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Some Quick Thoughts On DVD

Some Quick Thoughts On DVD

DVD has been around for over a year, and I continue to hear many conflicting reports about the level of success the DVD format has enjoyed in that time. The whole thing leaves me scratching my head. I certainly am not in a position to clarify matters or play the numbers game. However, I would like to make a few (sometimes rambling) observations on certain issues that I hope won’t muddy the waters even further.

There have been a number of consumer polls that indicate that the majority of American’s don’t even know what that the DVD format exists. Obviously, there isn’t enough DVD advertising to penetrate the consumer consciousness and what there has been hasn’t been effective enough. Perhaps every new home video title advertised on television should mention DVD availability. Also, targeting teenagers with DVD ads wouldn’t hurt. Make DVDs appear cool and hip and the teens will be bugging their parents for a DVD player. Perhaps, if a few popular television show characters got DVD players it would serve to invade the greater couch potato consciousness.

At present, the majority of DVD consumers appear to have started out as Laserdisc consumers, not VHS consumers. The Letterboxed format is the preferred format for Laserdisc releases, so I can’t understand why any home video company would issue pan and scan only DVDs.

Digital television or DTV is just around the corner, so why are any companies releasing Letterboxed titles that do not include the anamorphic enhancement for these upcoming wide screen (16:9) televisions?

DVD prices, while good, don’t compete well enough with VHS sell through. Ever go into one of those warehouse clubs and see copies of a popular movie on VHS tape for $12.00. Then, lying right next to those $12.00 tapes are copies of the same film on DVD for $20.00. The $8.00 price difference between the two formats doesn’t win over any VHS consumers to DVD. There is a genuine need for lower priced DVDs from the major studios that will encourage VHS consumers to switch to DVD.

The threat of Divx is hurting open DVD. This is a shame, since I honestly don’t know how Divx is going to survive. Divx is supposed to appeal to the VHS consumers who rent tapes. Okay, that’s all well and good, but most VHS rental consumers have a VCR that cost between $150.00 and $200.00. Most VHS consumers also rent tapes for $2.00 or less. So, how does Divx expect to appeal to this market, when a Divx enabled player will cost $100.00 to $200.00 more that standard a DVD player? Also, Divx discs will be priced somewhere between $3.50 and $5.00. VHS consumers will never cough up the extra cash for the convenience of not having to return the Divx disc. What the market really needs is $200.00 (or less) standard DVD player and discs that can be readily rented for $2.00 (or less).

Let me repeat what I just said up above. The market really needs cheap DVD players! If a consumer can buy a player for less than $200.00, DVD is going to see a lot more people jumping on board.

Also, the companies who have not committed to open DVD had better wake up and smell the coffee. DVD offers the least expensive way of distributing entertainment to home video consumers. Once a title is mastered, replication costs drop to the CD level. It is far more economic (and faster) to stamp a million DVDs than it is to record the same quantity of product onto VHS cassettes. Also, DVD offers advantages for films with extended running times. Lets take box office champion TITANIC, the film is going to require two VHS cassettes. TITANIC will fit on a single sided, dual layered DVD with almost uninterrupted playback. Imagine no tapes to switch at the halfway point, and with DVD there is nothing to rewind after viewing the movie. Open DVD is far more consumer friendly than VHS. Also, a dual sided, dual layered DVD could offer wide screen and pan and scan presentations of TITANIC on a single disc. How much more economical can DVD get?

*****

As far as consumer home video formats go, DVD has the potential to overtake the market the same way the CD usurped the LP as the playback format of choice. It would be a shame if DVD did not take its rightful place.


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