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Why Americans don't buy DVD players that record

Recordable DVD players don't sell well in the U.S.; cable companies are to blame, according to Hitachi executive.

Michael Kanellos Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Michael Kanellos is editor at large at CNET News.com, where he covers hardware, research and development, start-ups and the tech industry overseas.
Michael Kanellos
2 min read

The recording DVD player. These have been popular in Europe and Asia but have fallen flat in the U.S. Most companies don't even bother to put much effort into marketing them in this country.

The same phenomenon will likely hold true for recording Blu-ray and HD DVD players.

Makato Ebata, CEO of the consumer business group at Hitachi, gave us an explanation in a recent interview. Cable TV penetration is far higher in the States than Asia or Europe. With cable, the same show can appear on a channel several times. In Europe and Japan, you need to grab it when you can.

"The non-recording DVD player is quite popular in this country (the U.S.), but they are not popular in Japan at all," he said. "Here, you use them for the rentals. In Japan, they use it for recording."

TiVo also took off more rapidly in the States and elsewhere. TiVo, he added, is also one of the reasons selling TVs with embedded hard drives in the States remains a challenge. Selling these on the other two continents is far easier. Consumers interested in digital video recorders (a) already own one or (b) have more options on how to put one in their living room.

Of course, the recording debate doesn't apply to video cameras. Americans are shifting from tape to disc and hard drive camcorders.

Other notes from Ebata:

IPTV will become a more dominant theme for TV manufacturers. All of the major manufacturers will add content providers and services to their sets. So far, the manufacturers are avoiding the mistake of putting the whole Web on your TV, and instead popping up windows for must-have information like local sports and weather, or entertainment modules with wide appeal.

The question, though, will be how TV manufacturers can earn money from providing content.

OLED (organic light-emitting diode) TV is great and the technology will likely come to market, but it will take years to figure out ways to mass-manufacture large sets. (Panasonic, Sharp, and Samsung hold a similar opinion, but Sony says you will see it quicker. More here on the debate.) Another challenge lies in the fact that LCD and plasma continue to come down in price.

Plasma will survive. It doesn't have as many manufacturing backers as LCD and the public perception isn't great, but it remains competitive for large TVs. Hitachi makes plasmas.