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News in Brief

SALES OF HOLLYWOOD movies on standard DVDs will experience slowing growth, says In-Stat analyst, but the emergence of new formats and new content coming to DVD will drive the value of the total market forward. Worldwide value of all DVD discs will grow from about $33 billion during 2004, up to $76.5 billion during 2009, a Compound Annual Growth Rate of 18.3%.

AS EXPECTED, UMD movie discs playable on the Sony PSP are region-coded. Sony had previously indicated that games would not be region-coded, even though the facility was there to do so, but it was always thought that movies would be different. Now that the UMD version of Spider Man 2 is in the wild we can see that region-coding is in place as the film will not play on PSPs imported from Japan. This is likely to be an annoyance for Europeans in particular. Firstly, delays in launching Sony's new console there are driving a high number of imports which will not play discs bought in Europe (when they are eventually released). Secondly, the region-coding issue on DVDs has all but gone away for Europeans, used to buying multi-region DVD players. It will take some getting used to returning to the restrictive system.

THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION could give shortly its approval for a consortium headed by Sony Corp. of America to take over the 80-year-old MGM studios in a merger valued at $4.8 billion. Of MGM's 1,400 employees, only about 250 are expected to be retained – and most of them will be involved with the operations of the 4,000-title library, which includes recent MGM titles as well as those belonging to United Artists, Orion, Cannon and Polygram.

INTERVIDEO INC, a provider of DVD software, has announced that subsequent to a previous purchase of 18.5 percent, it has extended a tender offer to purchase an additional 30.1 to 65 percent of the issued shares of Ulead Systems, Inc., a developer of video, imaging, and DVD authoring software. The all-cash tender offer will be made at 30 NT (US$0.98) per share of Ulead common stock. Assuming the successful completion of the tender offer, the transaction will be valued at between $23 and $49 million.

TAIWAN motherboard giant Asustek Computer plans to launch high-end multimedia DVD recorders, models equipped with hard disk drives (HDD DVD recorders) as well as entry-level DVD recorders in the third quarter of this year, with the major market focus to be in Asia and the secondary market focus to be in the US and Europe.

ADVANCED MEDIA, Inc. has announced that a recent addition to its optical disc lineup, the RIDATA 8x DVD+RW, has won certification by the Philips Intellectual Property and Standards division in The Netherlands. The certification means the product is in accordance with all of the latest specifications for DVD+RW products and may carry the DVD+RW logo. Advanced Media manufacturers and markets the popular RIDATA brand of recordable CD and DVD media, electronic storage products, and digital media accessories.

IN A SURPRISE management shake-up at Sony Corp., Howard Stringer, the conglomerate's vice chairman and head of its US operations – including its booming film unit – was named chairman and CEO of the whole company. The board approved the management reshuffle, which would see a foreigner ascend to the top post at a major Japanese company – an extremely rare occurrence in Japan and the first time it has happened in the 59-year history of Sony. Stringer will take his new position June 22.

CHRONICLE, the new label created by Metrodome Distribution to bring the best in historical drama onto DVD and into the home entertainment and education markets, will be releasing Napoleon, its first title, in March. The film stars Christian Claiver, Isabella Rossellini, Gerard Depardieu and John Malkovitch and was produced over a period of nine months with a $40 million budget. Over 6 hours in length, Napoleon will be available as a 3 x DVD box set priced around £39.99.

A SPECIAL DVD by the Little Britain television comedy show team for the Comic Relief charity, has become one of the UK’s fastest sellers. Some 110,000 copies were sold at retail in four days. The DVD includes special performances by Robbie Williams, Sir Elton John and George Michael. Comic Relief’s Kevin Cahill said: "We've been blown away with the amazing response to the DVD. The money raised from these sales will make a real difference to people in the UK and Africa."

RIDISC SAYS it has renewed its partnership with Ritek Taiwan via the imminent release of the new Ridisc Xtreme range of DVD media. "With the Xtreme range, RiDisc aims to deliver to even the pickiest of consumers, exactly what they are craving for. A no holds barred, Grade AAA+ Ritek G05 DVD-R that has the uncompromising qualities of one of the best manufacturers in the world,” the firm says.

TOSHIBA, THE JAPANESE electronics conglomerate, has appointed Atsutoshi Nishida, a man credited with turning around its computer business, as its new president. Nishida, 61, will succeed Tadashi Okamura, 66, who will become chairman. Nishida, a 30-year company veteran with an academic bent, takes over as Toshiba is scrambling to cut costs to keep up with steeply falling prices of many of its products. Nishida was the head of Toshiba's U.S. operation in the 1990s and is credited with having turned around the company's personal computer business twice.

IN 2004, IN EXCESS of 1000 surround SA-CD titles were created at a rate of around three titles each day. In fact, in some months new titles exceeded 100 albums and there were challenges in allocating replication resources to produce these volumes of discs. The total number of albums available on SA-CD is rapidly approaching 3000 with strong trends towards hybrid surround sound discs. This combination reinforces the format's compatibility with the massive installed CD and DVD-Video player base as well as offering the market's most sophisticated surround sound facility in the home.