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Dual Format DVDs Take Control, Boost Plus Format

9/29/2003 02:00:00 AM Eastern

With almost one year of shelf life under its belt, the rewritable dual format DVD PC burner has had a serious impact on the category.

Peter Brinkman, Maxell's marketing VP, said the dual format drives have been a boon for the plus format and have enabled its share of the blank media market to grow to within 8 or so percentage points of the dash type. Maxell makes blank media for all three formats.

"The dual drive has really taken the confusion out of the market," Brinkman said, adding that the DVD+RW Alliance has been more aggressive in marketing the media than the DVD Forum, which supports the dash format.

Rewritable DVD PC drives, as a category, were originally beset with problems arising from the fact that three competing formats — DVD-RW, DVD+RW and DVD-RAM — were on the market simultaneously. Since none was fully cross-compatible, the potential for consumer confusion was high and this confusion was manifested through poor sales. Adding to this problem was the initial high sticker price of the drives and blank media.

According to The NPD Group, Port Washington, N.Y., dual drives controlled 60 percent of retail sales in July, with plus burners at 35 percent and dash drives at 5 percent. However, the picture between plus and dash is a bit different when commercial channels, like direct mail, are added. Here dual drives have 47 percent of the market; plus, 45 percent; and dash, 8 percent.

Not all vendors are jumping on the dual format bandwagon. Toshiba is sticking with DVD-RW drives for its new Satellite notebooks, said Craig Marking, product manager for Toshiba's systems group, citing the cost that would be passed along to consumers as still too high.

Retail average selling prices for July were $311 for dual format, $183 for plus PC drives and $247 for dash.

NPD data surpassed Brinkman's estimate on the plus format's retail performance. For July, NPD has the +R format holding 46 percent of the share to -R's 42 percent, while the +RW discs have 8 percent, and -RW discs have 2 percent. DVD-RAM media and packs containing plus and dash media share the remainder of the market. These figures are based on disc count, not SKU count, so a 50-pack counts as 50, not one, said Steve Baker, NPD's director of research.

Plus-format drives have dominated sales at Amazon.com during the past six months. The retailer reported that six of the top-10-selling drives were plus, three were dash, and one was dual format, which was the retailer's second bestseller.