A raft of new DVD movies from major Hollywood studios could provide a boost to the fledgling digital video disc industry, which has been in dire need of more titles.
Warner Home Video, MGM Home Entertainment, New Line Home Video, and HBO Home Video said
today that they will release hundreds of film titles in the DVD format to retail outlets over the next three months. To
date, titles have numbered only in the dozens, giving pause to consumers
trying to decide whether to purchase DVD hardware. Titles are expected to
be priced at $24.98.
Although originally envisioned as the engine behind a stand-alone device
connected to a TV for home entertainment, DVD-ROM drives are now primarily
found as playback and storage devices for high-end consumer PCs and
PC-theater systems, said Mary Bourdon, senior industry analyst at Dataquest. Many potential buyers of
standalone TV DVD players are put off by the fact that these players can
not record, making them a less-than-comparable replacement for VCRs in this
Currently, both Gateway 2000 and
Compaq offer PC-TVs with DVD-ROM
drives, while IBM offers a drive on its
Aptiva line of consumer PCs. Toshiba
has also said it plans to ship a slim DVD-ROM drive for notebook PCs next
month as well as unveil recordable DVD-RAM drives. Panasonic has announced
it will release a notebook PC with a DVD drive early next month.
DVD-ROM allows playback of titles only, while DVD-RAM--and whatever other
standards emerge--provides both playback and recording. DVDs go far beyond
CD-ROMs, which DVDs will replace, in many respects. For example, they let users play full-length movies with subtitles in different languages, add
parental ratings, and provide control over viewing angles. DVDs are also
expected to allow advanced interactive games, as well as offer backward
compatibility with current CD-ROM titles. Single DVD discs hold about 4.7GB
of data, enough to hold full-length videos and films. By contrast, CD-ROMs
have a capacity of only about 0.6GB.
So far, DVD sales have been relatively anemic, but should explode by riding
the coattails of PCs. A million DVD-ROM drives are expected to be in
customers' hands by the end of the year, joined by sales of 8.2 million
more in 1998, Bourdon said. A total of 10 million will be sold by 1999,
she added, nearly all being sold as part of a PC. While movies will prompt
customers to use the drives, Bourdon predicted that interactive discs,
databases, and other data-capacity-intensive DVD applications would come
out as well.
So far, only 148,690 DVD players had made their way to customers by August
15, 1997, according to the Consumer Electronics Manufacturers Association.
The DVD titles that will be released between August and October include
high-brow films such as Raging Bull, Michael Collins, and A
Streetcar Named Desire: The Original Director's Version as well as
Purple Rain, National Lampoon's Vacation, Mortal Kombat, Selena,
Addicted to Love,
Austin Powers, and Batman & Robin.
Stand-alone DVD players will compete with VCRs, but this will not for some
time, added Bourdon.
First, the industry will have to agree on a standard technology that allows
users to record and erase discs. There are four competing standards right
now being pushed by different industry players. DVD-RAM is only one of the
Second, even when a standard is established, the price of a standalone
unit will have to come down to $200. Currently, projected prices
for DVD-RAM drives run at $750.
Third, the entertainment industry giants will have to improve and agree on
an encryption technology. The current 40-bit encryption standard used on
DVD discs, which is supposed to stop copyright pirates, has already been
cracked in China. Stronger encryption, however, forces PCs and players to
run at a crawl. Partially as a result, Fox, Paramount, and Disney have not
committed to producing materials on DVD, Burdon noted.
Until these factors can be worked out, "I don't see it replacing VCRs," she
DVD was originally released commercially in Japan at the end of 1996 and
earlier this year in the U.S. So far, Warner claims it has sold more than 1
million DVD discs. "We are extremely encouraged by the consumer response
to this product," said Warren Lieberfarb, president, Warner Home Video, in
a prepared statement. "In just five months, WHV has sold more than 1.2
million discs in seven cities," he added.