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DVD-Audio Software Prices Coming Down

Prices of DVD-Audio players have dropped dramatically, and the software is following.

Beginning June 17, Warner Music dropped the $24.98 suggested retail of its DVD-Audio titles by 25-35 percent to make them “as equivalent to CD pricing as possible,” a spokesperson said. “If a CD is $18.98, the DVD will be the same.” One exception will be lower cost catalog-title CDs. Their DVD-Audio counterparts will be priced higher, the spokesperson said.

DVD-Audio software sales “are not slower than anticipated,” the spokesperson said, but the company wanted to “make DVD-Audio product more compelling.” The company reasons that if CD and DVD prices are equivalent, many consumers will opt for the DVD-Audio version because Warner’s DVD-Audio discs contain duplicate Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks that can be played on any existing DVD-Video player.

EMI Music Group, which is selling DVD-Audio in the United States and SACD outside the United States, didn’t comment at press time on its pricing plans. Nonetheless, a spokesperson for the DVD Entertainment Group said EMI doesn’t plan to change its $24.98 suggested retails.

Another DVD-Audio music company, 5.1 Entertainment, hasn’t said whether it will follow Warner’s lead, but it hinted at it. “Obviously Warner Music Group has instituted an aggressive pricing policy that bears review by all labels supporting the DVD-Audio Format,” said senior sales and marketing VP Jeff Dean. “It forces all of us to take a look at this and how this may influence the audio format.” The company’s suggested DVD-Audio prices are $24.98 and $22.98.

For its part, Telarc recently dropped the pricing of its SACD titles from around $25 to $20, which is still higher than the $16.98-$17.98 prices of its CDs. Telarc has no plans, however, to drop the $24.98-suggested-retail prices of its two DVD-Audio titles. In fact, Telarc has no plans to release any more DVD-Audio titles, said marketing director Rob Saslow. For one thing, production lines for hybrid CD/DVD-Audio discs don’t exist. For another, “DVD-Audio development costs are so steep, we don’t want to give up margin yet at this point,” he said. “With DVD-Audio, you have to construct all those menus and offer the extra [visual] content [to be competitive with other DVD-Audio titles],” he explained. By and large, SACD discs on the market lack these extras, even though they’re in the SACD spec, he said. “SACD is an audio disc at heart.”

SACD software supplier Sony Music didn’t return calls for comment.