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News in Brief

SALES of Blu-ray Disc players in Western Europe, including Sony's PlayStation 3, should reach 10 million units by the end of the year, according to a new report by Futuresource Consulting, the London-based research company derived through the recent merger of Understanding & Solutions and Decision Tree Consulting. The, report said the unit sales — three years after the launch of Blu-ray — surpassed standard DVD, which recorded 1.5 million unit sales during the same time period. The findings mirror separate data from Media Control GfK International, a German-based media market research firm that said global Blu-ray sales would reach $1.5 billion this year, $4.1 billion in 2009 and $8 billion in 2010.

QOL, France's leading independent replicator, is extending its range of services to Blu-ray customers with the addition of an automatic packaging line for Blu-ray Discs. The new line provides a high quality cellophane-folding in X – with a tear tape option. QOL has now two BD lines with a monthly capacity of more than 1 million BD25 GB and BD50 units.

SINGULUS Technologies AG, said it received a order of 15 DVD lines for machines of the SPACELINE II type from a well-known European replicator for its European sites. Unconfirmed industry speculations point to Cinram. With the new order, Singulus claims a 65% global market share for pre-recorded DVD replication lines. Singulus received orders for 31 Blu-ray lines in the first half, the Kahl Am Main, Germany-based company said in a statement. Singulus is aiming for more than 65 percent of the market for Blu-Ray machines, it said.

SONY’S 2008 FY report will show that their strategy of pricing the PlayStation 3 below its production cost has generated losses of 232.3 billion yen ($2.16 billion) in 2007 and 124.5 billion yen ($1.16 billion) in 2008. Sony is arguing that developing and providing products that maintain competitiveness over an extended life-cycle requires large-scale investment relating to research and development, particularly during the development and introductory period of a new platform, and this may never be recouped.

BLOCKBUSTER's adoption of Blu-ray, and studios need to speed up the mass-market product or face losing out to digital downloads. With all studios now on-board and full profile stand-alone players shortly available, Keyes believes Blu-ray can help extend the packaged media model another five to ten years, and that the rental model can help. However, to make it work the studios need to get serious and make more copies of Blu-ray films.

MEMBER companies of the Motion Picture Association of America have filed breach of contract lawsuits in U.S. District Court against China-based DVD player manufacturers Gowell Electronics Limited and Nanjing Wanlida Technology Co., Ltd. The lawsuits assert that Gowell and Wanlida, manufacture and sell DVD players that lack appropriate security features used to prohibit the unlawful reproduction and distribution of motion pictures in breach of the Content Scramble System (CSS) license.

FORMER HD DVD player manufacturer Onkyo is getting on board with Blu-ray Disc, with plans for a player later this year, the company announced recently. Specifically tailored to the company’s second-generation high-definition receivers, the company aims to do better with its Blu-ray player than it did with its HD DVD player, which reportedly only sold a few thousand units. Onkyo did not release any further details, including price or other player details.

OPTICAL disc replication machine makers M2 Engineering AB and Leybold Optics GmbH are entering into a strategic alliance that encompasses both the solar and optical disc activities of both companies. Leybold Optics is a major European manufacturing company that, for more than 150 years has been a world leader in the field of high vacuum thin film industrial coatings on both solid and flexible substrates.

DUTCH financial magazine, Het Financieele Dagblad, announced that Philips will no longer put any money in the development of DVD-recorders after the 1st of September. For now it's still unclear what will happen with the company's DVR line, since a hard drive and DVD burner are both included with these DVRs. A spokesman of Philips isn't giving any extra info on this, besides saying that the Blu-ray and DVD players will continue to be sold under the 'Philips' brand.

THE Chinese government has put the final piece of the puzzle in their adoption of HD DVD for their domestic market: they have formally proposed to the DVD Forum to graft their home-grown A/V codec (AVS, AKA Audio Video Coding Standard) to HD DVD’s physical and logical format. The move will save Chinese manufacturers an estimated $1,000,000,000 in MPEG-2/AVC HP/VC-1 royalties over 10 years. China Blue High Definition (CBHD), as it is now called, made mandatory use of AACS.

PIONEER has announced that it will begin offering Blu-ray disc recorders in Japan beginning in the Q1 2009. A Pioneer spokesperson added that there were no plans for Europe or North America launches and that the decision to enter the market "anticipated burgeoning Japanese demand for products in the next-generation video format." The company will develop the recorders with its partner Sharp but will sell the "high-end" recorders under the Pioneer brand.

SONY Picture Entertainment is planning to make the Will Smith action film Hancock, available online to owners of the Web-connected Sony Bravia TV before the movie goes out on DVD. By doing so, the studio is changing the typical distribution path of movies which, after their initial run in cinemas, are released on pay-per-view television services, then via DVD, Internet downloads or streams, and finally on free broadcast TV.

ARVATO digital services has been granted official certification by the Blu-ray Disc Association. The certificate of the Blu-ray Disc Association provides documented proof that the new technology has been successfully implemented and that the processes for BD25 and BD50 are running smoothly, while maintaining the highest standards of quality. Following the installation of the company's first Blu-ray Disc production lines in Weaverville, North Carolina as well as Gütersloh, Germany, arvato has consistently expanded production.

CHINA has now an official BDA approved Blu-ray Disc Test center. The Blu-ray Disc Association recently certified CESI Technology Co Ltd to perform verification of Blu-ray Disc products. Due to this development, Blu-ray Disc technology production is expected to increase in China, particularly with Blu-ray Disc players. Local Chinese manufacturers will now be able to verify their Blu-ray product functionality inside their own country rather than shipping out internationally. This should lead to more Chinese technology companies developing and producing Blu-ray products.

GERMANY's BND foreign intelligence service described in February how it bought data on trusts managed by the Liechtenstein Bank LTG on behalf of wealthy tax-shy Europeans. The BND reportedly paid about €4 million for one DVD with the data. Since then, German prosecutors have recovered €110 million in arrears from repentant taxpayers hoping to ward off trials, according to a prosecutor, Eduard Gueroff, quoted by the newspaper Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung.

SINGAPORE-based Axiom has announced that it will be the first to bring a full range of Blu-ray Disc (BD) solutions to Asia-Pacific, including hi-def content production, preparation and BD authoring; packaged media manufacturing; and content delivery and distribution - all completely in-house. To celebrate the occasion, George Yeo, Singapore's Minister for Foreign Affairs, will be the guest of honour at Axiom's inaugural Blu-ray Disc south-east Asia disc launch on Friday, 18 July. The event also commemorates the first BD replication line in south-east Asia and continental Australia, and only the second of its kind in the Asia-Pacific outside of Japan.

PORTUGUESE authorities have created a K-9 pirate unit following a successful demonstration by Lucky and Flo – the world's first DVD-sniffing dogs. In March 2008, the Malaysian government launched the first ever canine unit to fight piracy with two sniffer dogs donated by the Motion Picture Association of America (one died in unexplained circumstances). Portuguese law enforcement authorities have now trained Ruca, a five-year-old black labrador, to sniff out DVDs. Ruca's training was initiated by the Portuguese National Guard and will be used to assist in inspections at flea markets and public fairs where illegal discs are often traded.

A MEXICAN police taskforce executed a raid on the notorious pirate market known as 'La Cuchilla' in the state of Puebla earlier this month. The raid was part of an overall campaign that is targeting major distribution centres. This is the third action against the same market this year. As part of the raid, authorities seized 183 DVD/CD-R burners, 454,528 music CD-Rs, 76,920 film DVD-Rs, 300,000 music and movie in-lays and 100,000 jewel boxes, along with several hundred televisions and speakers that were being used to market the illegal products.

ACCORDING to data from Home Media Research, in the first six months of this year, consumer purchasing of DVD and Blu-ray discs generated $10.8 billion in sales combined, compared with $10.6 billion in the first six months of 2007. Spending on disc purchases rose 1.1%, from $6.8 billion to $6.87 billion. Unit sales were up 1.1% as well, with consumers buying an estimated 412.3 million discs in the first six months of this year, up from 407.9 million discs in the first half of 2007, according to studio reports. In the first six months of 2008, consumers spent an estimated $194 million on Blu-ray purchases, according to studio estimates - a gain of nearly 350% from the $43 million that came from high-definition disc sales the first six months of 2007.

WARNER Home Video is to cut the prices it charges retailers to order its Blu-ray titles in the holiday quarter, which should result in significant savings for consumers. With the discounts, prices would likely fall to between $14 and $17, which is generally only slightly above the cost of standard DVDs.

LAST year, India’s consumer electronics market grew by more than 30% to reach US$3.8bn and will continue to skyrocket. According to a newly released India CE Market report from Futuresource Consulting, the market value is on track to quadruple in the space of five years, to reach nearly US$16bn by 2012. On the TV market (more than 80% of the total CE market value) CRT accounted for 97% of colour TVs shipped in 2007. India’s price sensitivity can be a barrier to growth for flat screen and flat panel products. However, by 2012, LCD and plasma will account for 55% of shipments – up from less than 3% last year - and this equates to a staggering US$10Bn+ of trade value.

SAMSUNG has announced it will be unveiling a line of Blu-ray equipped HTiB (Home Theater in a Box) systems this August, with the debut of the HT-BD2E. At a suggested retail price of $799 it is the lowest-cost Blu-ray HTiB system available on the market. The HT-BD2E will feature a 5.1 channel surround sound system and a BD profile 1.0 Blu-ray player. Samsung also offers the HT-BD2S ($999) and HD-BD2T ($1499) Blu-ray HTiB systems at a suggested retail price of and respectively, both featuring 7.1 channel surround sound.