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Recordable DVD Is Gaining Momentum

29 Oct, 2004 By: Jessica Wolf

It's already been a big year for recordable DVD, and the fourth quarter should also see a boom in hardware sales, thanks to prices hitting all-time lows, said speakers at last week's DVD Forum conference.

This year, unit sales of recordable DVD hardware are expected to increase more than 300 percent from 2003 numbers, according to In-Stat/MDR research.

Shoppers should see some recordable hardware priced at around $150 this holiday season, said Michelle Abraham, senior analyst at In-Stat/MDR. That price point should drop to less than $100 by next year, she added.

The market is poised to make the VCR obsolete, and sales of DVD recorders will outstrip VCRs in 2005, said Tony Jasionowski, executive technology director of the RAM Promotion Group (RAMPRG). That's already happened in Japan, he added.

Research group Understanding & Solutions predicts the DVD recorder market will surpass even set-top playback-only DVD hardware in 2006. Understanding & Solutions predicts more than 40 million DVD recorders will be sold worldwide in 2006.

The introduction of recordable DVD hardware that comes with network connections, hard-disk drives and especially the inclusion of electronic programming guides (EPG) has already been a boon to hardware sales, Abraham said. The EPG component — like Pioneer's TiVo-enabled DVD recorder or Panasonic's high-end models that include the branded TV Guide EPG — makes using a DVD recorder easier than programming a VCR, she said.

That ease of use will continue to be an important factor for consumers who are considering buying a DVD recorder, she said.

An In-Stat telephone survey of U.S. DVD households found that 7 percent of respondents were very interested in buying a recordable DVD player; 3 percent were extremely interested and 26 percent were somewhat interested. But there's a disconnect between that interest and actually getting out to purchase one, she noted. Only 7 percent of those “interested” customers said they were “definitely” going to purchase a DVD recorder, and only 14 percent of interested consumers are willing to pay more than $300 for the new hardware. Abraham said retailers need to demonstrate product and help manufacturers educate consumers.

Right now, many recordable DVD players are at or less than $200. Pioneer's TiVo-enabled model and Panasonic's EPG-enhanced offerings are at the high end of the scale, at about $500. Add a hard-disk drive, and that price goes up.

“I think [hard drives in players] is a trend that we'll see continue,” said Andy Parsons, SVP of advanced product development for Pioneer Electronics. “Yet, those fill up. The consumer also has to have a way to get the content off the hard drive.”

What consumers mostly want to do with recordable DVD is record TV programs and transfer and edit home video content from their camcorders, Jasionowski said. Panasonic this spring shipped a dual-deck DVD recorder/VCR, the DMR-E75, which will allow for transferring home video footage from tape to DVD. It's still a little costly, too, at a $500 price point.

And there's still that pesky little triple-format dilemma in the recordable universe, with three different options for recordable DVD players — DVD-R/-RW, DVD+R/+RW and DVD-RAM. Most DVD devices these days will play back all three formats, but consumers have to buy the right blank optical discs to match their recording system for burning purposes.

On the PC side, systems are being created that simultaneously support all three formats, and that should continue, Jasionowski said earlier this month as Panasonic announced it would launch a new replication line devoted strictly to blank DVD-RAM discs. Panasonic is the first company to start manufacturing DVD-RAM discs in the United States.

On the set-top side, DVD-RAM seems to be the option of choice, according to Understanding & Solutions. Sales of DVD-RAM-enabled recorders have grown by 116 percent worldwide this year from sales in 2003. DVD-RAM represents 55 percent of the recordable player market worldwide and about 40 percent domestically.

DVD-RAM is an attractive option because it allows for simultaneous recording and playback, and DVD-RAM discs can be rewritten 100,000 times. Also, there's no chance of recording over something with DVD-RAM, because the random access memory automatically starts recording at the first free amount of space, regardless of where the viewer stopped the disc during playback.

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