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News in Brief

ACCORDING to a survey of 6,260 people carried out by the NPD Group's study of Next Gen Functionally & Usage, it appears that around 40% of Sony PS3 owners did not realise their console could play next-generation high-definition Blu-ray discs. This figure was worse with just 30% of Xbox 360 owners knowing that their console has HD capabilities. The findings also suggests that half those who knew about this capability have no interest in watching movies on their console.

300, Warner's blockbuster movie, has become the fastest selling high definition box office title and has already overtaken sales of the previous big HD hit, The Departed, according to TVPredictions. So far, it has recorded over 250,000 sales between Blu-ray and HD DVD versions. Warner, which is one of the few studios that backs both HD DVD and Blu-ray, claims to have over 30% of the market share in high definition disc content.

MICROSOFT is set to roll out HDMI on their high end Xbox 360 consoles. The move comes as the company struggles to hold onto the hard core gamers and video enthusiasts who appear to be deserting the platform for the PS3 with Blu ray. HDMI, the prevailing consumer standard for digital video and audio in HD, was already included on the Xbox 360 Elite console, a minor upgrade to the 360 which, aside from being a sleek black, also includes a larger hard drive. Now the port will also appear on Premium consoles, thus allowing gamers to avoid having to tackle the awkward 360 video cable – and providing direct competition to the PS3.

RESEARCH cited in Video Business reveals that sales of Blu-ray Discs and HD DVDs combined in the first half of 2007 overtook those of VHS. During the last six months of 2006, the video cassette format was still edging out the high definition newcomers. By 2005, VHS's market share in the home video market had fallen to around 15%, and has continued to fall ever since. Blu-ray and HD DVD overtaking the dying format was more or less expected, but through the end of 2006 the high-def competitors were still behind.

A WORLDWIDE CD & DVD duplication services directory aimed at people looking for CD & DVD duplication and replication services in their local area has been launched by Mig Music. Its aim is to help anyone producing a music, film, video, software, multimedia, educational, small business, commercial business or personal project find a duplication service that is in their local area. The specialist directory lists services from all around the world including USA, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, Europe and Asia. Other related services listed include DVD authoring, CD & DVD mastering, video & audio cassette duplication, video production and video/film conversion.

IMATION has announced the completion of its previously announced acquisition of the TDK brand recording media business and use of the TDK brand name for recording media products worldwide, for a combination of Imation common stock and cash. This makes TDK the largest shareholder of Imation. Imation issued 6.8 million shares of Imation common stock to TDK Corporation, with additional cash consideration and customary closing costs and advisory fees accounting for a total cost to Imation of approximately $260 million. Additional cash consideration of up to $70 million could be paid by Imation to TDK contingent upon future financial performance.

BLUE RAY Technologies has opened a $12 million Blu-ray production plant in the US making it the first independent US Blu-ray manufacturer and has produced its first run of independent Blu-ray discs in the US. The plant is open to producers who would rather not sell HD rights, but want to have discs manufactured and release their own titles in Blu-ray. The plant will run nonstop and is expected to eventually surpass 100,000 discs a day. The company is working in conjunction with independent film production/distribution company Film and Music Entertainment Inc., and is taking advantage of GE Plastic's products and technical support.

SONY claims that Blu-ray sales in developing markets now account for 10% of the company’s high-definition disc business. The company launched Blu-ray software in countries including Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Middle East, Eastern Europe and South Africa in April and saw a 21% increase in Blu-ray title orders across these regions. South Africa claims the largest sales with more than 15,000 units shipped to date. Sony said Blu-ray Disc sales in Europe have reached the 250,000 mark, while North American sales are nearing the 1-million mark.

TWENTIETH Century Fox Home Entertainment unveiled an aggressive global Blu-ray Disc release strategy including 29 new release and 'must-have' catalogue titles that runs through the end of the 2007 calendar year. Among highlights are six day&date BD/DVD new theatrical releases from Fox including the $241 million box-office family favorite Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer and the $335 million box-office action powerhouse Live Free or Die Hard, four day&date BD/DVD (US only) new theatrical releases from MGM, 19 catalogue films from the two studios’ libraries, Fox’s first-ever TV release on BD – Prison Break – and Fox’s intention to release at least one state-of-the-art title per month featuring numerous BD ‘firsts.’

SINGULUS Technologies announces two new orders for Blu-ray Disc production lines BLULINE. These new orders were placed by European and Asian customers “and prove that the Blu-ray format has now also gained momentum outside of the United States,” says the company. In separate news, the Board of Directors has announce the appointment of Koh Seng Cheng as the new president of the daughter company Singulus Technologies Asia Pacific.

AFTER beginning worldwide shipments of Blu-ray movies this past April, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has seen substantial growth in its high definition business. These territories, including Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Eastern Europe, South America, and the Middle East, now represent 10% of their total Blu-ray business. In June alone, SPHE reported a 21% increase in orders across these regions. Paul Miller, senior VP of international at SPHE said, "It is extremely positive to see an increase in volume of Blu-ray software sales in these markets where piracy has previously ravaged the DVD business."

CANADIAN high-end machine vision components and systems Xiris Automation has announced a partnership with Swedish QC equipment AudioDev for the European sales and service of all Xiris Inspection products for the optical disc industry, including Ident Code Verification and Print Inspection systems. In separate developments, Xiris has promoted Cornelius Sawatzky to the role of Global Sales and Service Manager for Optical Discs. He will be responsible for fostering relationships with clients directly in the Americas and with agents elsewhere around the world.

VIETNAM's Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism's Bureau of Literature and Art Copyrights recently held a conference on CD and DVD management with the participation of organisations such as the IFPI and the US-aided STAR project, which has initiated technical assistance and support for amending the financial legal framework to comply with the US-Vietnam Bilateral Trade Agreement, WTO accession, and international best practices.

LUCKY and Flo, the two sniffer dogs that have been striking fear into the hearts of VCD and DVD pirates in Asia by nosing out millions of illegal discs, were given a heroes' send-off this week when their six-month assignment in Malaysia ended. Since they arrived in the country in March, they have helped authorities make 26 arrests and uncover pirated discs and equipment worth $6 million.

VERBATIM Corporation has concerns regarding the unauthorized supply in Australia by Laser Corporation Holdings Pty Ltd of some Laser brand 16X DVD's which use MID codes of Verbatim or its related companies. Disk identification shows that these Laser brand 16X DVDs are not from production facilities approved by Verbatim or its related companies and so may be of different quality or performance as disks from production facilities approved by Verbatim or its related companies. Verbatim is without any responsibility for the quality or performance of these Laser brand 16X DVD's. In addition, Laser's supply of these 16X DVD's in Australia may infringe copyright.

CORAL Products, CD/DVD packaging supplier, posted a wider pretax loss for the full year, as revenues fell 13%, but said it expects it will have a much better outlook by the end of this financial year. Pretax loss was £2.22m, compared with a loss of £977,000 last year, and revenue fell to £14.29m from £16.36m. Coral said trading was extremely difficult during the year with demand for media products suffering from over-capacity throughout the industry. There was a marked decline in demand for CD products, and the margins were again adversely affected by high raw material prices, it added.

HIGH-DEFINITION video viewing is developing slower than the industry had expected, held back by a lack of HD content and competition between rival standards, Rudy Provoost, Philips Consumer Electronics, said in an interview with the International Herald Tribune. "There are highlights, such as last year's World Cup or next year's Beijing Olympics. But to give it the next big boost, the movie studios have to release more movies in Blu-ray or HD DVD formats."

WARNER has denied the ongoing rumors that it will follow in Paramount's footsteps and drop dual support for HD discs and pick either Blu-ray or HD DVD. The rumors began early last week when Warner VP Steve Nickerson, the industry's largest supporter for dual-format support, stepped down from his position at the company. Warner Home Video spokesman Jim Noonan says however that the departure of Nickerson should not be taken as an indication of the studio's future plans.

ACER and Hualu Group will become the newest members of the Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA), joining more than 170 of the world’s leading consumer electronic, computer companies and content providers. Acer is one of the three largest personal-computer brands in the world and the number one notebook brand in Europe. China Hualu Group is the only consumer electronics company belonging to Chinese state-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of State Council, and one of China’s leading manufactures of audio and video devices and is one of the largest providers of audio and video contents and services in China.

DELUXE Digital Studios and CDSA, formerly IRMA, have spearheaded an initiative to develop anti-piracy and security standards for post-production and digital media services facilities. The initiative comes in response to concerns of content owners and editing laboratories about unauthorized access and theft of film and TV video and audio content. The standards are expected to be implemented by the end of this month.