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DualDisc CD/DVD Readied for Q4 Launch

29 Jun, 2004 By: Jessica Wolf

The DVD Forum's recent approval of the DualDisc, a hybrid disc with DVD on one side and CD on the other, is a good sign that record companies' limited test of the product earlier this year went well and that product should be on the way in earnest later this year, industry watchers said.

The DualDisc, supported by all the major music suppliers — BMG, EMI, Sony Music, Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group — has been in a sales test phase in Seattle and Boston since February.

The test was fairly low-key, with limited marketing behind it. Six or seven stores in each city, some of them Tower Records and Amoeba Records locations, carried it.

“The [record] companies aren't giving out too much information, but certainly it went well enough for them to push it to the next stage and put it to the DVD Forum,” said Jim Bottoms, president of Understanding & Solutions, which has been tracking the test. “We're expecting some product to start emerging toward September and October, and then the main push will be around the end of the year.”

Don Van Cleave, president of the Coalition of Independent Music Retailers, said he's heard there will be DualDisc product available by Christmas, though no specific dates have come from labels yet.

“Fourth quarter is about as specific as anybody's getting,” he said.

The test discs were priced at $18.98, but price could become a problem in the future, Bottoms said. The perceived value of two physical discs is higher, he said, but labels may have to keep pricing down for the single disc while providing content enough for a double-disc set.

Pricing is definitely the big issue, Van Cleave agreed. It's important that the labels keep the SRP comparable to current DVD and CD prices, he said. “This will never succeed if they overprice it,” Van Cleave said. “But I'm really stoked about the format.”

A coalition representative and key retailers like Best Buy and Target, met in Minneapolis last week about DualDisc prospects, he said.

Another longstanding concern for the hybrid was playability. In very early tests, the thickness of the DVD side of the disc created a failure rate in some CD players. But “very few” playability issues were reported in the DualDisc sales trial, according to Understanding & Solutions tracking.

Interview requests put to several of the labels involved in the DualDisc were not fulfilled by press time.

DVD Forum approval is important if potential suppliers and marketers want to use the well-known DVD logo. “I've seen some research that the DVD logo has a strong recognition factor, especially in the U.S.,” Bottoms said.

All of the five major labels provided content for the 18 titles in the test. That includes Sony Music, which is a little surprising, Bottoms said, considering Sony has the Super Audio CD, which could be seen as competition to the DualDisc if labels use the new format to promote DVD-Audio on one side and CD audio on the other. Two Sony titles were among the best-received in the test, according to Understanding & Solutions: David Bowie's Reality and Audioslave's Audioslave. Another popular title was R.E.M's Automatic for the People from Warner Music Group, one of the most ardent DualDisc supporters. Each disc came in a jewel-sized case with an explanatory insert.

There are a few other kinks to work out. Because both sides of the DualDisc have to be readable, on-disc labeling is tricky and limited to the center portion of the disc. Also, a German company holds a patent for a similar DVD/CD hybrid product, DVD Plus, and has patent-pending status in the United States. But official comments from record labels and DualDisc manufacturer Cinram have firmly stated that there are no patent issues with the DualDisc.

The product will likely work best for marrying music video content or high-res audio on the DVD side with complementary CD content on the other. Thus, record labels can use content to which they own all rights, Bottoms said.

The hybrid is exciting for DVD lovers, according to Tom Adams, president of Adams Media Research.

“One of the reasons we've been bullish about people continuing to buy 12 or 13 discs a year is the assumption that there would be new types of programming coming along,” Adams said. “This is another great type of programming.”

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