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

News in Brief - september 2004


TOSHIBA STORAGE DEVICE DIVISION, an industry pioneer in optical storage technology, has introduced a new double-layer, dual-format DVD recordable drive that tops the market in DVD+R double-layer write speeds at 5X, giving consumers what the company says is the right combination of speed and capacity for video creation and other data-intensive applications. The first DVD recordable drive from Toshiba Samsung Storage Technologies, the SD-R5372, also features a speedy 16x DVD+R specification that enables easy DVD creation. The double-layer media capability gives consumers twice the storage capacity of a current DVD.

BUENA VISTA HOME ENTERTAINMENT President of International, Dennis Maguire, will address delegates at this year's European Video Perspectives (PEVE) conference. The conference, which has been held annually since 1992, is widely acknowledged as the pre-eminent event in the European video industry calendar. This year it will take place in Biarritz, France, December 2-3.

THE MOTORCYCLE INDUSTRY IN UK has come up with a 19-point safety plan and has committed to partnership working with the government, media and other relevant bodies to develop a DVD which will be distributed with new and used motorcycles. Joose TV has been appointed to create and produce and innovative DVD that will educate riders about safer riding, offer advice and tips that are to be presented in a modern, accessible and humorous format.

KUNITAKE ANDO, chairman of the Japan Electronics and Information Technology Industries Association and president of Sony Corp, says the dispute over next-generation DVD formats will continue for “some time.” Ando said Sony and other backers of the Blu-ray optical disc format have “progressed too far to abandon the technology now that they are selling Blu-ray Disc recorders and players. He predicted the next batleground in the format wars will be read-only discs.

SKY NETWORK TELEVISION, the New Zealand pay-television company took a step further in its plan to enter the online DVD movie rental business by buying an existing operator. It bought DVD Unlimited, which was New Zealand's first online DVD company when it launched late last year. Sky TV plans to build the most comprehensive DVD library in Australasia.

STAR WARS TRILOGY, the most anticipated DVD of the year, generated $115 million in worldwide sales during its first day in release according to 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, which included sales of the Star Wars Battlefront video game in the figures. In UK, the DVD set broke a British sales record after its first day on release. Online retailer Amazon has taken more than 85,000 pre-orders for the films, 35,000 more than for the previous record, for Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

UK TELEVISION BROADCASTER ITV has sold its 5.5% stake in Thomson, the French media and entertainment group. Investment banks Citigroup and UBS picked up the stock, which had a book value of £162m.

INDEPENDENT UK DISTRIBUTOR Revolver shook the local rental/retail business with the release of Richard Pryor Live In Concert – was a success! It is rare for a comedy debut to succeed outside Q4, but Pryor has sold some 11,000 units and took the top spot in the special interest chart. The DVD release marked the 25th anniversary of the original event.

THIRD MILLENNIUM HAS BECOME the first distributor in the UK to announce it is ditching VHS. The distributor is now supplying titles on DVD only in a move that is likely to hasten the inevitable death of tape.

SONY IS SET TO LAUNCH TWO versions of its PlayStation multimedia juggernaut in December on the Japanese market. The DESR-5500 and DESR-7500 will up the size of the PSX’s internal hard drive to 160GB and 250GB. Apart from supersizing the HDD, the system now includes a pass-through for antenna signals (one of the biggest gripes users had), the DVD recorder has DVD+R format support and it will be more TiVo-like with recording by keyword search.

SCREENSELECT.CO.UK, WHICH is running a scheme under which a users can, for a monthly fee of £15, watch as many DVDs as they can get through, has built a library of more than 23,000 films. GameNinja, meantime, lets participating customers borrow from a selection of over 1,000 PlayStation 2 titles for a flat monthly fee of £16.

ADVANCED MEDIA, INC., a subsidiary of RITEK Corporation, the world's largest optical media manufacturer, announced the addition of ultra fast, new 16x DVD+R discs to its RIDATA brand lineup of high quality recordable media. The new discs are available now.

RESEARCH AND MARKETS HAS announced a study on the DVD market, players, and recorders, in every type of consumer electronics device, in computers and in industrial systems.
The DVD market is huge and getting larger, very rapidly, R&M says, and is no longer limited to home entertainment playback boxes.

A group of record labels has formally announced plans to introduce the DualDisc format later this year. The consortium, which includes major labels EMI Music, Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group, said the DualDisc product has a full album on a CD side of the disc and the album in enhanced sound -- such as DVD-Audio -- on the other side. The DVD side also includes a range of features, such as music videos, interviews, photo galleries, Web links, concert footage and lyrics.

Fuji Photo Film USA announced the addition of 8.5 GB DVD+R Double Layer (DL) recordable discs to its portfolio of recording and storage products.

The Blu-ray Disc Founders, who served as the official sponsor of the DVD Awards Reception at the annual Entertainment Media Expo (EMX) show, August 30 through September 01, 2004, has formally approved the 1.0 specification of the BD-ROM physical format, The first official meeting of the Blu-ray Developer's Association will be held on October 4.

TDK, which recently joined the BDA, has demonstrated a quad-density Blu-ray disc with 100GB of capacity and reportedly has a 200GB disc in the labs. That quad density disc is the equivalent to 10 standard double density DVD discs.

Leading German DVD distributor e-m-s new media is to take a 52.38% stake in theatrical distributor 3L Filmverleih which was set up at the beginning of this year by e-m-s new media's Chairman and CEO Werner Wirsing and his wife. The company said the move was a "strategic investment" and would support its core business in the area of home entertainment. 3L appeared on the German distribution scene this spring with the release of Patty Jenkins' Oscar-winning Monster which grossed Euros 1.7m at the German box-office.

Philips and HP have announced their Video Content Protection System (VCPS), formerly called Vidi, and have received approval by the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and will now be offered to manufacturers through a license program. The use of VCPS in digital video discs and recorders makes it possible for consumers to record digital broadcasts that are protected by the Broadcast Flag onto a DVD+R/+RW disc, and enjoy TV programming protected by the FCC rules.

BenQ has upgraded its 16x DVD Dual DL burner (DW1620) to include support for DVD disc writing speeds of 16x DVD-R. BenQ launched the DW1620 in June with writing speeds of 16x DVD+R and 8x DVD-R.

Philips has developed an optical pick-up unit (OPU) that will be able to read and write CD-R/-RW, DVD+R/+RW and the next-generation optical disc format Blu-ray Disc (BD). With its new OPU81, Philips has created the first important building block of the all-in-one recorder that can record and playback all popular consumer optical formats. By integrating the infrared, red and blue wavelength lasers and single detector into one single OPU concept, Philips has succeeded in developing a flexible triple-writer OPU design in a compact form factor. The OPU81 is designed for mass production and will meet mass consumer price levels. Mass production of the new OPU will start in 2006 when Philips anticipates that the mass-market demand for BD recorders will pick-up.

The European Commission has announced the commissioners (one from each EU member state, following the enlargement of the EU in May). The commissioners-elect with direct responsibility for telecommunications are Viviane Reding, commissioner for information society/media, and Neelie Kroes, commissioner for competition policy.

Word from Osaka, Japan, is that Sanyo Electric Co has decided to jointly develop the next-generation HD DVD format with Toshiba Corp and NEC Corp. Sanyo will provide a core component – the optical pickup. Sanyo decided to join the Toshiba-NEC camp because the HD-DVD parts structure is similar to that of existing DVDs and the manufacturer can utilise its current facilities, the company is quote4d as saying. HD-DVD, which is capable ofrecording 30 gigabytes of data on a dual layer disc, is competing with Blu-ray to be the next-gen format of choice.

BBC Video in the US is set to unveil a new DVD retail line, BBC Classics, of digitally remastered titles from the broadcaster's vast catalogue. The $15-20 priced line will appear on the shelves August 24, with the release of six titles based on the works of Jane Austen. While many of the female, slightly older-skewing viewers who make up the core audience for such programs on PBS now have DVD players, BBC is counting on other groups such as college-age viewers and families to further boost sales. To date, Jane Austen adaptations have sold nearly half a million copies as double-VHS sets over the course of a decade.

Apple has released a maintenance update for DVD Studio Pro. The new version, DVD Studio Pro 3.0.1, is strongly recommended, says Apple. "In addition to improving general stability, this update improves compiling when using long MPEG-1 video clips, as well as compiling tracks with a transition on a still image at the end of the track,” the company says.

Home-video chain Blockbuster finally launched its own online DVD rental programme to address the competitive pressure from Internet rental service Netflix. Dallas-based Blockbuster said customers could rent unlimited movies, with three out at any one time, for $19.99 per month, undercutting Netflix by $2 a month for the same terms. Blockbuster will also give its online customers coupons for two free in-store rentals a month worth about $4 each.

There are more than 200 DVD player producers in China but the oversupply of DVD players in China is being cited as the reason more than 30 small manufacturers have shut down in the first half of this year. Unwilling to pay royalties on DVD players, the Chinese makers are unable to export their products and face increasing competition in the domestic market.