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

News in Brief

ACCORDING to an ABI Research survey of online households in the US, the number of consumers watching video streamed through a browser has doubled over the past year, going from 32 per cent a year ago to 63 per cent today. When asked if they watched long-form content in the form of TV shows or movies online, nearly half of those under 25, and 53 per cent of those aged 25-29 indicate they do so once a month or more. Older viewers are much more likely to have experimented once with online shows; three quarters of those over 65 who watch video online responded that they have never watched TV shows or movies online.

FRANCE's video-on-demand market may double in value this year, to reach €60 million according to a joint study published by research group GfK and French media consultants NPA Conseil. The survey found that there were around six million VOD downloads across all platforms in the first six months of this year, an increase of nearly 61 per cent over the same period of 2007. American films enjoyed the highest VOD growth rate during the first half of this year with an increase of 93 per cent, compared to around 20 per cent for French titles and 53 per cent of other foreign titles. Average download prices increased from $4.85 in the first half of 2007 to $5.60 in the same period of 2008.

WORLDWIDE subscriptions to IPTV platforms are on track to reach 19.6 million subscribers in 2008, a 64 percent increase, according to analysts at Gartner. Revenue from worldwide IPTV is forecast to reach $4.5 billion up 93.5 percent from a year earlier, with Western Europe boasting the largest number of IPTV subscribers and North America the largest market for IPTV revenue. It forecast that 1.1 percent of households worldwide would be using IPTV in 2008, and expects that to rise to 2.8 percent by 2012.

DIVX, a digital media company, announced the DivX certification of three new Blu-ray player models from Pioneer (BDP-LX71, BDP-LX08, BDP-51FD). DivX technology enables a high-quality experience for digital video and DivX certification of these new Blu-ray players allows consumers to play back DivX video saved on CDs or DVDs. Pioneer’s first DivX certified Blu-ray Disc players, featuring high-quality image and sound, will be available across Europe, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand starting in October (BDP-LX08 to be released in Europe only).

SONY is debuting its third generation internal Blu-ray Disc (BD) writer for the computer aftermarket, priced at around $400 to attract BD enthusiasts. The new BWU-300S model burns single and dual layer BD-R media at up to 8X speed, recording a full 25GB disc in about 15 minutes and a full 50GB disc in about 30 minutes. The 8X recording speed is achieved using 6X compatible BD-R media. The drive also records DVDs at up to 16X, CDs up to 48X, and supports DVD-RAM recording. The BWU-300S drive will be available through retailers, resellers and directly at from October.

THOMAS Casey, CFO of Blockbuster said at a recent investor conference in New York that he doesn’t think Blu-ray’s replacement of DVD is “going to be nearly like DVD replacing VHS” and that consumers will be slow at swapping their DVD libraries over to Blu-ray, reports Home Media magazine. Although he didn’t give any timeframe for consumer adoption of the HD format, he hinted that the wholesale and retail prices of Blu-ray films could be one of the problems slowing consumer uptake.

PANASONIC is the latest company pushing Blu-ray’s technological envelope towards 3D. The Japanese manufacturer announced it will showcase 3D technology based on the Blu-ray format at the upcoming CEATEC show in Japan. The method requires the viewer to wear synchronized shuttered glasses that will differentiate between the two simultaneous 1080p images sent to the display. The Blu-ray disc stores both video encodes on the same disc, and decodes both images at the same time. The result is a surprisingly life-like 3D experience. Philips demonstrates 3D on Blu-ray at IBC 2008 earlier this month.

SONY is dropping the prices of two of its BD-Live equipped Blu-ray players. The company lowered the price of the new BDP-S350 to $299. Sony also lowers the price of the upcoming BDP-S550 to $399. Both reductions represent a $100 reduction and match Panasonic's reduction a couple weeks ago. The main difference between the Sony BD-S350 and BD-S550 is that the S550 is equipped with 1GB of internal storage, 7.1 analog outs and support to decode DTS-HD Master Audio.

THOMSON's Technicolor Business Group has established the first Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA)-approved Blu-ray Disc Testing Center in the United States at its Burbank location. The creation of a testing center directly addresses the demand by studios and content producers to create a knowledge center for improving disc compatibility and performance, and accelerate the release of Blu-ray Disc titles into the market, says Technicolor.

SANYO Electric Co., Ltd. has developed a new blue laser diode powerful enough to offer multi-layer recording on Blu-ray discs at speeds of up to 12x. The diode features a maximum output power of 450mW allowing burning of four-layer Blu-ray discs at a speed of 12x. Burning at 12x on a Blu-ray recordable disc would allow a two-hour HD program to be stored on a disc in just ten minutes. The company said that it would continue the development and optimization of the Blue laser and aims at mass production in the next 2-3 years. The Blu-ray Disc Association has not yet standardized the 12x recording.

MANY US high-def fans who rushed out to buy Iron Man on Blu-ray this week were forced to wait up to an hour before the movie would play as the disc attempted to download interactive content. Iron Man's BD-Live features insisted on downloading an interactive quiz from the internet before the movie would start, but Paramount's BD-Live servers buckled under the load. The work around was to change the BD-Live settings from Auto to Confirm, or disconnect the player from the internet. After heavily publicising Iron Man's use of BD-Live, Paramount responded to the situation by adding extra servers to handle to load.

TOSHIBA is considering how to respond to a $5.8bn bid for the US-based SanDisk – the company with which it makes Nand flash memory chips – from Samsung of South Korea. The Japanese consumer electronics group recently issued a warning to the markets that it expected to make an operating loss of Y30bn ($280m) in the first half of its 2008 fiscal year, compared with the Y70bn profit that it forecast in April, primarily due to falling prices in the same memory chip market. It also cut its full-year operating profit forecast by 48 per cent to Y150bn for the full year to March 2009.

A RECENT raid on a home in Victoria, Australia, resulted in the discovery of a sophisticated piracy set-up involving 10,000 pirated film and music discs, 31 burners and 11 printers. The police raid, involving industry anti-piracy groups Music Industry Piracy Investigations (MIPI) and the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT), was part of an on-going Australia-wide investigation. Bootleg recordings of artists such as U2, The Cure, David Bowie, Michael Jackson and Meatloaf, and illegal copies of movies screening at Australian cinemas, including Wall-E and The Dark Knight, were found.

THOUGH Toshiba has pulled the plug on HD DVD, the company still looks after purchasers of its players. It is offering the second firmware update after the format's demise. According to Electronic House HD DVD users are still very positive about Toshiba's HD format. The new firmware update 4.0 should improve certain disc playback related issues. Besides being "very vocal about it" customers still buy HD DVD movies, says Electronic House. In an article on the 30th of September the website describes how sales slightly increased because of the current economic situation. HD DVD hardware, which upscale DVD, becomes more popular and many HD movies are sold under the $10 mark, he editor explains.

U-TECH Media, the largest Taiwan-based producer of pre-recorded optical discs, has completed installation of its first Blu-ray Disc production line and is thus ready for volume production of BD movie discs, according to industry sources in Taiwan. U-Tech hopes that the recent price-cut competition launched by Blu-ray player vendors in the North America market could stimulate demand for such devices and, in turn, generate demand for BD movie discs.

AT ESCA conference in Prague, Philippe Cardon, president, international, Warner Home Video, reiterated that the packaged media business is extremely important to the studio. He said digital copies on DVDs and Blu-ray Discs are enjoying some success with consumers, with 64% judging it a better value than standard DVD, 49% more interested in buying DVD with digital copy and 75% considering it an innovative way to consume. The prevaling view is that Europe is waiting on the United States to help it move into the Blu-ray future.

ACCORDING to the 2008 PMA U.S. Digital Imaging Survey, US households last year stored the largest number of digital images on CDs/DVDs compared with any other storage method. Digital camera households, on average, store 953 digital images on CDs/DVDs. On average, fewer images are stored on the hard drive (844 images) and the external hard drive (701 images). US households store an average of 277 digital images online.

RUSSIA'S Prime Minister Vladimir Putin presented his first DVD titled Let’s Learn Judo with Vladimir Putin on October 7 to celebrate his 56th birthday. The documentary, clips of which were originally presented at the press center of the Konstantinovsky Palace in St. Petersburg, is a follow up to the text book on judo, which was released in 12 countries of the world in 2000. Both the text book and the documentary were created by Putin in cooperation with deputy Vasily Shestakov and professor of the University of Physical Culture and Sports, Aleksey Levitsky.

EVEN though another wave of rumors indicating Microsoft would finally adopt Blu-ray for the Xbox 360 hit the Internet last week, Microsoft has vehemently denied it will support the Sony-created technology. "As we've said before, Microsoft has no plans to introduce an Xbox 360 Blu-ray add-on. Games are what drive consumers to purchase game consoles, and we remain focused on providing the largest library of blockbuster games available," a Microsoft spokesperson said.

OPTIARC Europe will be launching Sony’s first 8x Blu-ray burner, the BWU-300S, as well as its new DRX-S70U-R external slimline DVD burner in Europe later this month. The new BWU-300S model burns single and dual layer BD-R media at up to 8X speed, recording a full 25GB disc in about 15 minutes and a full 50GB disc in about 30 minutes. The 8X recording speed is achieved using 6X compatible BD-R media. The drive also records DVDs at up to 16X, CDs up to 48X, and supports DVD-RAM recording. The BWU-300S is available from October onwards and it will be backed by a 24-month warranty. It's price will be €295.

WHEN asked why the supposedly "next-generation" MacBook computers Apple launched at a recent press event in California do not offer Blu-ray, a technology Apple is officially a backer of, CEO Steve Jobs said “Blu-ray is just a bag of hurt. It's great to watch the movies, but the licensing of the tech is so complex, we're waiting till things settle down and Blu-ray takes off in the marketplace." He also stated that "HDMI is limited in resolution.”