Sony plans for Blu-ray with Web bonuses


Sony Pictures Home Entertainment is targeting April 8 as the date it will release its first batch of Blu-ray Disc titles that can be connected to the Internet for more bonus materials and features.

Upcoming Blu-ray Discs "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story" and "The Sixth Day" will be the studio's first two BD-Live titles. Their release coincides with the launch of a new software update for Sony's PlayStation 3 that makes the game console the first Blu-ray Disc player with Internet connectivity, an ability known as "Profile 2.0."

Ultimately, all Blu-ray Disc players will be Profile 2.0. When the format launched in June 2006, Blu-ray Disc players were of the basic "Profile 1.0" kind, meaning they could offer neither picture-in-picture nor Internet connectivity, something the rival HD DVD format offered from day one.

But as the format war began to wind down, Blu-ray supporters vowed to crack down on one of the HD DVD format's only advantages, and last October vowed to no longer produce any players that could not at least offer picture-in-picture, known as Profile 1.1, the next step up from Profile 1.0.

Now, the big push is for final spec Profile 2.0 players, which are slated to start coming to market over the next few months. Accordingly, studios are scrambling to produce final spec BD-Live software as well, with Lionsgate leading the charge last January with "War" and "Saw IV"--a bold move, considering there weren't yet any players on the market that could tap into the discs' Web-enhanced content.

Sony Pictures' two BD-Live titles each include exclusive downloadable theatrical and home video previews, along with a FAQ about BD-Live functionality. "Walk Hard" includes three featurettes that star Bill Hader as Derek Stone, a historian and expert "Coxologist." These featurettes are only available via the BD-Live download.

"Sony Pictures is truly excited about our initial foray into BD-Live interactivity," said Lexine Wong, senior executive vp of worldwide marketing for Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. "These releases offer entertainment enthusiasts just a glimpse of some of the remarkable new features that will soon be available on high-definition Blu-ray Disc."

In addition to exclusive content, BD-Live titles have the potential to enable a wide range of Web-based features, including ringtone and wallpaper downloads, peer-to-peer interactions, live virtual events and online gaming.