Disney Hopes to Tap into Blu-ray’s Interactive Technology

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Tue, 07/22/2008 - 20:00 -- Nick Dager

Disney Hopes to Tap into Blu-ray’s Interactive Technology And in other Disney-related news the company and the broader entertainment industry is hoping that Sleeping Beauty will help awaken interest in Blu-ray DVDs. According to an article in the New York Times in October Disney will release a 50th anniversary edition of the classic animated movie in the high-definition Blu-ray format. But Disney is not stopping there. Sleeping Beauty will also come with unusual features geared toward a generation of viewers that embraces interactivity and social networking the Times reported. According to the article viewers can watch the movie in tandem with friends in other locations and chat using a laptop P.D.A. or cellphone. (Comments appear on the screen.) Parents who are not able to watch the film with their children can record a video message that will pop up during a designated scene as the child watches. Viewers will also be able to compete against others around the world at trivia. All of these activities are possible because of a technology that connects Blu-ray discs with the Internet which the entertainment industry is calling BD Live. Disney and other studios including Lionsgate and of course Sony believe that BD Live could be Blu-ray’s killer app potentially altering the tepid response that consumers have given Blu-ray to date. “Our research shows that so many people watch TV with their laptop nearby ” Lori MacPherson senior vice president and general manager for Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment North America told the Times. “Online gaming and texting are already popular. The question is how do we harness this?” According to the Times story hardware is a giant hurdle. First-generation Blu-ray players are not compatible with BD Live and cannot be upgraded. Although Sony’s PlayStation 3 can use the technology there is currently only one BD Live Blu-ray machine — Panasonic’s DMP-BD50K model — and it costs about $800. Several new BD Live-enabled machines are scheduled to arrive in stores by fall but they will still be out of reach for many. The new Blu-ray players will sell for as little as $400. Another challenge will be to educate the public about the possibilities. “We need to demystify this technology for the mass market ” Bob Chapek president of Disney’s home entertainment unit told the Times. All of this is taking place in the context of the first year that domestic DVD sales declined. Disney is upbeat about the prospects. “The idea of my little girl being able to experience a movie and chat in real time with her grandparents across the country is very exciting to me ” Chapek said at a recent BD Live demonstration in Los Angeles. “I can’t help but think it will be exciting to a lot of consumers too.”  AttachmentSize disneynews132main.jpg72.28 KB