By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Blank optical media continues to ride the coattails of DVD — gaining sales strength primarily from camcorder, home movie and personal photo recording and data backup.
At the same time, recording speeds have increased to 16x, even 52x, while double-layer/dual-format discs are play- ing a key role in taking the business to increased data and additional format levels.
“We expect DVD sales to go through the roof in the period. Consumers understand the exceptional quality that DVD represents and hardware prices have reached a level that energizes the mass market,” said Don Patrican, Maxell's executive VP. “Maxell has budgeted for extremely healthy media sales in the fourth quarter of 2005, driven, primarily, by DVD product.
“DVD media sales have been very strong so far this year, but they could have been better had consumers not been confused about the various formats and how to use DVD recorders in general,” continued Patrican. “Now that situation is improving, but we could be introducing confusion all over again, with all the marketing hype surrounding 16x product,” said the exec at the Fair Lawn, N.J.-based company.
Maxell has begun shipping its DVD+R double-layer media that is capable of storing up to 8.5GB of data or four hours of video, which nearly doubles the capacity of DVD media, said the company. The new media is part of the company's strategy of offering step-up products that provide higher performance for end users and consumers.
In addition to four hours of DVD-quality video, the new media has a capacity of 16 hours of VHS-quality video and one hour of high-definition-quality video on one side of the disc. Unlike conventional DVD, double layer uses a laser to encode and read the data. One focal length writes and reads to the top layers, while the other deals with the second layer, nearly doubling capacity.
Taking a look a one pitfall in the media category, Patrican said, “Retailers are suffering under the misconception that 16x product can be recorded twice as fast as 8x media, when, in reality, it only records just over a minute faster. We cannot pass this misconception on to the consumers.
“Also, we need to remember that by the end of 2005 only 15 percent of the drives on the market will be capable of recording at 16x. As an industry, we're better served by marketing quality, not speed,” Patrican said.
The blank optical media segment continues to evolve at a rapid pace, with new and improved product coming on to the market at a blinding pace, which keeps both vendors and consumers on their toes.
“As we move forward into the holiday season, one point is clear: The more things change in the blank media marketplace, the quicker you must be able to adapt,” said Brad Yeager, product marketing director at Cerritos, Calif.-headquartered Memorex.
“The camcorder market is undergoing a format revolution. The selection of mini DVD camcorders on the retail shelf is phenomenal, and about 27 percent of them record directly to mini DVD. The price points are coming down, and tape-based camcorders now have to compete with the direct-to-DVD models.
“The advantage of mini DVD is that the discs are cross-platform com- patible. Record, finalize and play. It's easy, the consumer understands it, and there is nothing to plug into something else.
“To meet this need, Memorex redeveloped its lineup of mini DVD selections — DVD-R, DVD-RW and now DVD+RW are available. Using DVD+RW adds great versatility for editing on disc that was never available in the -R format.
“This fall, we will finally see sales of home DVD recorders take off at retail,” continued Yeager. “Already, the $99 price point has been achieved on a low-end home DVD recorder. The price points are going to be greatly compressed, and this market should finally expand. Memorex offers a new CE-focused line of both DVD camcorder and DVD home video recording SKUs.
“Memorex is expanding its overall DVD product selection of both the DVD+R and DVD-R formats. Focus is planned fully on 16x configurations, namely printable white-surface DVD. While 8x legacy SKUs are still prevalent in the marketplace for the balance of 2005, 16x is the final end game for write-once single-sided DVD.
“A new addition to the Memorex rewritable line-up is the five-pack of DVD+RW 8x ($14.99). The new 8x DVD+RW is designed to provide a rewritable solution for newer DVD burners that specify 8x rewritable capability.
“On the DL front, Memorex is increasing the number of packages of double-layer, write-once DVD, with four different pack options available to the retailer.
“Moving forward on double layer, 8x speed media will be available before year's end. We are quite pleased with double-layer sell-through. The 'early adopter' consumer is embracing the new technology and is paying a premium for the additional storage capability,” said the company.
Memorex is revamping its DVD 120 home video recording line and camcorder mini DVD line, including new pack configurations and a CE-friendly look across both product lines. Memorex DVD 120 in slim movie-box cases includes DVD-R and DVD+R 10-packs, each at $14.99 suggested retail. Mini DVD for camcorders and burners includes a DVD-R five-pack and DVD-RW three-pack, both at $17.99. A DVD+RW 10-pack spindle j-hook blister pack is $29.99.
Lines also expanding at Memorex include a rewritable media DVD+RW jewel case five-pack for a suggested $11.99, and in double layer, a DVD+R DL jewel case three-pack for $19.99, five-pack for $29.99, 15-pack spindle for $109.99 and 25-pack spindle for $149.99. In 16x printable-surface DVD, DVD-R and DVD+R 20-pack spindles are $19.99. A 50-pack DVD-R and DVD+R is $54.99 and 100-packs of the same types have $99.99 suggested retails.
“End-user demand for DVD media continues to climb worldwide at a healthy rate,” Memorex's Yeager said. “Some experts are predicting a worldwide shortage in the not-so-distant future. Demand could outstrip supply due to the growth rate of DVD drives sold worldwide.
“In 2005, nearly 7 million DVD burners will be added each month, creating a worldwide installed base of over 162 million units. This is separate from the installed base of home video recorder units, which is projected to reach 14 million units by the end of 2005.
“The growth of DVD drives fuels the growth of DVD blank media consumption. Factory expansion of high quality blank DVD is not keeping up with the drive growth rate. Most high-quality manufacturers have limited their investment on additional production equipment during the first half of this year so they can increase efficiencies in their current production facilities.
“The price of oil is also having a dramatic effect on the cost of production of blank media, both CD-R and DVD. As oil hovers around $55 to $60 a barrel, the cost for high-grade poly carbonate (the largest single component of a disc) continues to rise as the price of oil increases.
“While the growth of the blank DVD market is very positive, with double-digit growth rates predicted for the next few years, the forces that may affect supply are dynamic and ever-changing,” said Yeager.
As the DVD category matures, makers have to become more creative in the marketplace to remain competitive.
“The latest trend in the [blank media] business is to differentiate with innovative features and packaging,” said Michael Alford, recordable media and peripherals marketing at Philips Consumer Electronics. “Inkjet printable and LightScribe (LS) labeling options are new ideas that are gaining acceptance quickly.
“For the holidays, driving the business will be innovative packs like our RIMS CD-R and special value-added deals like free photo software in DVD packages. This will help consumers more easily convert digital images and hard-disk drive content to permanent CD-R or DVD storage.
“Mini DVD-R and DVD-RW is a growing category as more DVD disc-based camcorders are sold. Also, look for holiday promotions,” said Alford at Atlanta-based Philips.
“DVD continues to grow quickly as a category with CD-R unit sales declining slowly. Expect DVD to catch CD-R in dollar sales in early 2006.”
The latest product to hit the retail shelves is 16x DVD+R, said Alford, with several variants and special stuff. He notes that 16x DVD can be ordered in a “printable format, where the top side of the disc is coated in white and can be printed on using most flat-bed inkjet printers. To that end, Philips is offering its DR418J10C five-pack of 8x inkjet-jewel printable, which, this September, will come in 16x and in spindle sizes of 25 and 50. The 16x DVD+R can be ordered in the company's LightScribe variant.
Another printable is DR4L8J05C, which is 8x DVD+R currently, but will be 16x shortly, said Philips. The 16x LS should be available in September, while the company will offer DVD-R and DVD-RW in a mini format for camcorder use and portable DVD recording. The DVD-R, DM1S4J05C is a five-pack slim jewel case. The DVD-RW, DN1SJ03C is a three-pack slim jewel case.
Verbatim is shipping a new family of video DVD media and mini DVD DigitalMovie discs specifically designed for home video recording. The discs combine premium write quality, broad compatibility and long data life with Verbatim's new VideoGard hard-coat technology.
The mini DVD discs offer the classic movie-reel look and the mini DVD-R/RW discs measure three inches in diameter, giving users up to 1.4GB of storage. The company has a choice of 8x DVD-R, 8x DVD+R, 2x DVD-RW and 4x DVD+RW formats, while the video DVD media is packaged in space-saving trim video boxes. VideoGard enhanced discs are said to make home videos and recordings 40 times more resistant to damage without a significant increase in cost of the media.
The mini DVD DigitalMovie discs, also featuring VideoGard, support camcorders from a variety of makers. About half the size of standard DVDs, these have the capacity to record 30 minutes of high-quality video, including digital photos, MP3 files and business presentations, said the Charlotte, N.C.-based Verbatim. The discs also can be used to transfer home video tapes to optical media that won't degrade over time.
Verbatim video DVDR media has a street price of about $12.99 for a 10-pack. DVDRW media is priced about $7.99 for a three-pack. Street price for a five-pack of mini DVD DigitalMovie DVD-R discs is $12.99, and the mini DVD DigitalMovie DVD-RW three-pack is about the same.
TDK is introducing a new line of 8cm ScratchProof double-sided DVD recording media for the latest generation of DVD camcorders. In addition to double-sided DVD recording functionality, the new product also incorporates the Garden City, N.Y.-based company's hard-coating technology.
Offering 2.8GB of capacity, the TDK 8cm ScratchProof double-sided DVD provides users an hour of recording in a DVD camcorder. The discs can be played in virtually any home DVD player.
“The DVD camcorder format requires optical disc media to perform in a new and challenging environment — the outdoors,” said Chris Bailey, director of recording media. “Not only does TDK 8cm ScratchProof double-side DVD media offer superb recording stability in the field, but it's also designed to withstand the rigors of being handled in less than ideal conditions,” he said. “It's a tough, reliable recording media that incorporates a double-side formulation to enable capturing two times more video than was previously possible with DVD camcorders.”
Rated for recording at up to 2x speed, the 8cm ScratchProof double-sided DVD-R media has a $6.99 street price, the DVD-R is $3.99 and the DVD-RW is $4.99. Standard DVD-R in 8cm media is $1.99 and DVD-RW is $2.99.
Fujifilm is said to be the only blank media vendor offering a selection of DVD/CD color towers. In order to ease organization and identification, Fuji is making available color-coded discs and jewel cases in both DVD and CD formats. The color-coded discs are available in packs of 30 and 50 discs. This includes color-coded DVD+R, DVD-R and CD-R from the Valhalla, N.Y.-based company. Suggested retail for the 50-pack tower is $24.99.
Ridata-brand recordable media, made by Advanced Media, has added two more inkjet printable optical discs to its expanding product lineup. The new items are a double-layer 2.4x DVD+R and a 52x CD-R. Both have a white inkjet-printable top surface and the 52x CD-R prints right down to the hub.
The advanced, single-sided dual-layer DVD+R disc has 8.5GB of storage capacity, enough for four hours of DVD-quality video, 16 hours of VHS-quality video and over 120 hours of MP3 audio. It is compatible with all current DVD video players and DVD-ROM drives as well as new DVD+R DL drives. Suggested retail is $139 for a 25-disc pack.
With the Ridata 52x CD-R hub printable inkjet white optical disc, users can create professional looking CDs of their favorite data, video or audio material. The waterproof disc features 700MB or 80 minutes worth of storage capacity. Suggested retail for a white inkjet printable 500-pack of 52x, 80-minute CD-R is $90.
Ridata, based in Diamond Bar, Calif., also is adding 16x DVD-R discs to it line-up of recordable media. The model 8482 write-once formatted 16x DVD-R is a high-capacity multimedia data storage medium that can accommodate an entire full-length movie on a single disc.
The unit offers 4.7GB capacity and can accurately record a 4.7GB disc in about five minutes. It features high compatibility with all popular DVD-R hardware and is backward compatible with DVD-R recorders that have proper firmware upgrades. It can be used at all recording speeds from 1x through 16x.
Delkin Devices is shipping inkjet printable versions if its eFilm Archival Gold “300-Year” CD-R. The museum-quality CD-R can be used by consumers to preserve digital images as well as to personalize with their own designs.
The product offers an “attractive” package design that is easily distinguishable from the existing Archival Gold product line, said the company.
The CD-R 10-pack is sold in a protective plastic case that holds 10 CD-Rs in polypropylene sleeves. Other packaging options include a 1-inch binder available with 16 eFilm Archival Gold CD-Rs in protective sleeves, a 25-pack in a cake box-type spindle and a 100-pack CD-R in both retail and bulk packaging.
Suggested retails from the Poway, Calif.-based company are $19.99 for the 10-pack wallet, $39.99 for the 16-pack binder and 25-pack spindle, and $144.99 for the 100-disc spindle pack.
Abcron is adding 8x DVD+/-R discs to its new PlayO brand of recordable media. The write-once media is the first in a selected group of high-capacity, multimedia data storage products that the company will be offering.
“Falling price points of optical drives and CD/DVD printers are fueling explosive demand for optical media products,” said Andy Huang, VP, regarding the latest industry trends.
“We are seeing an increase in production this year as consumers are experimenting more and more with creating personal looks for their media usage. We anticipate that 8x will continue to thrive as the adopted speed of the mass market,” continued Huang.
City of Industry, Calif.-based Abcron 8x DVD+/- R discs are available in a 10-piece jewel case pack for a suggested $5.99 retail, or in a 25-piece cake box at $9.99. Discs come in 4.7GB capacity for up to two hours of DVD digital video recording.
Along with the new 8x DVD+/-R discs, the PlayO brand includes a variety of DVD discs, mobile devices and an assortment of flash-media accessories.
This TWICE webinar, hosted by senior editor Alan Wolf, will take a look at what may be the hottest CE products at retail that will be sold during the all-important fourth quarter. Top technologies, market strategies and industry trends will be discussed with industry analysts and executives.