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MiniDV's Dominance Ebbs As New Formats Advance

7/17/2006 02:00:00 AM Eastern

Unit sales of digital camcorders will likely be flat in 2006, while dollars may lose ground.

According to Liz Cutting, senior analyst, The NPD Group, through May of this year, camcorder sales were up 4.5 percent vs. the same period last year — reflecting slower growth than previous years. The category is down 1.9 percent in dollars through May of this year vs. the same period last year, Cutting added.

“The whole market is slowing and will likely be flat for the year” she said.

“We're in a transition phase right now,” said Scott Smith, video sales GM, Canon. He argued that the way consumers experience video is changing — more high definition, more 16:9 — and that camcorders are adjusting to that reality.

“I don't think it's the impact of video recording on still cameras,” Smith said. “I think that actually heightens video awareness. Just as camera phones haven't cannibalized still cameras, I don't think still cameras will cannibalize camcorders.”

Instead, flat sales reflect the flux in technology, Smith said.

Despite the relatively staid macro picture, the erosion of MiniDV's hold on the market continues apace.

Through May, MiniDV camcorders comprise 55 percent of the market in unit sales, down 16 percent from the same period last year, according to NPD. It has already dropped below the 50 percent mark in dollar sales. Through May 2006, MiniDV camcorders made up 49 percent of dollar sales, Cutting said.

MiniDV is sustained by its lower average selling price, Smith said. “Over 80 percent of MiniDV models were priced at $399 or below,” he said.

Meanwhile analog models have been almost completely marginalized. Through May of this year, analog camcorders made up just 8 percent of the camcorder market vs. 15 percent at the same point last year, Cutting said.

DVD models continue to grow, Cutting observed. From 20 percent of unit sales through May 2005, DVD camcorders now account for 29 percent of units through May 2006, Cutting said.

Meanwhile, the relatively new category of HDD models, which last year consisted of just JVC, now account for 6 percent of unit sales and 9 percent of dollar sales.

HDD camcorders had a higher average selling price than DVD camcorders. Through May of this year, HDD models sported an average price tag of $613 while DVD units averaged $556 — down from an average of $659 through May 2005.

One small niche in the market has also grown — flash-memory-based units are up 145 percent from last year, Cutting said. They represent a mere 3 percent of the total market and straddle the digital still camera category, but several vendors are attempting to push them more firmly into the mainstream video camp. Panasonic recently announced the SDR-S150, a replacement to its existing SD-based camcorder, the SDR-S100. The new camcorder will continue to offer 3CCD technology and a 10x optical zoom, and will accept the new 4GB SDHC memory card.

Sanyo and Samsung are both marketing high-end MPEG-4 video devices that record to SD cards.

But Smith said the industry is really waiting for HD.

While consumers have bought into the HD home theater craze, they've not yet made the leap to high-definition home video recording. If that changes, it stands a good chance of lifting the entire category, Swift said. “Not dramatically, but it could nudge those unit figures up.”