DVD rapidly becoming must-have technology

Aug 13, 2001  •  Post A Comment

VCR enthusiasts take note: If DVD players have their way, your technology may soon join eight-tracks in the entertainment electronics graveyard. According to the spring 2001 Trend Report from Statistical Research, DVD players are enjoying a faster adoption rate than VCRs did when they were first introduced.
“Nothing has really kept up with [VCRs] until DVDs,” said David Tice, director of client services for SRI. “People are more used to technologies now than they were when VCRs came around, so it wasn’t out of the question that DVDs would grow faster than VCRs. But it is certainly exceeding what we expected.”
According to the report, DVD player ownership among people who own television sets increased from 3 percent in 1999, shortly after their introduction, to 16 percent in 2001. It took VCRs about five years to reach similar growth. Another report, issued last month by the Consumer Electronics Association, stated that manufacturer-to-dealer sales of DVD players increased by 41 percent for the month of June, with almost 921,000 units sold. That figure marks the most successful month for DVD player sales.
“People enjoy the enhanced picture and sound and the extras they get on the DVDs, whether it’s behind-the-scenes [footage] or the director’s cut of the movie,” Mr. Tice said. “Also, important support is coming from the movie studios. They have embraced DVDs, they’re putting content on them and they’re in everybody’s Blockbuster. So it’s not like you have to search for something to play in there.”
Randy Hargrove, spokesman for home entertainment rental chain Blockbuster, said the surge in DVD rentals has helped boost the company’s earnings.
“DVD has reinvigorated the industry,” Mr. Hargrove said. “If you look at the first half of the year for us, DVD rental revenues were up 166 percent compared to the same time last year, which is phenomenal. You’re seeing much more space [in the stores] being devoted to DVD, and you’re going to continue to see that. If you see a new release, it’s going to be in our store on DVD and VHS.”
As DVD popularity continues to rise, DVD player manufacturers continue to develop new machines with more features and improved performance. Some of the big trends in the industry include DVD-audio players; DVD multidisc changers, which play both DVDs and CDs; and progressive scan, a function that gives the DVD better resolution and a sharper picture.
“To enjoy progressive scan, you need a digital TV set,” said Rudy Vitti, national marketing manager for Panasonic Consumer Electronics Co.’s entertainment group, who noted the company shipped its first progressive scan DVD player, the DVD-RP56, last month. “If you don’t have a digital TV today, you’ll probably have one in the next few years. So when the time comes, you won’t have to buy another DVD player to enjoy the highest-quality picture possible.”
Mr. Vitti said Panasonic will be shipping its next-generation DVD video recorder, the DMR-E20, this fall. Priced at $1,000 (down from about $3,000), it features the Time Slip playback function, which allows users to watch the recorded portion of a program while continuing to record that same program as it is in progress.
“Our last player was targeted for the early adopter,” Mr. Vitti said. “With this model, we’re hoping to reach a wider audience.”
In October, Sony Electronics will introduce the DVP-F21, a slim, silver-toned, slot-loading player that operates horizontally, vertically or hanging on a wall. Bill Cubellis, director of marketing for component A/V solutions at Sony Electronics, said the size and design of the player, which will sell for about $300, makes it more versatile than a standard DVD player.
“This is a good example of how we’re trying to create more opportunities within the DVD market with some neat products,” Mr. Cubellis said.
But while DVD is the new entertainment electronics favorite, industry experts believe the VCR is safe for the moment.
“The two will co-exist for some time,” Mr. Vitti said. “DVD has come a long way in the short time it’s been here, but there’s still a lot more VHS content available. Also, the premium for a VCR right now is very inexpensive. If your VCR breaks, I don’t think everyone’s going to buy a DVD recorder just yet. We’ll get there, though.”