DVDs have been coming out closer to the theatrical release of new movies. This has caused sales spikes immediately upon release but steeper declines later. With movies grossing over $100 million at the box office, 84% of DVD sales occurs in the first six weeks after release. Though studios have started beaming movies to consumers over the airwaves and Internet, but sales have so far been small. DVD rentals and video-on-demand generate much smaller profits for the studios than does selling new DVDs to people. U.S. consumers still buy about $16 billion worth of DVDs each year. Wal-Mart sells $4.7 billion worth of DVDs annually, and they have found their DVD customers spend twice as much per store because they also buy popcorn, beer and other items to go with the movies.
The new hi-def DVDs could be the answer to the industry’s concerns, but first of all we’re faced with a format war again just like the idiotic BetaMax/VHS chaos of yore. Toshiba’s player is $500 but will only play a few movies from three studios so far. Samsung’s first Blu-ray player (originally announced to be a universal player) will cost about $1000, and Pioneer’s – which won’t be out until September – will be about $1500. Sales at the beginning will be very modest. Both camps hope that fans of video games will help popularize their respective formats.
Sony Introduces First DivX Portable DVD Player – Sony of Canada and DivX Inc. have announced that Sony’s new Walkman portable DVD player is DivX-certified so that users can play DivX videos on the go. DivX (not to be confused with the ill-fated Circuit City format) allows video to be compressed greatly with only minimal losses, so that only a fraction of the data space required of standard-length DVDs is required. Over 180 million DivX downloads are available worldwide, and they are generally free of the copy protection software included in standard commercial DVDs. More than 35 million DivX-certified devices have already been made by leading manufacturers. The DivX organization has a rigorous testing program to insure interoperability, security and visual quality.
Plasma Displays Still Strong – Strong sales of plasma screens are expected this year, according to The Plasma Display Coalition which was formed to promote plasma over LCD. Sales should reach the three million mark, with a 65% share of the 40 to 44-inch display segment. Worldwide plasma shipments have increased 87%. The organization’s president Jim Palumbo stated, “Consumers are awed by the bright, sharp pictures of plasma and the wow factor doesn’t go away once the TV is in the home.” Some recent models sport circuitry which prevents burn-in when static images – as with video games – are left on the screen for an extended period.