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Portable DVD Players in for a Price Drop

22 Sep, 2003 By: Jessica Wolf


As of June, sales of portable DVD players had nearly doubled from last year, according to figures from the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), though the category still makes up only a fraction of the overall DVD installed hardware base. But prices on the still-rather-costly gadgets are dropping all the time, which should push portable DVD player sales in the fourth quarter.

Factory-to-dealer sales of portable DVD players for 2003 as of the end of June stood at 144,000 units, according to the CEA. That's substantially more than the comparable 81,000 units shipped through June 2002, but is only a drop in the bucket compared to the roughly 4.6 million DVD players total shipped to the market, said Sean Wargo, CEA director of industry analysis.

Significant price drops have helped, though portable player penetration has hefty competition from DVD drives in laptop computers, Wargo said.

“You're starting to see some of the smaller sizes -- 5-to-7-inch screens -- getting below $400, which I think is a compelling offer,” Wargo said.

CEA projects sales to retail of portable DVD players should hit 270,000 by the end of the year.

But that could be a conservative estimate, Wargo said, looking at last year's numbers.

“Last year's total was 260,000, which shows we had a great fourth quarter,” he said.

Wargo said when there's a variety of portable players in the $200 price range is when the real sales thrust should begin.

Apex already offers one of the cheapest portable DVD players on the market at $299.99 -- the PD-10 with a 5.6-inch LCD screen. Shoppers can pick it up at Amazon.com for $169.99.

There's still a “wow factor” for these products, said Jeff Samuels with Panasonic. They're mostly for travelers who like to have the versatility of a DVD player that the kids can watch in the car, or the whole family can watch in a hotel room or beside the pool on vacation, Samuels said. Some airports even offer a rental option -- check out a portable DVD player on one end of a trip and return it on the other.

Panasonic players are still on the pricier side, but higher-end portables are getting price cuts. Panasonic's best buy and most popular model is the DVD LA95, which has a 9-inch screen and supports DVD-Audio.

“It's still $699.95, but that's dropped from $1,000 two years ago,” Samuels said. “It's been so successful, we've kept it in the line.”

Battery life is still an issue, as most of the batteries that come with portable DVD players have only a 2-to-3-hour life. But there are 8-hour batteries priced at around $125 that consumers can purchase after the fact.

Another accessory is the car-mounting system that turns a portable DVD player into a car DVD player, but still allows the consumer to use the player as a plug-in to a regular TV set.

Some new players even have systems with docking stations so there's no fumbling with cables every time you want to hook up the portable player to a TV set, Samuels said. Other high-end options offer surround sound connectivity and detachable speakers.

And the business for car DVD players is booming, Samuels said.

“We've definitely seen a major increase in the sale of factory-installed or aftermarket players for cars,” he said. “We make a system that gets put in all the General Motors SUVs and vans. It's a big business aftermarket also.”

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