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OEM Car Units To Drive Sales Of DVD-Audio

Additional automakers are expected to launch OEM DVD-Audio in the 2005 model year, following Acura’s launch this month of the U.S. market’s first OEM DVD-Audio player in the 2004 Acura TL, according to Thomas Dunn, business manager for Panasonic’s Michigan-based OEM unit.

The Acura TL is the first U.S.-market car to offer DVD-Audio and the first in the world to offer the format as standard equipment, he said at a press event held during the Audio Engineering Society (AES) convention here. Panasonic manufactures the six-disc double-DIN DVD-Audio head unit, but the complete audio system was designed in collaboration with Grammy-winning producer/engineer Elliot Scheiner. The system is branded with the “ELS Surround” name after Scheiner’s industry recognized “ELS” brand.

“I think Acura will have the stage to themselves for the ’04 model year,” he told TWICE, but in 2005, “I expect several introductions from domestic, European and Japanese automakers.”

Underscoring that support, EMI Music [formerly EMI Recorded Music] recently decided to throw its full weight behind DVD-Audio, making it the “de facto format” for all of the company’s labels, said Ted Cohen, senior VP at EMI Music. EMI labels have offered a mix of DVD-Audio and SACD titles in the past, but in the future will offer SACD “only in special circumstances, such as an artist’s insistence, he told TWICE after the press event. EMI’s labels include Virgin, which has almost exclusively marketed SACD titles. EMI sells about 50 DVD-Audio titles in the U.S., Cohen said.

All told, the selection of DVD-Audio titles in the U.S. is about 460-470, and the number will grow to more than 500 by year’s end, said Panasonic entertainment group VP Reid Sullivan.