Europe's online source of news, data & analysis for professionals involved in packaged media and new delivery technologies

News in Brief - february 2006


THE United Nation's World Intellectual Property Organisation's Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights is pushing through a treaty that will regulate the Internet transmission of audio and video entertainment. Under the proposed treaty, cable companies, radio stations, and Webcasting operators would essentially take over the rights to control material broadcast over the Internet. The treaty demands that countries signed to the agreement would have to enforce the implementation of DRM like the proposed Broadcast Flag, which is unpopular with the tech industry. According to many industry insiders the RIAA and MPAA and the television companies are the main backers of this proposed treaty.

PIONEER has lowered its 2006 target shipment volume for DVD recorders to 840,000 units, 9.7% lower that its sales volume in 2005. Since Pioneer is a global leading brand, this has caused concern amongst other manufacturers of DVD recorders that global demand for DVD recorders may not grow as much as expected. As international brands, including Panasonic (Matsushita), Sony, Samsung, Philips and Toshiba, have begun promotion of next-generation Blu-ray Disc (BD) and HD-DVD devices, Taiwanese makers worry that DVD recorders will become transitional models that will eventually be replaced by machines based on the newer technology, the sources pointed out. CyberHome Entertainment (formerly named Protop Innotech) and Lite-On IT, two leading makers of DVD recorders in Taiwan, have set delivery goals of 3.3 million and 1.2 million units, respectively, for this year.

WARNER Bros Home Entertainment Group has entered into an agreement with open-source file-sharing company Bit Torrent. Warner Bros becomes the first major studio to provide legal video content via the Bit Torrent publishing platform. The announcement follows Bit Torrent's agreement with the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) to prevent film piracy and promote innovation in online digital distribution of content. Content published with Bit Torrent will be available on the Bit Torrent.com website and feature downloadable programming. The distribution channel will leverage Bit Torrent's revolutionary ‘file-swarming’ technology, which enables the transfer of files from a website to a PC. The service is intended to launch in summer of 2006 and will initially feature more than 200 Warner Bros titles.

MICROSOFT and Universal Studios are to collaborate in using Microsoft technologies in upcoming HD DVD discs. Universal has agreed to use iHD, an interactivity feature for DVDs, in its upcoming titles. Additionally, it will use VC-1, a compression protocol recently approved as a standard for use in HD DVD discs. Both technologies were developed in part by researchers at Microsoft. VC-1 will allow Universal to offer full 1080p resolution, yet have enough space on the 30GB HD DVD disc for additional features. iHD will allow for the accessing of interactive features without the need to interrupt playback. Currently, every major studio with plans to support HD DVD will use VC-1 in their discs.

MATSUSHITA, the maker of Panasonic goods, has said it will start shipping this month Blu-ray disc drives to PC makers, in an effort to promote the Blu-ray format for next-generation optical discs. The company says it will be the first in the industry to provide Blu-ray disc drives for PC makers, although the first products may only be available in Japan to begin with. Panasonic’s drive will read and write standard write-once BD discs as well as the rewriteable BDE standard, both in single-layer and dual-layer formats. It will also read standard DVD-ROM, DVD-RAM, write and rewrite standard DVD+/-RW formats, as well as standard CD-ROM discs.

SONIC Solutions, a DVD software company, formed the High Definition Authoring Alliance in July 2005, to help unify the “viewing experience,” if not the standards themselves, teaming with Laser Pacific, Deluxe and Technicolor Creative among others. And it has just announced it has formed an advisory group, adding PC and consumer-electronics companies to the mix. The advisory group will “test and validate user interactions,” using the two formats said the company.

BLOCKBUSTER Online has announced it will carry both HD DVD and Blu-ray high-definition movies when they begin to ship next month. Subscribers can begin adding HD DVD films to their rental queues on April 18, and Blu-ray titles are set to be available on May 23. Blockbuster also held a survey among its members and found that 55 percent had an HD-capable television and 47 percent were "very interested" in the new technology. Still, only one-third of subscribers said they planned to purchase HD-capable DVD hardware due to high pricing and the lack of a unified standard.

UNIVERSAL Studios Home Entertainment appears poised to become the second studio to release films on HD DVD. The studio will debut Serenity on April 18 as its first HD DVD release, followed a week later by Apollo 13 and Doom, according to retailer Web sites. Even though Universal hasn’t made any announcements, all three films are available for preorder at Amazon.com, Target.com and CircuitCity.com and at least one rental retailer has confirmed it has placed orders with Universal for its initial April HD DVD releases.

FUJITSU said it would launch desktop personal computers equipped with Blu-ray disc drives in June in Japan, becoming the first company to release PCs compatible with the next-generation optical discs. The new desktop PC from Fujitsu comes with a 37-inch liquid crystal display (LCD) screen and is expected to sell for around 600,000 yen ($5,063). Fujitsu also plans to launch notebook PCs with HD DVD drives in June, catering for both camps.

TOSHIBA plans to put its first laptop computer with a built-in HD-DVD drive on sale for about $3383 in Japan in May. And the Qosmio G30 is expected to be the first computer available from any vendor with an HD-DVD drive. The laptop, which is designed for multimedia use, will be able to play HD-DVD-ROM discs and read and write CDs and DVDs, including DVD+/-R DL (dual-layer) and DVD-RAM.

MICROBOARDS has announced that it plans to deliver models of its Blu-Ray Duplicators, that use Pioneer Blu-Ray recorders, later this year. The company will preview a version of its CopyWriter Duplicator tower with Hoei-Sangyo based duplication technology at the NAB 2006 show in Las Vegas April 22 - 26. Available with 5 or 10 recorders in a single system, its onboard high-capacity hard drive will support image storage, and will duplicate both Blu-Ray discs and DVD-Recordable discs. Microboards is also debuting its GX-1, a fully integrated CD/DVD publisher with combined printing and recording capability, that utilizes Vivera, HP’s latest ink technology. The company also supplies single sided Blu-Ray discs.

ONLINE DVD rental firms Lovefilm and Video Island agreed to merge today to bulk up against US competitors and defend their 17% share of the UK market. The tie-up will create a company that ships two million DVDs to more than 500,000 subscribers in the UK every month and has a strong footprint across Sweden, Denmark and Norway. Both firms will unite under the Lovefilm consumer brand and the 50-50 merger gives them greater scale to compete against US giants Blockbuster and Amazon. Revenues from the combined group totalled £25m (€36m) last year although this will rise if it succeeds in expanding across continental Europe.

TDK has begun shipping 25GB recordable and rewritable Blu-ray Disc media to retailers across the US. Retail pricing is set at $19.99 (£11.50) for a 25GB BD-R (recordable), $24.99 (£14.50) for a 25GB BD-RE (rewritable). In addition, TDK will ship 50GB Blu-ray Disc media later this year with retail pricing set at $47.99 (£27.50) for a 50GB BD-R (recordable) and $59.99 ($34.50) for a 50GB BD-RE (rewritable).