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

News in Brief - january 2007


WAL-MART Stores has entered the fledgling but growing market of movie downloads with a new service that bundles a digital copy of a film with the purchase of a hard copy of the DVD. The movie download programme begins with sales of the DVD of the Warner Bros. movie Superman Returns. Starting Wednesday, when customers purchase the disc from Wal-Mart, they will be able to choose from one of three options for a digital copy: $1.97 for a download formatted for portable devices, $2.97 for one that's compatible with computers, and $3.97 for one that works on both portable devices and PCs. Then, upon returning to their computers, buyers of the Superman Returns bundled DVD can enter a redemption code on Wal-Mart's beta video download site and obtain the digital version.

TIME Warner, the world's largest media company, plans to offer services that let consumers download movies from the Internet that can be burned onto DVDs in 2007, its top executive has said. The company would likely make these movies available for such services, including one service with Wal-Mart Stores, on the same day its DVDs go on sale. "I expect we will be in a download-to-burn mode in 2007. It will be a part of next year's offerings," Richard Parsons, chief executive and chairman of Time Warner, said at the third annual Reuters Media Summit in New York.

TIME Warner, the world's largest media company, plans to offer services that let consumers download movies from the Internet that can be burned onto DVDs in 2007, its top executive has said. The company would likely make these movies available for such services, including one service with Wal-Mart Stores, on the same day its DVDs go on sale. "I expect we will be in a download-to-burn mode in 2007. It will be a part of next year's offerings," Richard Parsons, chief executive and chairman of Time Warner, said at the third annual Reuters Media Summit in New York.

FACT (the Federation Against Copyright Theft) is pleased with the announcement by the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, in his Pre Budget Report, that there will be tighter penalties for illegal copying and piracy and the recognition of intellectual crime in the National Community Safety Plan, as well as the additional funding for enforcement by Trading Standards. It is also pleasing to see that there is a recommendation for the regulation of so-called ‘occasional sales’ such as markets and car boot sales.

DICK Parsons, the CEO of Time Warner Inc., said that an ongoing war between competing formats for next-generation DVDs was leading to confusion in the marketplace. "The format war is unfortunate," Parsons told an investor conference in New York sponsored by Credit Suisse, referring to the conflict between Sony's Blu-ray format and the competing HD DVD platform championed by Toshiba. Warner Bros., a major Hollywood studio owned by Time Warner, puts out movies in both formats. Parsons said the conflict was confusing to consumers, and that major companies couldn't fully back a single format, which would drive costs down. Parsons also said he didn't expect Sony's highly anticipated PlayStation 3, which can also play movies in the Blu-ray format, to have a big impact on video viewing habits, saying people were more likely to use the consoles for playing games.

ADVANCED Media, Inc., manufacturer and marketer of the popular RIDATA brand of recordable CD and DVD media, electronic storage products, and digital media accessories, is to introduce the Blu-Ray media in the United States. The company is now shipping the blue laser format RIDATA HD DVD-R media with Blu-Ray disc availability scheduled for the first quarter of 2007. In addition to the 25GB, single-layer Blu-Ray product, Advanced Media will introduce RIDATA-brand 50GB dual-layer Blu-Ray and 15GB single-layer Blu-Ray-RE by 4th quarter 2007. A Rewriteable BD RE version of Blu Ray discs is also expected in 2007.

AN AMERICAN film industry official said China should lift barriers that block most movie imports, warning that they are fueling its thriving market for pirated titles and hurting Chinese studios. Beijing allows in 20 foreign films for theatrical release each year, a tiny fraction of the hundreds produced, Michael C. Ellis, senior vice president for the Asia-Pacific of the Motion Picture Association, said last week. He said the gap is filled by pirated DVD copies, which are believed to account for 93 percent of movies sold in China.

WALT DISNEY Pictures’ action-packed worldwide film sensation Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest became the #1 DVD of the holiday season, selling nearly 5 million units on DVD in North America in its first day of release it was announced by Bob Chapek, president of Buena Vista Worldwide Home Entertainment.

IN an industry first, the music of Yash Raj Films’ Dhoom 2 has been released on the DVD-Audio format. All the tracks have been mixed in London in 5.1 Surround Sound and audiophiles can choose the format from the audio menu. The lyrics can be viewed on-screen as the music is playing, thus enabling Karaoke sing-along. The theatrical trailer and credits can be viewed optionally. There are four additional tracks from Fanaa, Bunty Aur Babli, Salaam Namaste and Neal’N’Nikki.

FAKE CDs and DVDs are expected to cost the film and video industry in Ireland €80m this year. The growth in piracy has put counterfeiting almost on a par with legitimate business. Christmas is the busiest time for so-called under-the-counter goods, the quality of which varies widely. The National Federation Against Copyright Theft is trying to convince people they are wasting their money. They say the quality of the counterfeit goods is so poor it is not worth buying.

INDUSTRY tracking firm The NPD Group reports that the Blu-ray-enabled PlayStation3 has sold 197,000 units in the US so far -- a total sellout of all domestic shipments Sony was able to deliver to retailers through November. Meanwhile, Microsoft's HD DVD add-on for the Xbox 360 has moved 42,000 units since its launch in mid-November (the company has not released total number of units delivered to retailers, preventing any sold-versus-shipped comparisons).

IN its latest report, Research & Markets analysts forecast that China's film industry will grow from generating $250 million in box office profits in 2005 to close to $900 million by 2010 and almost $2 billion by 2015. Furthermore, China will follow a steep upward trend to overtake the U.S. film industry, currently the dominant global market leader, by sometime in 2050.

DISC makers are concerned that the average selling prices (ASPs) for raw material polycarbonate (PC) have increased more than 10% since a November explosion at a plant of leading supplier of the important disc manufacturing material. The resulting supply drop for optical disc-use PC has caused ASPs from leading suppliers including GE, Teijin Group and Mitsubishi to rise to US$2.80 per kilogram, representing an increase of more than 10% above previous quotes. ASPs from Taiwan makers have also increased to US$2.70, up from US$2.40-2.50 previously. Although leading optical disc makers including CMC Magnetics, Ritek have already increased their prices for optical discs (both CD-R and DVD+R/-R) by 8-10%, the increased cost of PC cost should pose a profit risk for industry players.

LG ELECTRONICS said it will announce at CES a hybrid HD DVD / Blu-ray Disc player. That is all LG is promising for the moment, "details." There's no name for the device just yet, only a promise that it will be unveiled in the US early this year. There's also a single sentence: "LG expects this technological breakthrough to end the confusion and inconvenience of competing high-definition disc formats for both content producers and consumers."