Paramount could well be releasing high-definition movies on the Blu-ray format again as soon as 2009. Despite being paid $150m for exclusive HD DVD support, it emerged yesterday that the deal might only last for 18 months.

It was announced late on Monday that Viacom's Paramount and its DreamWorks Animation arm were ditching the Blu-ray disc format in favour of going HD DVD exclusive. It was then revealed that the HD DVD camp allegedly paid Paramount $150m to make the deal happen.

Until now, Paramount has been releasing movies on both HD DVD and Blu-ray, while DreamWorks has not released movies on either.

That the HD DVD crew is willing to splash out $150m for 18 months' exclusive support from one Hollywood studio does smack slightly of desperation.

That this amount of cash can be thrown around like that also shows the kind of investments that have already been made. The Blu-ray camp is said to have thrown money at Target, Blockbuster and Hollywood studios to secure exclusive support for its format.

Will deal prolong dismal format war?

The Paramount deal is likely to prolong the format war between Blu-ray and HD DVD - a war that looked like it would soon be over. Those of us who already own next-gen players will feel alienated by the studios and player makers because we'll feel like we've backed the wrong format. The rest of us won't buy anything until a clear winner emerges - or plump for a hybrid player that spins both formats.

Sneaking up the outside, of course, is the prospect of HD movie downloads via broadband... something that could yet consign both Blu-ray and HD DVD to the digital dustbin.