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News in Brief - february 2003


The CeBIT CES Home Electronics Show scheduled to take place in Shanghai this week has been axed. The Consumer Electronics Association and Hannover Faires cancelled due to the outbreak SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome). The Shanghai New International Expo Centre wanted to postpone the May 14-17 trade show primarily because of the disease but the events cosponsors killed it.

DTS Entertainment now has more than 100 DVD-Audio music titles on the market. The entertainment division of the digital technology company licenses, produces and markets a series of DVD-Audio and 5.1 music discs. In building its DVD-A offer the company has put out a wide variety of music genres, including pop rock megahits such as Queen’s A Night At The Opera and the Eagles’ Hell Freezes Over.

British-based M-Audio is marketing the £100 Sonica Theater, a device which plays DVDs and music in 7.1 surround sound. Aimed at PC and Mac computer users, it can be used to record and mix music. The ST includes speaker set up software and bass management. It has analogue and digital output connectors plus TruSurround XT technology for playing DVDs. An optical connector to transmit Dolby Digital 5.1 DTS surround audio to suitable receivers is also included.

Macrovision saw net income soar 134% in the first quarter of 2003 versus Q1 the previous year. Video technology division of the copy protection provider saw DVD action account for $13.9 million, a 31% jump.

With the Media-Tech Expo (May 13-15) looming, the number of exhibitors – 178 – exceeds those at last year’s Frankfurt edition by more than 20%. Pre-registrations for a visitor pass at the las Vegas Mandalay Bay Convention Center are also up and the expo is on the way to being the largest gathering of media manufacturing professionals of the year.

JVC set a sponsorship deal with the Cannes Film Festival in which it will feature high-definition displays and product demonstrations throughout the pavilion during the May 14-25 event.

Sony is to invest $1.67 billion in a new plant for the manufacture of a superchip, Cell, reported to be hundreds of times faster than any current CPU. The Cell chip is expected to power a new generation of broadband-networked entertainment devices, perhaps as early as 2006.

More television and film features by the Muppets are likely, now that the family of founder Jim Henson has bought back the company from struggling German outfit EM.TV. Brian Henson said the family's first goal would be to look for strategic partners in ventures like the marketing and distribution of its family-oriented programming.

Word from Röbel, Germany is that Kick-Off 4, a new game produced by Optimal Media Production GmbH for Ascaron Entertainment is the first DVD-ROM to be produced with copy protection. The protective technology used is called Star Force. This enables a protected DVD to be copied but has an
integrated code that does not let the copy run. Optimal Media Production is an independent service provider to the media industry It manufactures and distributes of DVD, CD, LP and MC.

There’s continuing global value in European back catalogue movies if the deal struck between France’s Canal+ and New York’s Rialto Pictures is any guide. Rialto picked up US theatrical, DVD and video rights to seven classic titles from the StudioCanal library. The deal includes films by Jean-Luc Godard, Vittorio De Sica, Alain Resnais and Jean-Pierre Melville. StudioCanal is to restore the negatives while Rialto will strike new prints. Prior to a DVD release, Godard's A Woman Is A Woman will be released theatrically this month (May). Other films included in the deal are: De Sica's Gold Of Naples (1954); Resnais' Last Year At Marienbad (1961); Jacques Becker's Touchez Pas Au Grisbi (1953); Alberto Lattuada's Mafioso (1962); and Melville's Le Doulos (1961) and Leon Morin (1961).

DVD players are the most reliable appliances, according to Which? magazine whose research findings in the UK suggest most of the electrical products now on sale are “generally reliable.” DVD players performed the best in the survey, with just 3% needing repair in the first four years. Among the 3,644 readers with a standard television up to six years old, 11% said their machines had broken down while just 8% of those with a widescreen TV up to six years old said the same.

Chinese DVD and home appliance manufacturer Haier signed its first sponsorship agreement in the UK with Worcestershire cricket club. The county team will wear the distinctive Haier pink square logo branded kit in the Frizzell County Championship and Cheltenham & Gloucester Trophy this season. The Haier group, with global headquarters in Qingdao, China, has 30,000 employees and 13 production centres around the world, is clearly targeting Britain in a branding exercise.

The Massive Attack band are to release the second single from their platinum selling 100th Window album on June 9. The track, Butterfly Caught, will include four remixes and will be put out on DVD and will include live footage and a new video.

With the DVD and video of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets now the biggest seller of all time – WHV sold 1,750,000 in two days – the franchise shows no sign of slowing. J.K. Rowling is putting the finishes touches to her fifth Harry Potter book, The Order of the Phoenix, due to be published June 21. Filming has started on the third Potter film, The Prison of Azkaban, due for release next year and Harry Potter is at the top the library lending league for the first time with the most borrowed book in the UK having been taken out more than half a million times.

Following executive changes at Universal in the UK, Steve Beecham, the company’s catalogue general manager, will now handle DVD catalogue as well as VHS releasing. Acquisitions director Ian Hall will now also be responsible for sourcing UK rights for film product.

FACT has an additional role in the UK. The copyright cops backed by the US studios have been tapped by 20th Century Fox to check dealers across the country and warn them not to rent out retail-priced product. The Motion Picture Association believes this is a copyright issue and part of FACT's remit. Director general David Lowe: "FACT has recently agreed to work on behalf of 20th Century Fox in protecting its rental rights as a legitimate copyright issue. Currently we are involved in investigating which video rental stores are conducting illicit practices. Our role is purely an educational one, forewarning offending rental operators that stocking retail product is an infringement of copyright in accordance with destination rights, and providing advice on the potential pitfalls of not complying.”

The DVD Committee has renamed itself The DVD Entertainment Group at a time when DVD is set to become the most popular home entertainment format in the UK. The non-profit organisation, which embraces DVD software distributors, hardware manufacturers and facilities houses, was set up to help promote the format. With recordable DVD still to make its mark, the DEG says that one in four Brits own DVD players (excluding games consoles) and that 90 million discs were sold in 2002, double the 2001 total. Group foresees 5 million DVD players installed by the end of 2003 and forecasts that 90% of UK homes will have a DVD player by 2006.

Apple Computer’s new service, iTunes Music Store, which according to the company has sold three million songs online at 99 cents each, no longer carries a service called Rendezvous that enabled listeners and third parties to access one another's music and listen to it — but not download it — from any computer. It seems hackers found a way to download the music as well, spurring Apple to send out an update for iTunes software that disabled Rendezvous. In a statement released May 21, Apple said Rendezvous had been "used by some in ways that have surprised and disappointed us."

Philips is ready to licence its Blu-ray new technology to DVD equipment manufacturers. Developed jointly by a consortium of nine consumer electronics companies Blu-Ray is a candidate to succeed current DVD technology, which is just seven years old. Blu-Ray, which deploys a blue laser (present DVD and CD equipment use a red laser), increases a disk’s capacity to 27 gigabytes. Manufacturers of Blue-Ray players are required to pay $20,000 in licences, plus an annual fee of $120,000 for copy protection. Licensors receive $0.10 for every DVD player produced. Media companies will have to pay an annual fee of $8,000, plus $0.02 per DVD for copy protection. Another blue-laser technology developed by NEC and Toshiba, however, is set to compete directly with Blu-Ray. While the NEC-Toshiba solution provides a somewhat lower disk capacity, it offers a significant advantage of backward compatibility with today's DVDs.

Philips is adding broadband connectivity to the reference design of its high end DVD recorders. This follows TiVo's recent launch of a streaming media add-on to its DVR units. Adding a specialised media chip will enable DVD recorders to process multiple media formats, including MPEG-4, and enable connection to the internet. Rumour is that Philips plans to market the design to electronics manufacturers in Japan and South Korea in the first instance because broadband access there is relatively wide.

The Recordable DVD Council will set up a Recordable DVD Pavilion at the Sept 17-20 WPC Expo 2003. Idea is to make a strong appeal to visitors by showing a lineup of products compliant with recordable DVD formats established by DVD Forum.

Version 1.2 of the DVD+RW Real Time Video Format Verifier was released in May and now includes AC3 checks.

The first Blu-ray Disc Seminar will be held on June 16 in Tokyo. Participants are required to conclude the IA (Information Agreement) or the FLLA (Blu-ray Disc Rewritable Format and Logo License Agreement) prior to attendance.

Schedule:
13:30 Introduction (Philips)
13:40 General description (Pioneer)
14:00 Key technologies for Blu-ray Disc (Hitachi)
14:20 Specifications in Physical (Panasonic)
14:40 Logic and application specification (Sony)
15:00 Coffee break
15:30 QA session, discussion
16:00 Closing

Admission is free. Language will be in English.
Contact Ms. Sakurada of Philips Japan. E-mail: natsuko.sakurada@philips.com