Sony and Toshiba are in talks to create a single optical disc storage standard.

The two leading backers of rival next-generation HD (high-definition) standards - Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD respectively - are discussing the possibility of just one format.

The discussions are at an early stage and there is no agreement yet, an industry source has revealed but it would make good commercial sense for both of them. Should they manage to agree on a single format, and gain the acceptance of other companies backing the respective formats, it would benefit both consumers and the electronics and entertainment industries.

A single format would mean consumers won't have to gamble when they buy a high-definition video player on whether the format will still be around in the future. It would also mean all high-definition movies are available on the same format and they might be cheaper because the market wouldn't be split.

The industry stands to immediately gain from a single format because the confusion or worry over duelling formats would be removed.

Video players for HD-DVD are expected on the market near the end of this year along with several dozen movies, according to the most recent plans. The rival Blu-ray Disc format isn't expected until 2006 when players and movies will become available. The system will also be used in Sony's next-generation PlayStation console, which is also expected to be able to play movies and be launched next year.

The two companies wouldn't confirm or deny that talks are taking place. Sony said in a statement that it remains open to discussions with supporters of other formats. "The door isn't shutting, it's the opposite," said a Sony spokesman.

Toshiba repeated its belief that a single format would be most beneficial for consumers and said it will work towards that goal. "We will also engage in necessary discussions," said a Toshiba spokesman.