Optical disc production in North America will spiral up 9% this year to almost 1.74 billion units, thanks to strong CD-ROM and DVD-Video growth that will offset declining audio CD production, the International Recording Media Association (IRMA) projects.

Audio CD production will slip by 100 million units in 1999 to 1.57 billion before slipping again next year to 1.55 billion and again in 2001 to 1.51 billion, the association said. Meanwhile, North American production of DVD-Audio and Super Audio CD (SACD) discs will grow from 18 million units next year to 125 million in 2003.

IRMA based its projections on a survey of members said to represent 80% of the world's optical disc replication capacity.

The association also projects that in 1999, DVD-Video production will hit 125 million units in North America, and North American CD-ROM production will exceed music CD production for the first time. IRMA forecasts 1999 CD-ROM production of 1.61 billion on the continent compared to the audio CD's 1.57 billion.

Worldwide, however, the audio CD is still king. IRMA projects a 2.4% increase in global music CD production to 4.2 billion in 1999, while CD-ROM production will hit only 3.1 billion. Worldwide audio CD production will rise by 100 million units in both 2000 and 2001, when production is expected to peak.

In North America, audio CD production is peaking earlier than that, said IRMA executive VP Charles Van Horn, because "the number of CD-Audio programs purchased per player has begun to decline in this market as consumer libraries have seemed to stabilize among consumers over 30 years old" -- who have already established their base collection of titles.

"While SoundScan reveals healthy CD [retail] sales," he added, "the manufacture of discs for the pipeline has begun to slow in North America."

Although the trend in North American audio CD production isn't in sync with the worldwide trend, North American and worldwide production of DVD-Audio and SACD will grow in tandem, given the formats' fledgling status, IRMA said.

Worldwide, 28 million discs will be produced in 2000, with North American production accounting for 18 million of that total. Worldwide sales will rise in 2001 to 86 million, in 2002 to 162 million, and in 2003 to 295 million, while annual North American production during those years will be 50 million, 80 million, and 125 million.

IRMA, which didn't differentiate between DVD-Audio and SACD production, said its new-format forecasts were revised downward by an undisclosed amount because of the delay in DVD-Audio's rollout.

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Optical disc production in North America will spiral up 9% this year to almost 1.74 billion units, thanks to strong CD-ROM and DVD-Video growth that will offset declining audio CD production, the International Recording Media Association (IRMA) pr...
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