Blu-ray Replicators Ready for Q429 Sep, 2008 By: Chris Tribbey
Earlier this year, more than one home entertainment analyst voiced concerns regarding Blu-ray Disc replication capacity for the fourth quarter, with all the major studios and more independents adding their titles.
The collective voice from the Blu-ray Disc replication community: stop worrying.
The three major Blu-ray replicators — Sony DADC, Technicolor and Cinram — all have added capacity, and new medium-sized replicators have popped up, promising they can handle the anticipated fourth-quarter load of movies and video games.
Leading the way, not surprisingly, is Sony DADC. Adding nearly 100 new jobs, and pumping more than $100 million into expanding its Terre Haute, Ind., Blu-ray facility, Sony DADC is now producing more than 45 million Blu-ray Discs a month. For the fourth quarter alone, the company is expecting a year-over-year increase of more than 30 million units.
“In the past year, Sony DADC has more than doubled our global Blu-ray Disc capacity,” said Jim Twiggs, Sony DADC’s VP of strategic development. “Based on our … forecasts, we believe the supply of BDs globally will be adequate to cover the total needs of the market in the fall fourth quarter.
“Fluidity of title workability dates and street date schedule compression may cause daily capacities to be tight, but we do not foresee an overall shortage of product in the market.”
Technicolor has added lines not only here, but in Europe as well. The company declined to offer specifics on its capacity and expansion, but a company spokeswoman said, “Obviously, we’re doing very well.”
Cinram CEO Dave Rubenstein said this summer that his company was adding new lines to meet fourth-quarter demand and would add more as more consumers adopt the format.
“As the attach rate grows … we expect [our Blu-ray demand] to get bigger,” he said.
While the Blu-ray Disc Association did not have a formal comment on fourth-quarter replication, one member said, “Everything is going great.”
According to The DVD Release Report, 292 total Blu-ray titles were released in 2007. As of Sept. 19 the number for 2008 is at 347. The major studios are releasing more titles, and more independents are trying Blu-ray, adding to replication demands.
Ed Virgie, president of Media Services Group, which services replicators with equipment and plant set-up, said it’s hard for medium- and small-sized replicators to get into Blu-ray, mostly due to the costs.
“There are a couple of new ones on the West Coast, but it’s going so slow,” he said. “The studios are using only two, three companies. Technicolor is concentrating very hard on Blu-ray, almost exclusively. Cinram, not so much, since they put out so many DVDs.”
Just during the second quarter of this year, Cinram replicated nearly 250 million DVDs, according to CEO Rubenstein.
“Sony [DADC] has also been very busy, but Cinram is being more cautious about it, not jumping off the pier like these other guys,” Virgie added.
The new, medium-sized Blu-ray Disc replicators include two in California: Expedia Media in Anaheim and L & M Optical Disc West in Valencia, which are both doing replication and mastering. Neither returned calls for comment by press time.
Virgie said eventually more traditional DVD replicators will make the plunge into Blu-ray, as the costs for the equipment start to fall. However, they’ll likely have to invest in both the 25GB and 50GB lines to meet everyone’s needs, he said.
“BD 25 is already passé,” said Paula Tait, EVP of sales and marketing for replicator Precise/Full Service Media. “I’ve heard that BD 50 is in particularly high demand because the studios want to do all the bells and whistles on their discs.”
At Sony DADC, Twiggs said 45% of the Blu-ray Discs rolling off the lines — for both movies and video games — are BD 50.
Tait said clients her company services are being very selective about what they put out on Blu-ray.
“People are starting to get into Blu-ray cautiously in the fourth quarter, but they know the studios have priority,” Tait said. “Everyone will have product ready for the holidays, and as soon as the Blu-ray players come down in price, more [independents] will join.”