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Warner: DVD Albums To Replace DualDiscs

New York – If Warner Music Group has its way, the eventual successor to the CD won’t be the DVD-Audio disc or the DualDisc, but a disc called DVD Album, which will be playable in any DVD player or DVD-ROM drive and offer more video content than capacity-constrained DualDiscs.

DVD Album will take full advantage of the DVD format’s multilayer capacity and include two-channel or multichannel music, far more video extras than hybrid CD/DVD DualDiscs, and pre-ripped — but protected — versions of the music. The pre-ripped music could be burned onto CDs in PCM format for playback in legacy CD players, transferred to a PC’s hard drive in native form, and transferred to portable music players in native form according to digital-rights-management rules recognized by PCs and portable MP3 players. The pre-ripped, or already compressed, music’s format was not disclosed.

The discs could also contain PC programs, including one to create custom cellphone ringtones from the album’s music. Consumers would select the snippet of music that they would use to create a specific ringtone.

Warner will make the first DVD Albums available in late October or early November along with their CD-only counterparts. Pricing has not been announced.

“We’re not going to discontinue CDs,” the executive said, but “we expect adoption of the DVD Album to make CD start to become what the cassette became to CD: a lower price format.”

The company said it has seen “a pretty strong uptick in interest from the other labels” in its idea, which was developed based on what “we’ve learned from the DualDisc experience and by talking to consumers about the CD/DVD combination,” a Warner executive said.

From the DualDisc experience, Warner learned that tossing a few music videos on the 4.7GB DVD side of a DualDisc didn’t cut it with consumers. With the ability of a DVD-based DVD Album to include two DVD sides, each with two layers, music companies can include “a lot of video extras for ravenous fans,” the executive said. “Fans will pay if they can feel closer to the artist.” One way to get closer is by watching extensive behind-the-scenes video footage on the band, he said. “You can get music videos anywhere on the Web.”

Warner also learned that a majority of purchasers inserted their new DualDiscs into a PC before inserting them into a CD or DVD player, whether because they planned to rip tracks or because the PC is their primary playback device in the home, the executive said. As a result, DVD Albums will offer “an enhanced ROM experience” that will “blur the difference between the physical and digital domains.” The ROMexperience will include access to web sites, PC applications such as ring-tone creation, and preripped tracks in an as-yet undisclosed compression format that will be comparable in quality to what’s available from authorized download sites, the executive said.

In Warner’s case, the music tracks could be in DVD-Video’s traditional 2.0- and 5.1-channel compressed Dolby Digital format, which is playable on all existing DVD–Video players and DVD-ROM drives, or in the two- and 5.1-channel DVD-Audio format, which is playable in any DVD-Audio/Video player that supports the format. If DVD-Audio is used, then the DVD-Audio tracks will also be available on the same disc in compressed Dolby Digital 5.1 in the disc’s video zone and be playable on more common DVD-Video players and PC’s DVD-ROM drives.