Sony Prepares SACD Promotional Boost

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New York - Sony Electronics is banding together with Rolling Stone magazine, Circuit City, and Clear Channel radio stations in an SACD promotional campaign valued at $20 million.

The company is also launching a separate fall-season print-ad schedule to promote the format.

Both efforts are designed to boost awareness of SACD and the growing selection of SACD titles, which reached 970 in the U.S. in September and more than 1,500 titles worldwide, Sony said.

The Rolling Stone promotion includes a sweepstakes and a free hybrid, multichannel CD/SACD sampler disc, which will be attached to a six-page gatefold appearing in more than 1.3 million copies of the magazine going on sale Nov. 21. The disc will feature tracks from the albums selected by Rolling Stone for the issue's cover theme, the Top 500 Albums of All Time.

Consumers who bring the sampler to Sony's SACD listening stations in Circuit City stores will be entered in a sweepstakes for a chance to win one of more than 45,000 prizes, including SACD-equipped home theater Dream Systems and SACD titles.

Clear Channels will promote the sweepstakes in a Top 500 Albums of All Time special to be broadcast on more than 200 radio stations. The promotion runs through the end of the year.

All told, Sony will probably be spending at least as much money on promoting SACD as it did last year during the same time period, said Bob Weissburg, president of Sony Consumer Sales.

The promotional activity has contributed to what Sony contends is a wildly successful format. The format 'has now achieved mass-market success,' claimed David Kawakami, director of Sony Corp.'s SACD project. He cited shipments of select SACD titles, including Sting's new release and Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon reissue. 'These numbers are great for any record release,' Kawakami said of 600,000 Pink Floyd discs shipped worldwide in six months and more than 600,000 Sting discs shipped worldwide in 17 days.

The selection of SACD titles continues to grow at a rate of about 20 per week, Kawakami said. All major on-line and brick-and-mortar music stores offer discs to one degree or another.

Of the current U.S. titles, 70 percent are hybrids, 65 percent are multichannel, and almost 70 percent are hybrid and multichannel, Kawakami said. Almost all new discs available in the past year have been multichannel, he noted.

Lower disc pricing has also helped raise demand. During retail promotions, some discs have been advertised at $13.99 and $15.99, Sony said.

The first discs, in contrast, appeared at suggested prices of about $25. Today, suggested retails of $19 to $20 are the norm. Universal, for example, prices its SACDs at $19.98 for hybrids and $15.98 for nonhybrids, a spokesperson said. Those prices have remained unchanged despite Universal's recent reduction in the suggested retails and wholesale prices of CDs, she added.

The worldwide installed base of SACD players is 2 million and that more than 26 manufacturers currently offer 83 SACD-compatible products worldwide, Weissburg noted.


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