In Depth

HD DVD Tries to Go Deep With Super Bowl Ad

Could Sunday’s Super Bowl mark HD DVD’s Hail Mary?

The Toshiba-led next-generation DVD player format, declared all but dead by at least one technology research firm this week, will air a commercial touting the advantages of HD DVD during Fox’s Super Bowl telecast Sunday.

Toshiba, whose HD DVD format has lost ground to the Sony-backed Blu-ray player, will run a 30-second ad, confirmed Nicole Lawler, a Toshiba spokeswoman. Fox is charging between $2.6 million and $3 million for 30-second spots during the Super Bowl.

The commercial is an attempt to boost HD DVD market share, which has declined since Sony included Blu-ray players with HD televisions during the holiday season and took another hit earlier this month when Warner Bros. said it would release HD movies exclusively for Blu-ray starting in June.

HD DVD’s strategy is in marked contrast to that of Blu-ray, whose Panasonic-sponsored shopping mall tour showcasing new-this-year Walt Disney Studios HD releases such as “Finding Nemo” and “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” began last week in Toronto.

Last year, Super Bowl commercials were seen by an average of 92.8 million people, according to Nielsen Media Research, while Fox estimates a worldwide audience of 800 million people.

Still, the commercial’s effect may arrive too late to help Toshiba, whose electronic devices unit had a 7.6% decrease in operating income on flat sales for the quarter ended Dec. 31. After almost matching Blu-ray’s market share for the first week of January, HD DVD’s share fell to less than 10% the week after the Warner Bros. announcement, according to NPD Group, and was 34% for the week ended Jan. 19, according to Web site Digitalbits.com, citing NPD.

Warner’s decision “has left HD DVD with just Paramount and Universal as its major Hollywood supporters, both of which account for only 30% of all HD movies,” said a report from technology research firm Gartner this week. “By the end of 2008, Blu-ray will be the winning format in the consumer market, and the war will be over.”