Warner Home Video is the home video unit of Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc., itself part of Time Warner. It was founded in 1978 as WCI Home Video (for Warner Communications, Inc.). It was re-named Warner Home Video in 1980. Though some other Hollywood movie studios changed their "Home Video" units' names to "Home Entertainment" with the advent of DVD in the late 1990s, Warner Home Video's name has not changed yet.
The company releases titles from the film and television library of Warner Bros. Studios, as well as programs from other Time Warner companies. Currently, they also serve distributor for television and/or movie product released by BBC, Lifetime, HBO, Cartoon Network, Turner Entertainment Co., truTV (known as Court TV until 2008), Adult Swim, TNT, National Geographic Society in the U.S., and product from the NBA, NFL, and NHL.
Some early releases were time-compressed in order to save tape time and money and to compensate for long-playing cassettes being unavailable in the early days of home video. One example was 1978's Superman in which the film was released in a 127-minute format, compared to its 143-minute theatrical release.
Warner Bros. began to branch out into the videodisc market, licensing titles to MCA DiscoVision and RCA's SelectaVision videodisc formats, allowing both companies to market and distribute the films under their labels. By 1985, Warner was releasing material under their own label in both formats.
Warner also experimented with the "rental-only" market for videos, a method also used by 20th Century Fox for their first release of Star Wars in 1982. Two known films released in this manner were Superman II and Excalibur.
In 1997, Warner Home Video was one of the first major American distributors for the new DVD format, by releasing Twister on DVD. Warner executive Warren Lieberfarb is often seen as "the father of DVD".
In 2000, Warner Home Video was given the North America distribution rights for BBC Video titles, whereas previously they were distributed by CBS/Fox Video from the 1980s to the late 1990s. Many CBS/Fox releases of BBC Video titles were reissued under the WHV label, first on VHS and now DVD. This partnership between Warner Home Video and BBC Video continues to this day.
In 2006, Warner Home Video announced they would enter the market of releasing original direct-to-video films, a market that has proven lucrative for studios over the past few years, and which has for the most part been dominated by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. They announced much of their output would be followups to films that had done well at the box office theatrically, but wouldn't be expected to do well if a sequel were to be made. The first release under the Warner Premiere banner is the prequel The Dukes of Hazzard: The Beginning.
On September 26, 2006, Warner Home Video became the first company to street a title in three formats on the same day and date with the home release of The Lake House on DVD, Blu-ray and HD DVD. With Paramount Home Entertainment switching from neutral in the high definition video camp to solely to HD DVD in September 2007, Warner Home Video was now at the time the only major distributor to support both high definition formats, though this changed at the end of May 2008. From June 2008, Warner Home Video released new high definition content on Blu-ray only, because of Toshiba discontinuing the HD DVD format, becoming the last major Hollywood studio to drop HD DVD.
On December 17, 2008, the anime company Viz Media announced that on April 1st 2009 Warner Home Video will handle the distribution of both its new and existing catalog releases. Viz would still be the licensor and will do all production on their anime. Viz President and CEO Hidemi Fukuhara stated that he believes the partnership will help the company grow its anime holdings more effectively.
Also, for a number of years from the 1980s to the late 1990s, Warner Home Video was the distributor for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer video titles. Warner Home Video also served as the distributor for Pathe titles on video in the early 1990s.
United Artists films were released on video by Warner Home Video International until the early 1990s
Since New Line Cinema became the division of Warner Bros. in 2008, Warner Home Video will distribute its films on DVD and Blu-ray via its home video arm. Previously, Alliance Films was the distributor for New Line films in Canada.
In 2009, Warner Home Video introduced the Warner Archive Collection, which allows the public to order custom-made DVDs of rarely-seen films from the Warner and Turner libraries. The films are also available as digital downloads. Warner Archive DVDs and downloads can be ordered online on Warner's website, on Amazon.com or Turner Classic Movies-affiliated DVD website Movies Unlimited (Although Movies Unlimited sells these archive titles, it usually takes 2-3 months before the DVD is available for order after Warners releases it on their website.)
In the UK, Warner Home Video distributes most of the DVD releases of Icon Entertainment International, and also distributes Icon releases in Australia and Equinox Films releases in Canada.
In the Netherlands, Warner Home Video is also the new distributor for most new releases from Independent Films.