Sony is reported to be preparing to release a digital tuner to turn the PS3 games console, which seems to be gaining momentum for the Blu-ray high definition video disc format, into a digital video recorder. The news was revealed in an interview with a New Zealand newspaper. A Freeview digital terrestrial television service is due to launch in New Zealand next year.

The PS3 supports the Blu-ray high-definition disc format, unlike its rival the Microsoft X-Box which supports the incompatible HD-DVD format.

In the United States, the Blockbuster video rental chain has said that it will only support the Blu-ray format. Meanwhile Wal-Mart and Target have begun promoting Blu-ray. Some have seen this as the beginning of the end of the format war.

Michael Greeson, president and principal analyst of The Diffusion Group, rejects such a simplistic conclusion, but wonders whether HD DVD can pull of a miracle. He says it will be “Difficult but not impossible, though the window of opportunity closes a bit more with each exclusive retail and content partnership that Blu-ray announces.”

Meanwhile, the head of marketing at Sony Computer Entertainment in New Zealand has revealed that an add-on digital television tuner may be planned for the PS3. New Zealand will soon have a Freeview free-to-air digital television service available through either a satellite dish or an aerial.

Warwick Light told The Press in New Zealand: “We’re also hoping next year — about the same time that Freeview launches its terrestrial broadcasting service (expected to be in March) — to release a digital tuner for the PS3, turning it into a programmable TV recorder.”

The comments were quickly reported elsewhere, prompting much speculation about the capabilities. Sony certainly already produces digital video recorders in many markets, so an add-on for the PS3 seems like a fairly natural step.

It opens the prospect of the single device at the heart of a home entertainment system, which is the objective of many consumer electronics companies, one for which Sony is perhaps better equipped than most.

William Cooper of informitv will be speaking at the New Broadcasting Futures conference in Wellington, New Zealand on 28-29 August 2007. He will be speaking on ‘Broadcast to Broadband: future opportunities’ at the invitation of the Ministry of Culture and Heritage and the British Council.