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

News in Brief - march 2003


In 2003, global demand for pre-recorded DVD discs is likely to be about 2.5-3 billion units, up from 2 billion units in 2002, per International Recording Media Association (IRMA). Similar market growth is expected in the next two years. In addition to growing sales of DVD players, price reductions on DVD videos have also contributed to the rising demand, sources say. As major movie studios in the US and Europe have been promoting DVD videos with lower prices, retail prices for some of the discs have reportedly dropped from $19.90 to $15 recently. Further declines are expected.

The American Film Market (AFM), a source of independent film supply and DVD rights dealing, is moving its expo date to November in an effort to force a two-market calendar – Cannes and AFM – and kill longtime Italian film trade fair MIFED. The AFM has secured a strategic relationship with the annual Los Angeles International Film Festival scheduled for November 4-14, 2004.The festival and AFM will joint venture in marketing, sponsorship, scheduling, registration, etc.in an effort to create a festival/market along the lines of Cannes. The AFM intends to hold two markets in 2004, one in February, its traditional date, and the second November 3 -10, after which there will be no further February event.

Philips, which provides evaluation services for DVD+R and DVD+RW discs and certifies verified discs and drives which are in accordance with the relevant standards, has added playability checks, effective June 2003. MGM’s Bond film Die Another Day sold about 5 million of its initial 8 million shipment (combined DVD and VHS units) and earned an estimated $13.5 million in gross rental revenue during its first week in release, according to US reports. Between 80% and 90% of the titles sales were on DVD, it is claimed. MGM Home Entertainment priced its latest Bond release for rental on VHS, offering consumers two different DVD skews of the film (widescreen or full-screen) for $20 each.

In high-performance DVD changers, Sony is bringing out in August the DVP-NC555ES ($600) five-disc DVD carousel and, in September, the DVP-CX777ES ($800) 400-disc DVD/CD megachanger. Both offer SACD multi-channel and 2-channel playback compatibility with bass management. For video, the units incorporate Precision Cinema Progressive scan technology for pixel-by-pixel conversion, a Precision Drive II super sub-aliasing system that improves signal to noise ratio, and a vertical edge compensation system to reduce the stair-stepping effect. Both also are said to incorporate 'the industry's first 12-bit/216MHz video digital-to-analogue converter. The DVP-CX777ES adds Sony's Disc Explorer system that uses a graphical user interface with a jacket/picture feature that enables the management of a 'complete music and video collection' onscreen.

The market for filmed entertainment is expected to grow at an average rate of 6.3 percent to $87.6 billion in 2007 from $64.5 billion in 2002, driven by DVD spending, the spread of multiplex cinemas and rising ticket prices, according to a new study from U.S. accounting and consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers. The global entertainment and media industry is expected to grow at a moderate rate over the next five years as economic uncertainty offsets the impetus of digital technologies, according to a new study which looks at 14 media and entertainment sectors.

Tripath Technology announced June 11 the TPS1035 Low-Cost Digital Amplifier Power Stage. The new product coupled with Tripath's TC2001 digital amplifier controller, enables consumer manufacturers to develop very low cost audiophile-quality amplifiers for entry-level markets. While 6-channel digital amplifier boards in the 20-50 Watt range currently cost $12 to $15 in high volume, a TPS1035-based board will cost approximately $10. A single DVD-Receiver amplifier design architecture could support a 6-channel, 20-Watt or 6-channel, 70-Watt product by simply adding 6 additional 8-pin TPS1035 devices and associated passive components with a very small incremental cost, says Tripath.

The Business Software Alliance (BSA), whose members include large firms such as Adobe and Microsoft, has recently aimed a software-sniffing web crawler at Asia-Pacific sites. The search is on for Asia-Pacific web sites and users of peer-to-peer file sharing networks in pursuit of illegal software traders. So far, software-swapping sites have been found in Singapore, Korea Taiwan, Australia, Taiwan, Japan and China. Many have now been shut down by the Internet service providers (ISPs) hosting them after being served with a legal letter called a 'notice of take-down' by the BSA. The Web crawler is from BayTSP, a US company that monitors file-swapping networks for movie studios and record labels

The British Video Association is planning the first meeting of a new Intellectual Piracy Protection Trust in August. The body has obtained support from all the major studios, eight independent labels, six retailers and a number of suppliers. Utilising funds raised across the industry, the Trust is planning to launch a national IP protection campaign in the pre-Christmas period. One aim will be to increase FACT’s resources, challenge public perceptions of the value of intellectual property and provoke Government awareness and motivation to reform copyright and trademark law. The BVA has been talking to distributors regarding the introduction of a new generic hologram in order to protect product.

Deep discounting of catalogue product is irking Columbia Tristar. At a UK product presentation, top executive Marek Antoniak warned: “We are in danger of rapidly turning DVD into a commodity.” Moves towards cheap catalogue campaigns was tantamount to selling films like sacks of sugar with no consideration given to the underlying asset value, he said. The market is prepared to pay more, he said, adding that the consumer is a real collector. Antoniak urged the industry to act collectively before catalogue DVD becomes worthless and nobody makes a profit.

Paramount’s fourth quarter slate presents the trade with a sales opportunity worth £150 million, according to managing director Nigel Hall. Dominated by the Indiana Jones trilogy, the slate includes classic western Once Upon A Time In The West. Television series Cheers and Frasier will be reactivated. The company also plans to keep working its three existing TV franchises Sex And The City, Nickelodeon and Star Trek. All titles will all be supported by national PR and marketing campaigns.

Pioneer Electronics said June 12 that it licensed TiVo digital video recording technology for products due to be launched later this year. Move follows the signing up of a number of other major licensees including Sony and Toshiba Corp. TiVo, which has more than 700,000 users, charges subscription fees for a service that automatically saves television programmes and pauses live programming. Pioneer has a history of innovations, including the world's first DVD recorder, laser disc player, combination DVD-Audio and SACD DVD player, and digital sound projector.

Toshiba Corp said it will launch in mid-July a new multi-drive DVD model that complies with the DVD-RAM, DVD-RW and DVD-R formats. The new RD-XS31 model incorporates an 80-gigabyte hard disk drive with a recording capacity of up to 104 hours.

A 203-minute extended cut of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers is set for release November 18 on DVD. One of the year's most-anticipated releases is tuned to the December 17 theatrical release of The Return of the King, the final film based on J.R.R. Tolkien's beloved fantasy trilogy. A two-DVD set with the original three-hour Towers arrives on shelves August 26.

Use of compressed audio players in DVD players and other devices will combine to drive the worldwide compressed audio player market to nearly $44 billion in revenues by 2007, representing a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 30%, according to IDC's Consumer Devices and Technologies research group. “Products like DVD players, game consoles, and PVRs that offer consumers the added bonus of compressed audio support will be important drivers of the compressed audio player market during the forecast period," avers Susan Kevorkian, senior analyst at IDC.

MGM is said to have approached Viacom about making a joint bid for the US entertainment assets of the French conglomerate Vivendi Universal. But Viacom president Mel Karmazin was against the idea. MGM now plans to bid for the assets with the backing of private-equity money. Vivendi has begun formal management presentations to bidding groups.

Apple is in talks to buy Roxio, Mac rumours site LoopRumors has claimed, citing "reliable sources". Roxio, the CD burning software specialist, acquired Napster's assets for $5 million after the peer-to-peer pioneer declared itself bankrupt last summer. Roxio now owns PressPlay, the online music service. Roxio also developed Toast, long the leading CD tool until Apple shipped iTunes and built disc burning into the Mac OS. But for many pro users, Toast remains the best solution for disc creation.

I/OMagic Corporation has expanded its product line-up with the launch of its latest combination device – the CD-RW & DVD-ROM Combo drive. The device is a 48x24x48/16x combination drive that reads all popular DVD and CD formats, has the ability to archive data or create personalized music CDs and allows users to watch DVDs with the “highest quality in sound and video.” The combo writes CD-R at 48x, rewrites CD-RW at 24x, reads CDs at 48x and reads DVD at 16x.

Future demand for DVD players is high, according to Sony's consumer electronics division. Speaking at a Home Electronics Conference June 6, Tim Baxter, senior vice president of Sony's Home Entertainment Products division, said market share for TVs featuring plasma or flat-panel screens will grow from 20% this year to 50% by 2005. He projected that from 2002 to 2003 alone, individual plasma TV shipments will grow from 277,000 to 900,000. Packaged DVD sales in 2002 came to $8 billion, he added, more than worldwide theatre ticket sales in the same year. To capitalise on this increased demand, this fall Sony will release a series of products, including a 70-inch rear projection TV.

UK-based Key Production has entered The Anti Piracy Compliance Program (APCP), developed by the International Recording Media Association (IRMA). The program specifies the most important procedures for piracy screening. This means Key performs extra checks on copyright information and logoís on the label film and artwork and requires the company to send a label copy and licensing documentation together with clientsí parts and / or data to the CD plant. The program is designed to protect the rights of the owner of the sound recording and/or content.

Fuji Photo Film's new series of 4x DVD-R media for data is due June 20. Media comes in two printable versions – the first with a surface appropriate for inkjet printers; the other is colored and enables users to print on it with a thermal printer. The new media is based on the DVD-R for General Version 2.0/4 X-Speed DVD-R Revision 1.0 standard.

Melco Inc. announced a new DVD±RW drive, available by the end of June. The "DVM-4244FB" supports 4X DVD-R/+R and DVD+RW writing. Retail price is expected to be 240 EU. Specifications include ñ Interface : ATAPI . Write: 4X DVD-R, 2X DVD-RW, 4X DVD+R, 4X DVD+RW, 24X CD-R, and 16X CD-RW. Read: 12X DVD-ROM (Single Layer), 2X DVD-ROM (Dual Layer), 2X DVD-VIDEO, and DVD-R 4X, 4X DVD-RW, 4X DVD+R, 4X DVD+RW, 32X CD-ROM/R/RW and 32X music CD (CD-DA) and Video 20X CD. Attached software includes ArcSoft ShowBiz:DV for video capturing and editing, and Video CD creation, Sonic's MyDVD:DV for video capturing and authoring, DVD-Video and slide show creation and Sonic's CinePlayer for DVD-Video and Video CD reproduction.

The Technicolor optical manufacturing facility in Luxembourg has been named a Microsoft Authorized Xbox Replicator for third-party Xbox products in Europe, a designation that will increase Technicolor's total European Xbox capacity by 70%.

Hollywood's major movie studios turned up the legal heat on makers of DVD copying software by suing five companies in New York. Lawyers for Paramount Pictures Corp. and Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp. filed for an injunction in U.S. District Court in New York to bar Internet Enterprises Inc., RDestiny LLC, HowtocopyDVDs.com, DVDBackupbuddy.com and DVDSqueeze.com from selling DVD copying software.

From July 1, Kinowelt of Germany, the former DVD powerhouse, will be back as a theatrical distributor. Michael Koelmel and Bertil le Claire are to run the company. They plan to retrieve the back catalogue from Solo Film and expect to release 10-12 new titles a year. First will be an animation feature Asterix In Amerika in a re-dubbed version.

Apple Computer says it sold two million legal music downloads in the first two weeks that its iTunes service was available online (April 28), far outpacing the early results from the record labels' own online ventures MusicNet and Pressplay. Operating separately from the record companies, Apple seems to have come up with a business model that satisfies consumer demand, rather than maximise label revenue or control. The iTunes service (also being developed for Europe) charges 99 cents per song and allows users to transfer the downloads to portable iPod digital music players without restrictions and to burn up to 10 CDs with the same playlists. "Response to the iTunes Music Store has been phenomenal. We've clearly hit a chord with users," said Steve Jobs, Apple's CEO in a statement May 14. Apple said the sale of complete albums accounted for over half the total number of songs it had sold to date, dispelling concerns that selling music on a per-track basis would destroy album sales.

DVD devices are the fastest-growing consumer products in Japan. In the first quarter of 2003, 1.01 million units were shipped, up 85% from the same period a year ago. Among them, models with record/playback functions occupied 30% of the total units shipped in March 2003.

Cosgrove Media Packaging has shifted location to Sandycroft on Deeside. New telephone number is 01244 538600.

Better days for MGM. Having regained control of VHS and DVD distribution for many of the titles in the studio’s 4,000-film library, Metro is benefiting from the booming DVD market. In June, MGM will ship 15 million VHS/DVD units of the Bond film Die Another Day. And since the studio’s recent take over from third party distributors of distribution of its home videos and DVDs in France, Germany and Canada, sales in those markets have leapt 130 percent, the company claims.

Classic stage shows are making it to DVD. The London stage engagement of Cole Porter musical Kiss Me Kate was filmed and became available on DVD, May 13. Other titles being released on the same day by Image Entertainment include Michael Frayn's Tony Award-winning drama Copenhagen — adapted for the small screen by the playwright — and Matthew Bourne's auto-erotic thriller take on Bizet's opera The Car Man.

Demand is building so rapidly for Hitachi’s newly launched third generation DVD camcorder, DZ-MV350E, the company will be launching another third generation model, the DZ-MV380E, by July. The 350E is small, sleek and slim, just 57mm wide and has high quality recording, high speed data transfer and disc navigation system. It can also upload and download promptly information to and from a PC. Hitachi says its simple to use. Just shoot, record and play.

Belfast band Therapy? will be recording footage for a first DVD at their Belfast show June 6. Plan is to feature a full live performance plus plenty of extras, promo videos and some live performances from the past 13 years as well as “private” footage of the band on and off stage.

Macrovision has a new DVD version of SafeDisc which protects DVD-ROMs from unauthorised copying. SafeDisc is widely used for CD-ROMs, protecting over 70% of the top 20 PC games titles sold to retail in the United States. Now Macrovision has extended the patented technologies to the growing DVD-ROM market. Per Macrovision, the number of DVD-ROM games available is growing rapidly due to the popularity of DVD-enabled consoles and the increasing use of DVD media for PC games. SafeDisc is a software-based solution that does not require any changes to the publisher’s application code and is compatible with standard PC or Mac environments and CD/DVD-ROM hardware.

Panasonic, which has proclaimed that DVD-RAM will become the recording standard, has launched its next-generation camcorder VDR-M30, which records images in MPEG 2 format. The unit accepts 8cm DVD-RAM and DVD-R discs in a new round holder, and is compact and light, weighing 1.10 pounds. The rewritable DVD-RAM discs offer users the ability to perform non-linear editing inside the camcorder by randomly cutting and moving scenes from point to point on the disc. The process, which is more difficult with other recordable DVD formats, is one of the strengths Panasonic will promote in its effort to make DVD-RAM a "de facto DVD recording standard."

Sonic Solutions announced enhancements to its AuthorScript DVD/CD engine and MyDVD application to support the DVD+R/+RW Video Recording and DVD-RAM/-R/-RW VR formats – both of which are used by consumer set-top DVD recorders to make real-time recordings of personal videos and TV broadcasts.

Nexpak has a new DVD packaging called Wyncase. It comprises a fully printed paperboard cover with one or more plastic trays glued to the spine. The trays act like the pages of a book and can hold a disc on each side. The Wyncase can handle multiple-disc releases and, with numerous printing options on the paperboard and optional slip case, the company says it can give DVD releases a high-end, luxurious image.

Epson has a new inkjet printer, the Stylus Photo 900, that can print directly on DVD media without using adhesive labels. Others can do likewise but this is the first to be offered for less than 200 Euro. The printer sports a 6-color ink system and can print at up to 5760 x 720 dots per inch.

DVD Forum planning a verification seminar for DVD high-speed recording media June 17 at the Singulus Technologies base in Germany. Major theme of the seminar is format verification procedure for 3X speed DVD-RAM, 4X speed DVD-R and 2X speed DVD-RW and DVD Logo programme. According to the DVD Forum DVD burners are likely to completely displace CD burners on new PCs in perhaps two to three years.

Disctronics has a new version of e-disctronics, its online order tracking system. Version 2.0 has an improved user interface, graph based reports and quicker running times for all reports. The company says it can export all results in spreadsheet format. E-disctronics has been running for three years for UK and US customers who track their orders and component stock inventories. Designed in-house it is linked directly to the company’s ERP system, so providing on-demand information. Typically, it has been providing some 80 Disctronics client companies with around 1,000 reports a month via the internet.

Warner Music Group and BMG to merge? That’s the speculation sparked May 12 by a Wall Street Journal story which had AOL-Warner talking to Bertelsmann about putting together their record divisions in a 50-50 venture in order to rival Vivendi Universal’s clout in recorded music. Don’t hold your breath, both sides are talking to other parties, too, and such efforts to meld the top two or three labels have come to nought in the past.

DVD is now a broad market business. So says Warner Bros which sees a 50 million player penetration in US households this year. As the demographics change, so do marketing opportunities. Warner released 44 catalogue titles in 2002 but will bump up that number to 100 or more this year. Studio claims a 27.5% market share in catalogue DVD (it has the largest film library) and it’s working on in-group promotions to "expose a whole new generation of consumers to classic movies.”

Artisan Home Entertainment Inc. to release a hi-def DVD of the action movie Terminator 2: Judgment Day for release June 3. It will offer some three and a half times the resolution of standard DVD video but will play in higher-end Windows XP-based PCs only. Disc is bundled with a regular DVD of the movie. Microsoft's new Windows Media 9 software solved data compression issues, said Erin Cullen, product manager with Microsoft's Windows Digital Media division.

Organisers of the UK's Glastonbury rock festival planning to release a definitive DVD of the annual event later this year. Disc will be built from footage shot at the June 27-29 event and from archive footage of previous festivals.