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Panasonic Pitches 2003 DVD Product Lineup

Panasonic showed off its 2003 DVD product lineup here last week adding a combination DVD-RAM/hard-disk-drive recorder to its previously announced merchandise mix.

The DMR-E80H DVD recorder headed the launch, which was held at the ESPNzone in Times Square, where New York Yankees pitcher Roger Clemens was on hand to help with the launch. The DMR-E80H is new for the U.S. market, but was already available in Japan.

Panasonic also used the event to announce the shipment of the DMR-E60; VDR-M30 DVD-RAM/R camcorder and several DVD player-based home theater systems and portable DVD players, which were officially unveiled earlier this year. The company also rolled out a new tag for its DVD recorder line, DIGA. This is derived from the words Digital and Giga, which indicate the products digital base and their large capacity.

The progressive scan DMR-E60 features Time Slip and DV auto recording and it is shipping this month with a $599 suggested retail. The DMR-E80H adds an 80GB hard drive that can hold 104 hours of video. It will ship in July with a $699 suggested retail. The two models will join the DMR-E50 and the DMR-HS2 DVD recorders that are already on store shelves.

Panasonic executives discussed the state of the rewritable DVD market, which they expect to grow even faster than the DVD player category, which after only six years on the market has a 40 percent home penetration rate in the United States. To support this theory, the company cited data from The NPD Group, Port Washington, N.Y., that shows about 1 million DVD burners of all types to ship this year and 12 million by 2005 in the United States, said Reid Sullivan, merchandising VP for Panasonic’s entertainment group.

He also cited a report from IDC Research, Framingham, Mass., that had Panasonic with a 65 percent market share in the U.S. DVD burner business in February, up from the 50 percent it carried through most of 2002.

Dr. Paul Liao, Panasonic’s chief technology officer, said one of the primary reasons for such fast adoption is that consumers view DVD recorders simply as VCR replacements. A Panasonic sponsored IDC study showed that most consumers want to record TV with a DVD recorder, with viewing, editing and transferring home video the next favorite features.

A major advertising and marketing campaign that include consumer educational TV spots will support the DVD recorders.

Three DVD players started shipping last month, the DVD-S55, DVD-F65 and the DVD-F85.