Walt Disney and its Buena Vista Home Entertainment division are supporting the Blu-Ray high-definition disc format, the company announced Wednesday.

Blu-Ray is a standard for the next generation of optical video discs promoted by Sony, Hewlett-Packard, Dell, and others. It's designed to store high-definition video content and can store up to 25GB of data on a single-layer disc and up to 50GB of data on a dual-layer disc.

Rival equipment vendors Toshiba and NEC are pushing a different standard, known as HD-DVD (high definition/high density DVD), for PCs and optical disc players. HD-DVD backers argue that while Blu-Ray discs can store more data, the HD-DVD standard is better suited for high-definition storage because it uses more efficient codecs to write data to the discs.

Several Blu-Ray products have been released, while HD-DVD products are scheduled to appear next year. With two competing standards backed by prominent PC and consumer electronics companies, the support of major studios such as Disney is crucial to the chances of either format emerging as a standard.

The HD-DVD standard recently won the backing of several major studios, such as Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros. Studios, Universal Pictures, and New Line Cinema. Those studios expect to have HD-DVD content ready by the fourth quarter of next year.

Buena Vista's divisions, such as Miramax Home Entertainment, Touchstone Home Entertainment and Disney DVD, generate a great deal of movies each year that is purchased on DVD by consumers. As more consumers demand high-definition content, the Blu-Ray standard will provide the best picture quality, data capacity and rights management technologies for Disney's content, Disney said.

Disney will join the Blu-Ray Disc Association as a member of the board of directors, it said.