DVD Media Solution Upgrade: From 'Nice-To-Have' To 'Must-Have'

By Jeff Malester On Sep 6 2004 - 6:00am

Blank DVD Media Sales 'Unaffected' By Software Copy Ban

DVD media continues to capture the recording and storage fancies of American consumers, with faster speeds and longer recording times highlighting the introductions of new merchandise. At the same time, the increasing volume of DVD media sold in multipacks mirrors consumer demand for finding discs at the best price.

“The sale of DVD products has accelerated with the introduction of higher-speed burners as well as the new camcorders utilizing DVD media,” said Frank Bulzomi, director/consumer marketing at the Recording Media division of Fujifilm USA.

“Consumers are generally using recordable DVD media much in the same way they did CD-R — as higher-capacity, higher-quality recording media for digital files, and, increasingly, as storage for images from their digital cameras.

“The consumer video recording market is just now emerging as home-based DVD hardware becomes affordable and mainstream. Today, consumers are finding DVDs to be a good addition to CD-R for recording large volumes of music purchased online or storing large image files that may be too large for a single CD-R,” said Bulzomi of the Valhalla, N.Y.-based Fujifilm.

With DVD sales booming for both the industry and Memorex Products, Brad Yeager, senior product marketing manager for the Cerritos, Calif.-based maker of digital media and media accessories, said industry data has been showing about 500 percent increases in DVD unit sales. “We see continued growth in DVD media sales, as the sales of set-top (home use) DVD recorders will continue to rise this year.”

A new double-layer DVD+R disc from Memorex allows for 80 percent more recording capacity than current single-layer discs. These are ideal for recording movies, music and sporting events, offering four hours of recording time. Each double-layer disc is packaged in a “movie box” case, similar to the pre-recorded DVD movies consumers rent and buy, so these easily can be added to a video collector's existing library. The product, which began shipping this summer, has a suggested $12.99 retail.

Memorex is also offering a new 16x DVD+R media, where consumes can burn an entire disc — a full two hours of video — in about six minutes. The discs store 4.7GB of video, photo, music or data files. The product started shipping in August, with 5-packs starting at a suggested $11.99 retail.

Looking at a number of significant changes in the PC and CE use of DVD media over the past 12 months, Ronan Ryan, director of product marketing at Verbatim, said, “We are still on the leading edge of consumer understanding that has changed DVD from a nice-to-have to must-have solution.

“Nearly everything people use and enjoy today — data, audio, video — is digital and the volume is growing exponentially. More importantly, they want to save, share and enjoy the information. All of the technologies are adding significant features and capabilities at the same or lower cost.

“Understanding the adoption has just begun,” said the Charlotte, N.C.-headquartered Ryan, who noted media sales showed a 5 times increase this past year, and should continue to grow at the rate of 500 percent over the next two years. And this “has nothing to do with copying a DVD movie,” he emphasized.

Key factors stimulating demand, according to Ryan, are numerous. “For the first time, the sale of digital cameras and camcorders surpassed the sale of analog units in the United States, and the new feature/price units are forcing people to take a new look at the way they save moments and memories.”

Nearly 60 percent of homes have at least one PC, and users are downloading more and more information, continued Ryan. Economic media center solutions are entering the market that look more like a consumer appliance than a PC, while set-top recorders sales will double this year, as features are added and prices fall, he continued.

Other trends affecting demand, said Ryan, are consumers abandoning their VCRs, who want to preserve their aging videotapes, and fast introduction of DVD burners that are better, faster and less expensive. At the same time, companies are archiving all of their digital files — including millions of e-mails sent and received — to protect themselves from possible legal action, concluded Ryan.

The Verbatim exec noted the past year has seen a concerted effort to improve volumes, while simultaneously delivering higher speed, higher capacity media as quickly as standards are improved. “We made performance improvements up to 16x single-layer media that will be entering the market shortly, without increasing the cost to our channel partners or their customers,” said Ryan.

“We have just gotten the production of double-layer 8.5GB media to the point that we are almost keeping pace with constant developer and professional user demand. Production volumes are improving, and we are adding additional capacity lines so we make the higher capacity media more widely available and lower the cost to the consumer.”

Optical media is one of the fastest growing markets for Oakdale, Minn.-based Imation, and end-user demand for personal storage media continues to get stronger,” said Bob Barr, director of marketing for the company's data storage and information management segment. “This is being driven by the growth of digital applications — such as digital photos, videos and music download services — driving blank CD and DVD sales,” he said.

The company continues to see growth opportunities through strategic agreements, such as Napster Branded Media and through product advancements, such as its 16x DVD+R 4.7GB discs. “As people continue to rely on optical media to help capture and share digital content, we believe there are opportunities to bring these products to market in new and unique configurations and packaging formats,” said Barr. Imation expects to have 16x DVD media available this month.

A new disc from Imation, the DVD+R DL, nearly doubles the storage capacity of a DVD recordable disc from 4.7GB to 8.5GB on a single side, without having to turn the disc over during recording. The DVD+R DL media can store up to four hours of DVD-quality video, or 16 hours of VHS-quality video. The media maintains playback compatibility with existing DVD video players and DVD-ROM drives, but requires a dual-layer burner to record. The media will be available in the fourth quarter.

TDK Electronics is pleased with the results of DVD media sales in 2004 thus far, according to Chris Bailey, director of recording media at the Garden City, N.Y.-located company. “And we don't expect this trend to end any time soon.”

Although RCA blank DVD media is brand new in the line, “We view DVD recording primarily as a way for consumers to time-shift broadcast content and as a way to keep archived copies of home videos,” said Dave Arland, VP/U.S. corporate communications and government relations at Thomson.

A new, full line of RCA-brand DVD discs from the Indianapolis-based Thomson includes offerings for all formats: -R, -RW, +R, +RW and RAM. Each single-sided disc offers up to 240 minutes of MPEG2 video or 4.7GB of data for PC or home video use. The write-once RCA DVD+R discs can be played back in a DVD reader or rewritable computer drive or most standard DVD players.

DVD media options include DVD+R — model DVDP6PK, a six-pack of individually jewel-wrapped product for $22.95 suggested retail — and DVD-R — model DVD6PK, a six-pack of individually jewel-wrapped product for $17.95 suggested retail. Others include DVD+RW, model DVDRWP1K, one individually jewel-wrapped item for $8.95 suggested retail and DVD-RAM, model DVDRAM3, a three-pack of individually jewel-wrapped discs for $39.95 suggested retail.

Looking at the second half of 2004, the crystal ball consulted by long-time media maven Don Patrican, executive VP at Fair Lawn, N.J.-based Maxell Corp. of America, indicates strong sales of DVD media across the board, including media for home and camcorder recording.

“We also see a major acceleration of multipack sales, including 15-pack, 20-pack, 50-pack and 100-pack spindles, which we interpret as a dynamic rise in consumption by consumers who are converting their treasured VHS libraries of movies, television programs and the memories they've recorded on analog camcorder tape to DVD. This is clearly the major application for blank DVD at this point,” he said.

Patrican, who noted a rapid decline in sales of VHS, further indicating that library conversion to DVD is what's driving the market today, said Maxell's new DVD video media, in all write-once and rewritable formats, is ideal for recording up to two hours of video or 1,400 still images. The DVD video media, available in protective plastic library cases, comes in 5-packs of +R and -R discs for a suggested $16.67 retail.

Maxell has added to its line of DVD camcorder media with a new 3-pack of DVD-R that includes a media holder for camcorder models that require them. It will record up to 30 minutes of content and provides consumers with a single choice to suit any of the camcorder models they own.

New 50-pack spindles of DVD-R and DVD+R media extends Maxell's line of recordable DVD media. Available in September, the media will record up to two hours of content. The large-pack size features the company's color system, intended to make format selection easier.

Maxell has expanded its line of CD-R media with its new CD-R Design Series that features bold and striking graphics made to appeal to young consumers who value style, color and design. Five bold and contemporary graphic patterns were scheduled for August availability in a 25-pack. The discs support up to 48x write speed and can record up to 80 minutes of digital audio.

Expectations for the remainder of the year remain high at Park Ridge, N.J.-based Sony. “We expect the rapid growth in the DVD category to continue with the expansion of DVD drives and home DVD recorders,” said Michael Lucas, director of consumer and convergent media at the company's electronics media and applications solutions division. “We have recently introduced 8x DVD-R and DVD+R media, and we have other DVD introductions coming up before the end of the year,” he said.

Sony's 8x DVD-R and DVD+R media, which offers a 30 percent increase in the recording and accessing speed of the company's previous high-speed offerings, addresses the growing demand for DVD burning among consumers with a recordable media that is compatible with a wide variety of drives and devices.

The single-side disc offers 4.7GB of data storage capacity, with recording time for the entire 4.7GB at about 10 minutes. Suggested retail for the discs is $2.99 each, or $29.99 for a package of 10.

TDK anticipates that demand for DVD product will continue to flourish at an estimated demand increase of 305 percent for 2004 over 2003. “Keep in mind that the demand for the total calendar year is lower than it was in early 2003 because of the initial 'pipeline fill' into accounts, when recordable DVD suddenly took off in May/June of 2003,” said the company's Bailey.

TDK continues its efforts to drive demand in 2004. This includes introduction of next-generation products, such as Armor Plated DVD media that adds a protective UV layer, and the new PrintOn printable DVD media line, which includes photo-quality printable discs and multi-color printable discs — all packaged in DVD movie-style cases.

The Armor Plated DVD media with UV protection will be available in early winter of 2004 in DVD-R format at a suggested $5.99 retail.

The company's 8x-speed recordable DVD media in DVD-R and DVD+R format has a suggested retail of $2.99 for a 1-pack jewel case and $29.99 for a 10-pack jewel case.

The new PrintOn blank DVD media will be packaged in 5-packs, with availability scheduled for August. Suggested retails include $19.99 for PrintOn DVD Photo Quality, $12.99 for PrintOn White Matte and $11.99 for PrintOn Colors.

TDK also is expanding its line of Armor Plated DVD media with the introduction of 8cm Armor Plated DVD recording media that is optimized for 8cm DVD camcorders. Rated for recording at up to 2x speed, the company's 8cm Armor Plated DVD media with UV protection is available in the DVD-R format for a suggested street price of $8.99 each. The DVD-RW media, without UV protection, is available at an estimated street price of $11.99 each.

For the remainder of the year, “We see DVD recording hardware penetrating more and more home PCs, and the cost of consumer DVD recorders reaching mass market levels prior to this holiday season — driving significant media purchases as well,” said Fujifilm's Bulzomi. “Additionally, Fujifilm engineers are working with key vendors and the industry as they create solutions that provide higher recording speeds that require increasing capacities for entertainment and network storage needs.”

Among Fujifilm advances are a technology that will make it possible to record on a single DVD-R disc at speeds ranging from 1x to 16x, and a new dye coating that can be used in the manufacture of a blue-violet laser write-once optical disc with recording capacity of 23.3GB.

According to analysts at Giga, said Bulzomi, the DVD market is substantial and growing, with the media production for DVDs expected to exceed 1.6 billion discs in 2005.

Looking ahead, Memorex, in terms of double-layer DVD sales, forecasts that the long lag time between the introduction of DVD+DL and DVD-DL formats may result in a drastic impact on DVD-DL's marketability. Home recorders in [the proper] format may become the only real reason for retail to carry DVD-DL media, suggested the company's Yeager.

Nevertheless, Memorex will bring the newest technical innovations, such as double layer DVDs, to market. It also will be introducing some specialty products that appeal to consumers' sense of creativity and individuality. For example, in time for the holidays, Memorex will be introducing a DVD specialty product for “budding” movie directors. This will contain 10 recordable DVDs that have a special coating that protects the discs from scratches. Jewel cases also will be included. The DVDs and jewel cases will come packed in a special, dimensional tin that resembles a movie reel can. The name of the product will be available shortly, pending results of a trademark search.

A new, fast 4x DVD-RW optical disc is offered by Diamond Bar, Calif.-based Advanced Media. Ideal for video, audio and data use, the company's Ridata-brand disc shows its versatility by a high degree of compatibility with most DVD players and DVD-RW drives.

The media provides up to two hours of recording time in standard mode and allows up to 1,000 rewrites. It has 4.7GB of capacity and will write to capacity in about 15 minutes. It is said to be perfect for fast recording of high-quality multimedia or data, such as films, TV programs, music, photographs and others. Availability had been set for July, with suggested retail of a 4x DVD-RW 25-pack in cake box packaging set at $49.99.

CD-R media growth won't be dramatic, but will continue to be strong, at 10.3 million discs this year, said Verbatim's Ryan. “The video CDs will play in virtually all DVD players and drives, so it is as universal as DVD media. CD media is being used more and more for the short videos people want to send to family and friends.”

Verbatim has available its new double-layer Solution kit that enables consumers to take full advantage of the multiple DVD+R/RW recording formats offered by the latest double-layer (DL) DVD drives.

In addition to a Verbatim 8.5GB DVD+R DL-certified disc, a 10-pack includes eight 1-8x DVD+R discs for high speed recording and one 1-4x DVD+RW disc for rewritable applications.

The company's DataLifePlus 2.4x DVD+R DL media nearly doubles the storage capacity on DVD recordable discs, from 4.7GB to 8.5GB on a single side, while maintaining compatibility with existing DVD video players and DVD-ROM drives.

A Double Layer Solution Kit, which includes one DVD+R DL disc, eight 8x DVD+R discs and one 4x DVD+RW disc, has a suggested retail of about $30. All of the discs come in protective jewel cases. The company also offers a single DVD+R DL disc in a jewel case for a suggested $15 retail.

Printable media demand is very strong, said Ryan, due to the advent of economic disc-printing systems for businesses and low-cost home inkjet CD/DVD printers. “People are so comfortable with the digital presentation, they want their first impression to look as good as their content. Even if it is a reference or backup disc, they want it to look professional,” said Ryan.

Acknowledging that digital information — documents, data, video and audio — is increasing in volume at more than 500 percent per year, Ryan points out that consumers are very comfortable saving and sharing their digital information to a disc.

“Ultra-high-speed CD-R and DVD-R and high-speed DVD-RW are doing exceptionally well in the marketplace. The new high-capacity DL technology will stimulate demand, not just for more media, but also new burners and new software. You might say the third generation of DVD technology is coming into its own and the demand will only grow,” he said.

During mid-summer, Verbatim announced plans to release 16x speed DVD+R media that has the ability to record at about 21 MBps and store 4.7GB of video, photos, music or data files in about five minutes. Availability is scheduled for this month. A 5-pack will probably have an initial street price of about $15, when available, according to the company.

The company also is shipping 8x-speed DataLifePlus White Inkjet Hub-printable DVD+R and DVD-R media in 50-disc spindles. The media, which allows users to write 4.7GB of digital content in less than 10 minutes, is designed to take maximum advantage of high-resolution 4800 and higher dpi inkjet CD/DVD printers and auto-loading systems. The spindles have a street price of $120.

Philips Electronics is debuting All Speed DVD+R blank media — the first in the category to be approved for 1x up to 16x recording speeds, and ready for shipping to the mass market, said the company.

The product from the Atlanta-based Philips, which allows consumers to use a single disc at all recording speeds — from real-time 1x video recording speed, up to the maximum achievable 16x speeds — means users can record video or data files with any DVD+R recorder, no matter if it is one of the latest 16x DVD writers or a legacy DVD+R writer. A 16x DVD drive writes the full 4.7GB DVD+R disc in about 5 minutes.

Philips said its new DVD+R disc is the first 16x media to be approved by the DVD+R/+RW Verification Laboratories Group, which tests newly developed DVD+R, DVD+R DL and DVD+RW discs from media makers to verify that read-and-write performance complies with standard specifications to ensure optimal recording on discs.

The disc, expected to be available in the United States at the end of August for an anticipated street price of $1.80, will be sold both under the Philips Recordable Media brand as well as by other recordable media manufacturers under their own brands.

Panasonic is introducing 5x DVD-RAM discs, designed for the next generation of faster DVD drives and recorders.

The new discs from the Secaucus, N.J.-based company, which represent Panasonic's third generation of DVD-RAM, offer a significant leap in data transfer speed over current rewritable DVD-RAM discs. These are available in 4.7GB and 9.4GB capacities, in either cartridge or non-cartridge configuration.

The 4.7GB and 9.4GB discs, which will play in DVD-RAM drives, DVD multi-drives and a variety of other DVD-RAM playback-capable DVD players and recorders, will be competitively priced to handle a wide variety of PC and audio/video applications.

Products include model LM-HC47MU, a 5x speed, 4.7GB DVD-RAM non-cartridge disc; model LM-HB47MU, a 5x speed, 4.7GB DVD-RAM cartridge disc; and model LM-HB94MU, a 5x speed, double-sided 9.4GB DVD-RAM cartridge disc.

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