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

News in Brief - january 2009


IN THE UK, a bill that would ban throwing DVD players, VCRs or computers into landfills will go either to the House Environment and Agricultural Committee or to the Science and Technology Committee this year, and one Manchester legislator is already leaning toward supporting it. The state already bans dumping monitors, including TV sets, more than 4 inches large. Some manufacturers such as Sony and Dell are already implementing take-back programmes nationwide and have set up ‘e-waste’ recycling centers (in several states) where you can drop them off for free."

A CANADIAN organization representing the motion picture industry seized more than 200,000 illegal DVDs in three GTA malls in a series of raids. Pirated DVDs in flimsy plastic sleeves were openly displayed for sale in at least 10 stores at the Pacific Mall and a few stores at the Oriental Centre. Among the titles were The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Seven Pounds, both currently showing in theatres. Fluorescent signs advertising "one for $4," "three for $10" and "seven for $20" encouraged shoppers to buy in bulk. Illegal DVDs amount to an estimated $118 million annual loss for Canadian movie distributors.

ACCORDING to the Los Angeles Times, Distribution Video Audio in Burbank, California, shipped its final truckload of VHS tapes in October and, with no further shipments planned, is the last major VHS distributor in the US to do so. The last major Hollywood movie to be released on VHS was "A History of Violence" in 2006.

THE US Federal Communications Commission refused permission to the Motion Picture Association of America to use a controversial anti-piracy technique in which the FCC would grant a waiver for blocking selected video outputs. The MPAA still hopes to receive FCC approval to essentially work alongside cable TV providers to ensure analog output of pre-DVD release movies – especially in high-definition format – will not be available, unless using the MPAA's "secure and protected digital outputs." The MPAA believes analog streams are too insecure, and can have their protection measures easily stripped. Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal City Studios, Walt Disney Studios, and Warner Brothers jointly filed the request.

A FORMER Jaguar car worker who ran a counterfeit operation from his home and peddled his goods at the factory has been ordered to pay back nearly £50,000 of his ill-gotten gains. Officers searching his house discovered a ‘cottage industry devoted to the manufacture and sale of counterfeit items.’ They seized his entire stock of fake DVDs – some pornographic – music CDs and computer games together with equipment used by him in their copying and production. The 45-year-old sold the goods at the Jaguar car plant in Halewood where he had worked at the time.

ACCORDING to Nielsen SoundScan year-end figures more than 1 billion digital songs were sold throughout 2008 – a 27%  increase over 2007 – while physical album sales fell 20%  down to 362.6 million units. Atlantic Records recently became the first major music publisher to announce digital music sales surpassed CD sales, with more than 50% of music sales now coming from music downloads.  Warner Music Group also announced digital revenue also surpassed physical sales, with other record labels expected to announce similar trends.

SAMSUNG Electronics is said to have designed new production methods that will be able to drastically reduce the cost of ultra-flat OLED panel production, while also increasing screen functionality. To date the industry uses amorphous silicon TFT – an expensive and difficult-to-produce method. The better performing new amorphous oxide TFT can be used for LCDs, OLEDs, LED sensors, thin film solar cells, and other developing technologies. Samsung admits OLEDs are still too expensive, but the Korean company is looking towards the future, with OLED product announcements and technology innovation.

MORE than five million fake DVDs will be sold to unsuspecting British shoppers this Christmas. UK copyright body The Industry Trust revealed that one in ten consumers will be conned with counterfeit goods when buying movies and TV box sets online, at markets or car boot sales. Even film fans who try to steer clear of pirate DVDs will be ripped off during the festive season. Millions of dodgy DVDs come from Malaysia, Thailand and China.

THE LATEST earnings for Dolby Laboratories showed total revenue of $163.1 million, compared to $129.0 million for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2007, an increase of 26 percent. Fourth quarter net income was $48.6 million, compared to $44.2 million for the same period the year before. For fiscal year 2008, Dolby reported total revenue of $640.2 million, compared to $482.0 million for 2007, an increase of 33 percent. Net income for fiscal year 2008 was $199.5 million, compared to $142.8 million for 2007.

IMATION India Pvt Ltd has announced the availability of the TDK Life on Record (LoR)'s new Blu-ray Discs capable of recording at 4x speed. The four new discs include BD-R25 and BD-R50 write-once discs, as well as BD-RE25 and BD-RE50 rewritable discs. The discs incorporate a recording layer comprised of inorganic material together with the exclusive DURABIS 2 hard-coating technology, a smooth cover layer created through the spin-coating method. A TDK LoR 4x 25GB Blu-ray Disc can be fully recorded in 22 minutes, and a TDK LoR 4x 50GB Blu-ray Disc can be fully recorded in 45 minutes, cutting the recording time in half in comparison to 2x Blu-ray Disc media.

LG ELECTRONICS India announced its landmark achievement of selling 2 million DVD writers in 2008. LG claims that their estimated market share in this segment now stands at 49% in open market globally also. The growth over 2007 has been a whopping 100%. The sales have 90% contribution from trade and 10% contribution from OEM partners.

THE BBC announced that iPlayer has delivered record end of year figures. December 2008 saw 41million requests to view BBC TV programmes via BBC iPlayer, the biggest month since launch in December 2007. This compared to just over 35 million requests in November 2008. The total number of requests for the year now stands at 271 million. During the seven day period from Christmas Day to 31 December the total number of requests to view BBC TV programmes via BBC iPlayer was 8 million.

DOLBY Laboratories is reported to be promoting its 3-D Blu-ray Disc technology with content providers in the hope of securing the vital industry standard when Blu-ray in 3D debuts. Dolby's standard would utilize existing Blu-ray players, 3-D equipped TVs and glasses with specs determined by TV manufacturers. This comes at a time when Panasonic is unveiling its own 3-D Blu-ray technology, that would be built into software and hardware, at CES in Las Vegas this week. Panasonic’s technology utilizes special glasses viewing alternating left-and-right eye images at 120fps to achieve a 3-D effect on-par with what you'd find in the movie theater today.

SINCE its launch in November 2005, Microsoft has sold more than 28 million Xbox 360 through the end of 2008. The company also has sold 8 million Xbox 360 units during the Christmas shopping season. GfK-ChartTrack indicates the Xbox 360 was the "fastest-growing" next-generation console in Europe throughout 2008. After a price cut in September, Microsoft's sales numbers went up, with the Xbox 360 outselling the more powerful PlayStation 3 836,000 to 378,000 during the month of November, NPD Group research numbers report. Xbox Live now has 17 million subscribers, with more than $1 billion spent through the service since its introduction.

INDUSTRY big shots Wal-Mart and Netflix have both been named in a consumer lawsuit which accuses them of "trying to build a monopoly for online DVD rentals." The complaint, which was filed by San Francisco-based Andrea Resnick in the US District Court for the Northern District of California, alleges that both firms "unreasonably restrained trade, sending up prices." As the story goes, the duo decided back in 2005 that Wally World would shut down its online rental business and refer those customers to Netflix and the plaintiffs allege that these actions would end up promoting Walmart's DVD movie sales.

JAPAN’s leading animation publisher Bandai has announced a new business arrangement with Technicolor under which the Thomson subsidiary will replicate its upcoming and catalogue DVD titles. Many fans who have purchased anime DVDs from Bandai in the past had reported occasional issues with the quality of those discs, resulting in some recalls and replacements. There are speculations that these problems may have prompted this new partnership with Technicolor that enjoys worldwide reputation. Technicolor is the largest manufacturer of DVD and Blu-ray discs in the world, having the capacity to create 2.1 billion discs per year.

WAL-MART Stores has begun selling Blu-ray disc titles for $10 to online customers, and Amazon.com is offering a Blu-ray title sale for $12.99 and up. Titles available for $10 at Walmart.com include First Blood, Terminator 2, Stargate, Saw, and Total Recall - all catalogue titles.

CONTINUING the consolidation trend within the packaged media industry, Cinram International Inc. is reported to have signed a letter of intent to sell substantially all the assets of its wholly-owned packaging/printing subsidiary Ivy Hill Corp to Multi Packaging Solutions (MPS).The transaction is expected to close within the first quarter of 2009, and may occur as soon as the end of January, according to a source familiar with the deal.

CIRCUIT CITY, the second-largest consumer electronics chain in the U.S., will liquidate and close all of its 567 U.S. stores, according to court filings. The chain was on life support since November, when it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The company could not reach an agreement with creditors and lenders to keep itself going, and no buyers were interested in picking up the chain. Circuit City is now a small step away from its undoing, as federal bankruptcy court must still give final approval to the liquidation. Roughly 30,000 employees will lose their jobs. In Canada, 765 stores with about 3,000 employees will remain in operation.

AS the sluggish global economy crushes company after company, South Korea's Samsung Electronics has been the latest hit, as the company announced it will split current operations into two separate divisions. One division will handle consumer products – with products ranging from TVs to mobile phones – while the components division will handle RAM and LCD monitors, Samsung said in a statement. Financial analysts expect Samsung to report its first loss since the company started to publicly release financial numbers in 2000.

AROUND 10,000 counterfeit DVDs have been seized following a police search of a house in Edinburgh, UK. Police also recovered PS2 games, three DVD burning towers and a computer from the property. Officers also found drugs, swords, knives and a stun gun during the search. Kieron Sharp, from the Federation Against Copyright Theft (Fact), said: "The seizure of a large quantity of illegal drugs alongside counterfeit film and TV products highlights the serious criminal intent of those involved in film and TV piracy.

FRENCH leading independent replicator and Blu-ray pioneer QOL  has announced shorter turnaround time for Blu-ray disc tests. It now offers five-day delivery time maximum after receiving hard disc and AACS key. At an extra cost, it provides an express delivery service of 2-3 days. QOL is also partnering with ELSASSER, a specialist in mastering, equipped with the latest SONY PTR 3000 Blu-ray mastering, in order to supply Blu-ray stampers.

WARNER Brothers Entertainment is to shed 10 per cent of all employees as the recession starts to bite in Hollywood. Warner plans to cut about 800 jobs with most of the cuts coming in information technology and support services. In a letter to Warner Bros staff, Barry Meyer, the studio’s chairman, said the cuts reflected "changes necessary for stability and growth going forward". The studio also plans to move an unspecified number of jobs to India and Poland. The studio has also sharply cut the number of movies it releases, falling from a peak of more than 40 a year to about 25 in 2008.

TELEGENT Systems has unveiled the TLG2300, a single-chip CMOS hybrid TV receiver that solves the technical and integration challenges of adding live TV to PCs and portable devices. The TLG2300 delivers the performance, low power and high integration needed to meet the requirements for embedding live TV in laptops, netbooks and mobile Internet devices, eliminating the barriers that constrain the PC TV market. The chip supports digital (DVB-T) and analogue (PAL/SECAM/NTSC) TV and FM radio, enabling global PC TV solutions in a single SKU.

LG ELECTRONICS and Sharp Electronics are among the latest four companies that joined the regular membership of the Digital Entertainment Group, the other being movie studio Summit Entertainment and UK-based production house Meridian Audio. For its part, Redbox, the largest US operator of movie-rental kiosks, joined the group as an associate member. The company doubled its North American kiosks last year to about 12,000 by reaching agreements with such retailers as Wal-Mart, Walgreens and 7-Eleven. The DEG now has 65 members, including all of the major film studios.

THE NUMBER of US HDTV households, defined as households having both an installed HD-capable TV set and also receiving and watching HD programming, increased by almost 40% in 2008, according to In-Stat research. In the US, there are more than 39 million households with an installed HDTV set, however, only 22 million of those are HDTV households, meaning that 17 million US households with an installed HDTV set are not watching HD programming. In-Stat also found that at year-end 2008, there were over 36 million HDTV households worldwide, up from 29 million at year-end 2007. Even though the number of European HDTV households is rising, it will be 2011 before the number of HDTV households in that region reaches the 10 million mark.