that the Sony-developed next-generation disc format has "the momentum and the scale" to ultimately triumph over rival HD DVD.

A week ago, an Associated Press story quoted the outspoken Sony chief as saying Blu-ray was in a "stalemate" with HD DVD, which is backed by Toshiba and Microsoft. His comments caused a stir in the blogosphere, where they were construed that Sony's resolve to win the next-gen format war might be weakening.

Stringer said that Blu-ray has the exclusive support of Disney and Fox, "who have consistently produced the highest level of boxoffice in recent years," as well as MGM, Lionsgate and Sony.

HD DVD is exclusively supported by Universal and Paramount, with Warner Bros. releasing titles in both formats.

"I think Blu-ray is just a better format," Stringer said. "Our partners are with Blu-ray Disc because, first of all, we have greater security, which Fox is particularly good at. Disney thinks it's a better picture. And the sheer amount of bandwidth on the disc gives directors and beyond all kinds of future opportunity, including director's cuts and who knows what 3-D capabilities will be down the road.

"I think that's why Steven Spielberg held out his own product from going to HD DVD," he added. "Ultimately, if you're passionate about movies, which these DVD collectors are, Blu-ray is the best answer. I think that is true, and we see that in the blogging environment.

"It isn't the cheaper format, but it is the better format," Stringer said.

He added that while HD DVD might have made inroads with price cuts on both hardware and software, Blu-ray hardware prices probably won't sink much below $400.

"We haven't announced any price cuts yet, but obviously the PS3 at $399 was a price cut, and that's also a Blu-ray player," he said. "We're comfortable with the situation at the moment."

Stringer also elaborated on the boom in PlayStation 3 sales after Sony cut the price of its 80GB model by $100 and launched a 40GB model. Sony said last week that in the two weeks ending Nov. 11, more than 100,000 game consoles were sold; Stringer said he ultimately could see the PS3 becoming as big as the PlayStation 2, the most successful video game machine ever.

"The momentum shift and the energy behind PS3 in time for Christmas is extremely fortuitous," he said. "It was planned by the PlayStation group, but I think this momentum now — particularly the number of games coming out, including our own as well as third-party — is the same as it was with PlayStation 2."

Noting that "it takes time to build a new format," Stringer insisted that PS3 is "not behind the curve compared to PlayStation 2 in terms of momentum. The amount of bandwidth and the processing power of Cell give game manufacturers a lot more work to do to use this system to its full benefit — and it's taken awhile to do it. The same was true of PlayStation 2."

He said Sony was waiting for the $399 price tag "to see if, indeed, the loyal PlayStation customers — and there are 200 million of them who have PS2 — (would) kick in, and clearly the value proposition has sent the message."
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