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News in Brief

The Beatles are reportedly in talks to make their music available legally on the Internet for the first time. Surviving band members are considering their own branded store, possibly run by one of the existing providers, according to CNET, which broke the story. MSN is thought likely to emerge as the winner, according to anonymous sources cited by Reuters. MSN is opening an online music store later this year.

Philips says the DVD+R part 1, Single Layer 1x - 16x: Basic Format Specifications, Tentative Version 1.29, May 2004 have been released.

Symptomatic of the decline of programmed videotape in Britain, distributor Third Millennium has become to ditch VHS. From August, the distributor will only supply titles on DVD in a move that is likely to hasten the inevitable death of tape in the rental and retail spheres.Phil Crace, managing director at Third Millennium, says: “What really made the decision for us were the cutback in orders from Irish customers. They used to stock 50:50 VHS to DVD, but this is now 20:80.” He says that with VHS now accounting for below 20% of sales, his company would be making a loss on VHS product by continuing to supply it.

Specialist DVD and video marketing operation DD is joint venturing with Channel 4 in the launch of a new branded direct marketing operation, 4 Direct. Industry veterans Elizabeth Stockwood and Terry Hanks have been brought in as senior managers of the company. The new business, which is a joint venture with 4 Rights, part of the commercial arm of Channel 4, will see DVDs of the broadcasters factual programming marketed via on-air promotions, mail order and websites. The first DVD titles from 4 Direct, due later this year, will include Science Of The Swastika, Napoleons Waterloo and A World In Arms.

In an effort to explain its patent licensing and product certification process for 16x DVD+R, 8x DVD+RW and 8x DVD DL (single-sided double-layer) drives/burners and discs, as well as introducing its anti-piracy technology, Vidi. the DVD+RW Alliance held a technological symposium in Taipei, Taiwan. Eight members of the DVD+RW Alliance, including Philips, Ricoh, Sony and Hewlett Packard, participated. Vidi, jointly developed by Philips and HP, is a new copy protection technology to protect digital recordings of digital broadcasts and cable TV. The DVD+RW Alliance hopes to launch the technology as soon as 2005.

Digital Video System says its Korean subsidiary DVSK is now shipping the DVD-Portable Player Model VXM-2200 to customers in the automotive aftermarket. DVS Chairman and CEO Thomas A. Spanier comments: "The DVD model VXM-2200 is mounted either vertically or horizontally in car interiors and can be easily removed by the consumer for use at home as a portable DVD player. It can withstand the intense vibration and temperature extremes associated with vehicle use."

The burgeoning popularity of DVD videos has driven the German home entertainment market sales to a new high in the first quarter of 2004. GfK Panel Services Consumer Research says revenue from the sale and rental of DVDs and video cassettes hit 361.5 million Euro, surpassing the 2003 Q1 high of 334.3 million Euro by 8.1%. Revenue from DVD transactions rose by 28.8% to €250.1million Euro but sell-through videos generated €32.7 million, a fall of 39.2% compared to the same period a year earlier.

In an attempt to promote the adoption of the DVD+R and DVD+RW formats by Taiwanese manufacturers, the DVD+RW Alliance will hold a symposium in Taipei June 4, according to the local Chinese-language Economic Daily News. The symposium is intended to familiarise Taiwanese optical discs and drive manufacturers with technological developments and the requirements for product-certification and patent-licensing of 16x DVD+R, 8x DVD+RW and DVD+R DL (single-sided double-layer disc). The DVD Forum, the DVD+RW Alliance's main competitor that promotes the DVD-R, DVD-RW and DVD-RAM specifications, held its 9th DVD Conference in Asia in Taipei on April 6 this year for similar purposes.

In the technology whirl that witnesses new developments at breakneck speed, the latest wrinkle is a three-wavelength optical head that is able to record and play back discs in three formats: the standard DVD and CD formats, as well as hi-def Blu-ray discs. This development, from Sony, is seen as a potential boon for consumers since it offers backwards compatibility. But it also reduces the number of parts required to produce optical heads.

A UK DVD rental website,, is to launch with an advertising push in a bid to gain a share in what is fast becoming a cluttered market. The website, which is part of Arts Alliance Media, offers people DVD rentals delivered to their homes from prices starting at £9.99 a month and is one of a number of online rental sites being launched this year. Blockbuster, the high street rental giant announced recently it was launching a similar service, for which monthly fees will start at £13.99. Video Island and ScreenSelect, also to operate in this field.

NEC Corp intends to increase shipments of recordable DVD drives used in personal computers to more than 10 million units in fiscal 2004, up 50% on the year, in response to the shift among major manufacturers toward models with more audiovisual functions.

Manufacturers prices for mainstream 8x8 DVD Dual (+R/-R and/or +RW/-RW) burners are down 20% and now come in below $100, according to Taiwanese companies. Traditionally, the second quarter is a slow period for optical disc drives and channel distributors tend to have higher inventory levels and therefore procure smaller volumes. Another reason for the price slip is that 8x DVD DL (single-sided double-layer discs) burners and 12x DVD burners are beginning to be produced, so distributors are hesitant to order 8x8 DVD Dual burners, Taiwanese manufacturers believe.

According to numbers released by Statistics Canada, distributors sold a record $1.14bn (C$1.6bn) in DVD in the financial year 2002-03. The boon in home video was directly correlated to an increase in DVD ownership across the country. The percentage of Canadian households with a DVD player increased to 36% in 2002, compared to 20% in 2001.

The number of people illegally downloading and copying film and television series has exceeded all predictions with an estimated loss to the UK video industry of UKP45 million in DVD sales alone, according to research released by the British Video Association. Figures, gathered by the BVA and Taylor Nelson Sofres (TNS), have revealed that 1.67 million people in the UK now download DVD material with 1.4 million of these making copies of the material for family and friends. The figure has nearly tripled from last years 570,000.

If discs skip when played it could be the effects of what some people call "disc rot." Joining the debate about the longevity of DVD discs Jerry Hartke, of Media Sciences Incorporated in the US, says rotting can be caused by poor manufacturing. Hartke, whose lab tests discs, says poor manufacturing isn't the only cause. Disc users will have problems if they treat the discs harshly, by stacking them or allowing them to rub against each other. Some also leave the discs in extreme heat or cold. Hartke says the side of the disc with the label is the more fragile.

NEC intends to increase shipments of recordable DVD drives used in personal computers to more than 10 million units in fiscal 2004, up 50% on the year, in response to the shift among major manufacturers toward models with more audiovisual functions.

UK press reports insist that Flextech, the online DVD rental service that has taken off in the US, will emerge in Britain this autumn. Tariff is said to be £11 per month and subscribers will be able to rent an unlimited number of titles, three at a time, via a Flextech web site offering a choice of several thousand movies.More than half of Japanese households own at least one digital camera, while DVD players have found their way into 35.4% of them as digital appliances are spreading rapidly among Japanese consumers, according to a Cabinet Office survey released on April 27.

Sonic Solutions announced that Microsoft has licensed Sonic AuthorScript, the CD and DVD formatting and burning engine, for incorporation into certain future versions of Microsoft Windows.

Roxio will add DVD Double Layer compatibility to their Toast 6 Titanium and Toast with Jam 6 applications. A free upgrade for registered users will be available for download from the Roxio Web site in June. The update will enable users to burn 8.5GB of data, instead of the typical 4.7GB, on a single DVD+R Double Layer (DL) disc. This will allow Toast 6 Titanium users to create one-click copies of non-encrypted dual-layer DVD movies as well as author DVDs with over three hours of video.

Mel gibson’s Icon Entertainment is switching UK video distributor from Warner to MGM in a seven-title deal bringing controversial smash The Passion Of The Christ to the Richmond-based major.

News Corp has reported quarterly profit up by 69% on robust sales of DVDs and increased advertising at its cable and broadcast television networks on the strength of the Fox News Channel and its hit show "American Idol." Sales of DVD movies "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" and "Planet of the Apes" and box office ticket sales of films like "Cheaper By The Dozen" helped push film operating profit up 6 percent to $214 million, from $201 million a year ago.

For achievements during 2003, FACT the UK’s anti-pirate body, was awarded a Certificate of Merit from the Motion Picture Association for Outstanding Achievements in the fight against piracy in 2003. Brian Conlon stated that he accepted the award on behalf of everybody at FACT, whose dedication and perseverance made this possible. The Award was handed out at the European Anti-Piracy Conference, held in Hamburg, at the end of April.