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News in Brief - february 2008


BLU-RAY took a decisive lead in disc sales for the week ending January 13th, the first full week following Warner's announcement that it would abandon its HD DVD support. Blu-ray had outsold HD DVD in overall disc sales by a factor of nearly 2:1 since the start of 2007, but this week saw the largest gulf between the two rival formats yet, with Blu-ray commanding an 85% share of all high-def discs sold. Up until then HD DVD had been holding steady with a relatively strong 39% share of high-def disc sales in the last weeks of the 2007 holiday shopping season.

LAST december Playstation 3 sold a total of 798,000 consoles compared to 1.3 million consoles for both the Xbox 360 and The Wii. A reason can be found in Playstation's problem with third-party developers. A total of 33 third-party developers made it to the top 10 of best-selling on all platforms. Only five PS3 games achieved the same.

LG Electronics India announced that it sold one million DVD writers in 2007. LG's estimated market share in this segment now stands at 41 per cent. The growth over 2006 has been a whopping 364 per cent. Some 85% of the sales comes from trade and 15% are contributed from OEM partners.

CONSTANTIN Film, Germany's leading independent film production and distribution company with 11 of the 25 most successful German theatrical films of the last ten years, announced its movies will be released in Blu-ray only beginning 1 March. The company has been releasing in both formats until now. Citing Warner's shift and a desire to see the format war end, Constantin's Home Entertainment Director said it is "following the international trend."

US consumer spending on DVD sales and rentals fell 2.9% in 2007, according to the Digital Entertainment Group (DEG). That means rentals were flat at $7.5 billion, and sell-through declined 3.6% to $16 billion. Overall, consumer spending on all formats including DVD, VHS and high-def discs, was $23.7 billion, down 2%, even though unit shipments were up 2%, to 1.7 billion. DEG said consumers spent nearly $300 million on high-def discs in the first full year.

IN conjunction with the Nichia corporation of Japan, Sony has succeeded in developing smaller and cheaper blue laser modules for use in Blu-ray drives. The new laser units measure just 3-mm thick, and are less costly to produce than previous incarnations of the product. The advance will also allow Blu-ray drives to arrive in 9.5-mm laptop drives later in 2008.

THE Blu-ray Disc Association has announced that a new company, BluFocus, has been formed to help assist Blu-ray studios in "quality control checks" of their upcoming Blu-ray releases. Many have hoped for such a group as titles on Blu-ray and its rival HD DVD are very sophisticated systems of interactivity and many make it to retail shelves with flaws that need later patches or even recalls. The new group will test all titles to ensure they operate on all players before release. The company has an expertise in the Blu-ray authoring language BD-Java and is "able to run the discs through a variety of tests in order to ensure compatibility with the set standards."

SCIENTISTS of the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits in Germany – developers of MP3 and MPEG-4 formats – have designed a new audio format – HD-AAC – that offers better sound than CDs and the file sizes are small enough to put online. The codec is based on MPEG-4 SLS, a scalable lossless format. HD-AAC delivers high-quality 24-bit/96KHz files. They can be played on a home media server, and after that use the base version (AAC-LC layer) to play back on an iPod.

820-STORE UK retailer chain Woolworths announced it will drop HD DVD titles from its stores in March, although they will still be available online. It said it decided on the move after Sony’s Blu-ray outsold Toshiba’s HD DVD by 10-1 in its outlets over Christmas. The main reason is the success of Sony’s PlayStation 3 machine. Since launching high definition DVD last October, Woolworths claims to be the biggest retailer of the new DVD format in the UK, with sales typically rising by more than 40% a month.

IN recent developments regarding the insolvency procedure of ODS’s manufacturing plants, eight new HD DVD-ready Singulus Spaceline II lines installed in the company’s Polish plant from December 2006 to March 2007 are offered for sale by the finance company who owns them through second-hand equipment broker Switzerland-based Add-Y-Pac. The asking price is €450,000 the line.

SOME call it Toshiba's last effort to save its high-definition format. A $2.7 million costing ad during the Super Bowl to promote HD DVD. The ad highlights Toshiba's HD-A3, HD-A30 and HD-A35 players. Toshiba's marketing department confirmed that the Japanese giant will run a 30-second ad during the Super Bowl. Its main goal is to reinvigorate HD DVD. Known as the most expensive domestic marketing day in the United States this action shows that Toshiba wants to pull out all registers. With Blu-ray not reacting and not broadcasting during the Super Bowl, HD DVD will have 30 seconds of fame without any 'blu-commerce' before or after the ad.

IN the course of 2008, Sony DADC will expand its Blu-ray Disc (BD) production and achieve a yearly production capacity of 200m units worldwide. Since April 2006, Sony DADC has already produced more than 110m Blu-ray discs worldwide, of which more than 20m are dual-layer BD50. In Salzburg alone, over 40m BD disc have been produced. For its Austrian sites, Sony DADC will be recruiting at least 100 additional employees. The investments are fuelled by Warner Bros. Entertainment’s decision to release High Definition movies exclusively in the Blu-ray Disc format.

MICROSOFT spokesman, Jeff Bell has admitted his company has been in discussions with Blu-ray developer, Sony, for some time - recently being quoted as saying the company has "been talking to Blu-ray all along." However it has not been talking about putting Blu-ray drives into Xbox 360s, but rather it has been trying to convince the Blu-ray camp to use Microsoft's HDi software – the technology that added all the extra features to HD DVD. Blu-ray uses the Java-based system to power its interactive menus and features, which is still under development. HD DVD’s HDi technology had proved more popular with disc creators.

GERMANY'S Sony has teamed up with Saturn, a major electronics retailer in that market, to help owners of HD DVD players make the switch to Blu-ray by offering a credit of €150 on the purchase of Sony BDP-S300. This player normally retails for €499 so the exchange would lower it to €349. This player can already be purchased for €380 on German Internet shops, but Saturn also bundles eight Blu-ray movies. The Xbox 360 HD DVD add-on drives and PC HD DVD drives are excluded from the offer.

LOVEFiLM International will acquire Amazon Europe's online rental business in the United Kingdom and Germany. As part of the transaction, Amazon Europe will become the largest shareholder in LOVEFiLM. If the deal is approved by regulators, LOVEFiLM will have more than 900,000 subscribers in the U.K., Germany and Scandinavia.

CYBERLINK announced it is participating in the formation of MPEG LA’s joint HD DVD patent license based on its ownership of a patent determined to be essential to the HD DVD standard. CyberLink's patent relates to the specifications for interactive content over a network for prerecorded HD DVD Discs, for playback according to the DVD Specifications for High Definition VIDEO (HD DVD-Video).

MICROSOFT has cut another $50 off the MSRP for its Xbox 360 HD DVD add-on, emulating a series of price drops on HD DVD players from Toshiba. This brings the new suggested retail price on the Xbox 360 HD DVD player in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand to $129.99. Purchases of the Xbox 360 add-on include a free HD DVD copy of 'King Kong' inside the box, and qualify for an additional five free discs by mail as part of the HD DVD camp's "Perfect Offer" programme.

MALAYSIA has stepped up raids on movie pirates, having seized 487 DVD burners this year compared to 23 in 2007, says the the U.S.-based Motion Picture Association. In the latest raid, officials confiscated 150 burners and tens of thousands of discs from a lab outside Kuala Lumpur. The 150 burners seized could have churned out 8.1 million pirated discs a year, generating $14.2 million in revenue, the association said. Association members, including Paramount Pictures, 20th Century Fox and Universal, lost about $1.2 billion in 2005 because of movie piracy.

FRENCH independent replicator QOL becomes a member of the Blu-ray Partners, France, since obtaining all of the necessary licenses and certifications granted by the BDA Association for the production of BD discs. QOL says it will "commit its considerable experience and expertise to assist the Blu-ray Association and Partners France and plans to help significantly in the development and the success of the Blu-ray Format." Members of the group include Panasonic, Philips, Pioneer, Samsung, Sony, Sony Computer Entertainment, Gaumont Columbia Tristar Home Vidéo, Fox Pathé Europa, Walt Disney Studio Home Entertainment, Warner Home Vidéo and Mastery International Pictures.

NEW Medium Enterprises believes that with its low production costs and movie prices -- about the same as a standard DVD -- it can move 500,000 of the red laser format HD VMD 1080p standalone players worldwide in 2008. The company has had some success dealing with international distributors, resulting in high profile movies like Apocalypto available on the format in Australia. In the U.S., the only studio noted is Anthem Pictures, which plans to release three titles a month.