DVD Video Web page woos public

But the site does not address consumers' major anxiety about the new technology: A de facto market standard has yet to emerge.

Paul Festa
Paul Festa Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Paul Festa
covers browser development and Web standards.
2 min read
In an effort to woo an increasingly gun-shy
DVD video market, an industry consortium has launched a Web site to promote the new technology.

The site is the home page of the DVD Video Group, a trade association formed in July, whose members include consumer electronics manufacturers, movie studios, and video disc makers. The site features a list of DVD film titles and players available from group members, basic information about DVD video, and links to related sites.

But the site does not address consumers' major anxiety about the new technology: Because a de facto market standard has yet to emerge, players bought today may not be compatible with titles introduced tomorrow. Faced with uncertainty over standards, most potential DVD video buyers are sticking with their VCRs, at least for the time being.

A principal dispute in the DVD video world is between backers of the current DVD Video format and a technology from Divx that some studios nervous about piracy have embraced for its perceived security advantage.

With Divx, the user will own a copy-protected disc that is activated, either for rental or sale, via modem. A consumer can view the disc on any Divx player--as long as the same account is billed. Otherwise, additional rental charges are incurred.

What has current DVD owners worried is that the estimated 150,000 DVD players already sold can't play Divx discs, although a Divx player will be able to view DVD Video discs.

"I think most consumers are going to wait until next year when Divx players come out," said Derek Baine, analyst with media research firm Paul Kagan Associates.

Some consumers are holding out for DVD drives which can record information, but they will not be available for two or three more years, according to Baine.

The comparatively regimented Divx format has drawn ire from current DVD users. (See related story) But Baine predicts that once the new technology emerges, anxieties will settle.

"As soon as Divx players come out in the spring, there won't be so much fear or controversy" on the part of consumers, Baine said. "There will be a choice between Divx and the currently available system. The current indecision will hit the Christmas sales season, but after next spring there won't be much of a controversy."

Last month, Disney, the leading seller of home videos worldwide, gave a strong boost to the DVD Video market by announcing plans to sell DVD movies titles this holiday season. At the time, Disney attributed the announcement's timing to its intention to back a regional coding scheme whereby DVD playback is limited by geographical region, meaning users in one part of the world will not automatically be able to play discs in another.

For the moment, Disney is apparently supporting both DVD and Divx.