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

News in Brief - july 2006


MITSUBISHI Chemical Media Ltd. announced that the first 8cm DVD+R DL for video cameras will be available in the end of August. The new 8cm DVD+R DL discs are currently supported by the HDR-UX1 video camera by Sony. The media offer a capacity of 2.6GB, meaning that it can hold up to 55 minutes (SP mode) of video. In addition, the dics come with a white printable surface compatible with inkjet printers. Although the company did not disclose pricing details, the media package (3 discs) is expected to cost approximately 3000 Yen ($26, £14) in Japan.

VERBATIM said it will start selling a dual layer mini DVD-R dick at the end of the month which will hold 2.66GB of data on a single side. The introduction will coincide with the introduction of the Canon DC22 Mini DVD-R DL compatible camcorder. The discs, said Verbatim, double the capacity of current mini DVD-R disks. The discs will come in three packs at an estimated price of $25, and will become available internationally over time.

DESPITE the US retail chain Target pulling UMD movies for the PSP market from its shelves, Sony says that it is still committed to the format for movie distribution. Sony Computer Entertainment America says that it has been gathering consumer data on PSP users, and has been presenting the information to the Hollywood studios to help them understand the profile and needs of the market.

HDTV manufacturers who have been unsuccessful selling sets in Europe despite high-definition telecasts of such major sports events as the World Cup are now hoping that movies will boost sales. The online edition of Business Week noted today (Tuesday) that only about 800,000 households in Europe receive HD programming and only about 2 million homes own HD-ready sets (compared with 19 million in the U.S. and 11 million in Japan). Japanese manufacturers of HD DVD and Blu-ray players plan to ship product to retailers in October, and Hans Kleis, CEO of Sharp Electronics Europe, told the magazine, "I expect the big boom [in HDTV] in Europe will be at Christmas."

ACCORDING to the China Video Industry Association (CVIA), in 2005, China manufactured 82 million televisions and 140 million DVD or VCD players. Sales of plasma and LCD TVs are forecast to grow 105 percent this year to $5.5 billion, and are estimated to reach $10.5 billion in 2008, according to research firm IDC. The CVIA has agreed to promote and support the use of High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) by the consumer electronics industry.

OPTODISC Technology and Prodisc Technology, both second-tier producers of optical discs in Taiwan, are facing financial pressures and are eagerly competing for orders of 8x DVD+R/-R discs by lowering OEM quotations from $0.15 to $0.12 per disc, according to industry sources. Other second-tier and small makers of 8x DVD+R/-R discs may be hit by the cut in prices, the sources pointed out. However, CMC Magnetics and Ritek, the top two makers of optical discs in Taiwan, indicated that their production capacities have been booked up and that they will not reduce OEM prices. A large portion of DVD+R/-R discs produced by the two companies is for 16x speed, with present OEM prices ranging between $0.18 and $0.22 a disc.

SAMSUNG Electronics chip factories have announced mass production of a 8GB NAND flash memory chip. Samsung said an 8GB NAND flash device can store 2,000 MP3 files or 225 minutes of DVD-quality video. NAND flash is manufactured by vertically stacking two, 4GB packages, each carrying a vertical stack of four, 8-gigabit chips. It's the kind of innovation the USB flash storage drive industry has been waiting for to push its devices to 16GB, which users should see in stores by Christmas. iPods, USB Storage are to benefit from the new Samsung chips.

LONDON-based PIMC Ltd announces they are "full-steam ahead on HD DVD authoring and encoding" after having invested heavily in the equipment and the training of staff to be able to offer HD-DVD alongside their DVD encoding services. PIMC is planning on offering Blu-ray encoding and authoring over the next few months. "After almost 3,000 digital video projects we're as keen and competitive as we were 10 years ago when DVD was still in short trousers," boasts Cliff Oxlale, the director. The company continues to offer international services and is one of the few UK-based studios to produce regular NTSC titles for US-based clients.

PHILIPS Electronics, the largest European maker of consumer electronics, reported on Monday a 69 percent drop in second-quarter earnings, partly because of a poor performance at its flat-screen joint venture. LG.Philips LCD, its liquid crystal display joint venture with LG Electronics of South Korea, reported a net loss of €85 million, reversing a profit of €822 million a year earlier. The displays suffered from sharp price declines as sales of flat- panel LCD televisions during the World Cup soccer tournament failed to meet expectations.

KOREAN firm LG will release its first 18x DVD burner - named GSA-H22N - in Europe later this month. The GSA-H22N is a 18x DVD super-multi DVD burner which also writes DVD-RAM at 12x. A LightScribe version of the drive will be also available under the name GSA-H22L. The company has also released the GSA-H30N (S-ATA) and the GSA-H10L (ATAPI) Super Multi DVD burners with 12x DVD-RAM recording and DL 10x/16x DVD burners in the Korean market.

DVD will continue to be the most popular way to view movies for at least the next decade, according to the 2006 Annual Report on the Home Entertainment Industry, which was released today. Relying on data from Adams Media Research, the report estimates that consumer spending on DVD purchases and rentals will total $30.3 billion in 2015, compared to $11.7 billion in box office revenue, $9.8 billion for video-on-demand, and $3.0 billion for pay-per-view. The report was released at VSDA's Home Entertainment 2006, the annual convention for the home entertainment industry, which opened today at the Venetian Resort Hotel Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.

TECHNICOLOR has eliminated more than 300 positions at its DVD production plant in Camarillo, California, laying off 176 workers immediately and giving 53 a chance to change shifts. Camarillo's largest employer took the action late last week at its home entertainment services plant where DVDs are copied and packaged for distribution. Employment at the facility generally fluctuates between about 1,600 and 2,000 workers, said John Fraser, the city's management assistant for economic development.

TECHNICOLOR has eliminated more than 300 positions at its DVD production plant in Camarillo, laying off 176 workers immediately and giving 53 a chance to change shifts. Camarillo's largest employer took the action late last week at its home entertainment services plant where DVDs are copied and packaged for distribution. Employment at the facility generally fluctuates between about 1,600 and 2,000 workers, said John Fraser, the city's management assistant for economic development.

THE launch of Blu-ray Disc burners may be further delayed due to tight laser diode supply.Optical disc drive makers such as Lite-On IT and BenQ recently expressed concerns that a tight supply of key component laser diodes may affect the release of Blu-ray Disc burners, according to the Chinese-language Commercial Times. The yields for Blu-ray laser diodes are still low due to a high technical barrier, with only Sony and Nichia being the only suppliers, stated the paper. In addition, Sony is setting aside a major proportion of its laser diode capacity for its upcoming PS3, which may also affect the availability of its Blu-ray laser diodes, the paper said. Sony is currently the major supplier of laser diodes for Royal Philips Electronics, BenQ and Lite-on IT, the paper indicated.

GLOWRIA, Continental Europe’s leading independent provider of personalised on-demand entertainment, announces the launch of its own-brand Video on Demand (VoD) service to French consumers. This launch directly follows the deal with Neuf Cegetel to offer Neuf’s subscribers a white-label VoD service, through the set-top box, straight to their televisions. It is the only French company licensed by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group to deliver ‘download to own’ programming in France. The service offers direct access to a large selection of films, available any time, anywhere, and for either 24 hours or unlimited viewing.

LITE-ON plans to work with Toshiba to launch HD-DVD players at prices less than US$1,000 in the beginning of August while aiming to ship 50,000 Blu-ray players per month before year-end, according to the Chinese-language Apple Daily.

PARAMOUNT Home Video is venturing forth into the HD DVD market with the release of 10 titles on the high definition disc format. The first wave of the Paramount High Definition-branded releases, debuting July 25, includes action adventures Sahara and Tomb Raider, sci-fi thriller Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow and Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow. The second wave, slated to debut Aug. 1, includes Four Brothers, We Were Soldiers and The Manchurian Candidate. The first 10 will be rounded out by a third wave scheduled for Aug. 8 that includes U2: Rattle and Hum, Aeon Flux and The Italian Job. Each will be priced at $29.95 (£16).

IT has been revealed today that the new HD-DVD drive that is to be released for the Xbox 360 will most likely cost £199 when it is released in the UK. Gamesindustry.biz cites it’s “retail sources” as confirmation, and they also expect a bundle to be released that will include both the drive and the Xbox 360. The expected price for this bundle is to be £400 – which is considerably lower than the PS3 when it eventually stumbles into Europe. Two HD-DVD movies are expected to be bundled too.

BUSINESSWEEK claimed Apple will soon announce the sale of download movies to own through its iTunes site at prices ranging from $14.99 for newer releases and $9.99 for catalogue, initially sourced from Disney where Apple’s Steve Jobs is shareholder. Other reports claimed that Apple is to pay $14 wholesale for the new releases, a price that has apparently angered Wal-mart, which pays $17, and which has a 40% share of the $17 billion US DVD market.

STRATEGY Analytics forecasts that the number of households using some form of digital TV in Western Europe will grow to 75 million this year, up from 56 million at the end of 2005. By 2010, DTV will be used by almost 127 million households in the region – close to 77 percent of all TV homes. The growth of DTT and IPTV threatens cable and satellite operators who have historically dominated pay TV in Europe and other regions. These new platforms will also spur millions of consumers to access TV programming from multiple sources, especially in countries where hybrid services combining free DTT channels with broadband-delivered IPTV content are being launched.

18.3 MILLION households in Western Europe added broadband during 2005, nearly three million more than the 15.4 million who subscribed the previous year, says Strategy Analytics. Much of this growth came from larger markets including Germany, where Local Loop Unbundling has spurred DSL competition, and the UK, where both consolidation and new entrants to the market has stimulated competition. Strategy Analytics projects that another 16 million European households will take up broadband by the end of this year, bringing the total base of subscribers to 73.2 million. The analysts project that 63% of all households, or 108 million households in Western Europe will use broadband to connect their PCs to the Internet by the end of the decade.

DAEWOO Electronics, the South Korean maker of set top boxes and DVD recorders, which employs 285 people at its Antrim, Northern Ireland plant, said that it was asking for voluntary redundancies where possible. In a statement, the company said it was unable to compete with cheaper Turkish and Chinese imports. The company has been manufacturing consumer electronics in Antrim town since 1989 and at one time employed nearly 1,000 people from the surrounding areas. At one stage, the plant was the second largest manufacturer of video recorders in Europe.