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Optical Media To Top 10B Units

NEW YORK — Unit sales of optical media will rocket through the 10 billion mark worldwide in 2000, hitting 10.3 billion units, a hefty 9 percent jump over 1999’s totals. Sales in North America again will hold the lion’s share of this business, accounting for 48 percent of total optical media replication in 2000.

These statistics are among highlights of the Optical Media Market Intelligence Report, a research effort engineered by the Princeton, N.J.-based International Recording Media Association (IRMA).

The association drew upon member companies that represent some 80 percent of the world’s optical replication capacity as the data source for its report. Products included in the study are CD-Audio, CD-ROM, Video-CD, DVD-Video and DVD-ROM.

Despite its status as a mature category, CD-Audio climbed

4 percent in worldwide replication in 1999 over 1998, said IRMA president Charles Van Horn at a press conference here last week. The meeting featured highlights of the association’s 413-page report, which noted that CDs, combined with DVDs, accounted for 9.2 billion units in 1999, a 9 percent increase over the previous year.

Looking ahead, the IRMA findings indicate sales of CD-Audio will reflect erosion after 2001, due to DVD-Audio and the possible growth of the Sony-Philips Super-Audio CD format.

However, Van Horn expects CD-Audio users would make up for the decline by replicating new formats.

Last year was an extraordinary one for CD-ROM, said Van Horn, with its replication growth increasing 18 percent to 3.6 billion units worldwide, up from 3 billion in 1998. Credited for this jump is the large number of PCs, mainly in North America.

CD-ROM media production is expected to be relatively strong after 2002, since the majority of PCs will be geared to receive application and data software on CD-ROMs. Software suppliers will not elect to introduce DVD-ROM inventory unless warranted by storage requirements, said IRMA.

The CD-R format, benefiting from the growth of CD-Audio recording equipment, has moved beyond earlier predictions. CD-R blank media reached 600 million units worldwide in 1998, and IRMA had forecast 1.3 billion units by this year.

CD-R worldwide demand actually hit 1.5 billion units in 1999, and the target for 2002 is 4 billion units. Working to build this format are lower retails for CD-Rs, combined with the introduction of lower-cost CD-R replication systems, said Van Horn.

DVD-Video, which has risen from nothing some three years ago, enjoyed movement of 4 million players last year. Later this year, DVD will achieve the very difficult goal of being used in 10 percent of all U.S. households, said Van Horn. IRMA said 175 million households worldwide will have one or more DVD-Video players by the end of 2004.

DVD-Video replication is estimated to hit 710 million discs in North America in 2002, up from 474 million in 2000. Worldwide, 1.4 billion discs are expected to be replicated in 2002, a large increase from the 905 million units in 2001.

Also helping the growth in software is the estimated 15-20 percent of DVD-ROM-equipped PCs, whose users rent and/or buy DVD-Videos. Another element of support for the DVD-Video market segment comes from DVD-capable game systems, where one company’s estimate said 60 percent of its game system purchasers had either bought or rented at least one DVD-Video recording.