September 22, 2020 | "Show me the titles!" DVD-Audio
seems to be following in the footsteps of its older sister
DVD-ROM. Everyone says it's going to be "big." Everyone
says they "support" it. But in October 1999, when a 16-year-old
Norwegian teenager Jon Johansen allegedly managed to crack
CSS, DVD's original copy protection, the music industry
apparently got nervous. A new version of CSS has not yet
been completed, so, just as it came time to announce titles
available before Christmas, the major labels said that "until
the copy protection issue is resolved, there are not going
to be any DVD-Audio titles on the market."
Although industry estimates seem to change daily, as of
October only 30 DVD-Audio titles are expected to be available
industry-wide by the end of the year. This dearth of titles
persists despite the fact that playback hardware has been
available from Panasonic since the 4th of July, and DVD-Audio-capable
editing and authoring systems are available from several
vendors. Industry analysts expect BMG to have at least eight
titles out this year, but a company spokesperson would neither
confirm or deny this. "We are working out licensing details
and are hoping to launch this Fall," she said.
Meanwhile, Sony and Philips are moving full speed ahead
with plans for their competitive high-density audio format,
Super Audio CD (SACD). Sony and Philips have announced a
November release date for combination DVD/SACD players.
It?s an interesting move when one considers that these machines
will play DVD-Video but not than DVD-Audio. Although Sony
and Philips are members of the DVD Forum, they are also
the creators of SACD, a format initially proposed as the
specification for DVD-Audio. When the forum decided not
to choose SACD, Sony launched the format on its own. As
of September 1, Sony had about 65 SACD titles on the market
and expects to have about 40 more by the end of the year,
according to Leslie Cohen, vice president of business development
for Sony Music. Titles are also available from smaller labels
such as Water Lily and Telarc.
Many of the first SACD titles released were of the jazz
and classical music genres, but pop titles are also now
becoming available from artists such as Jennifer Lopez,
Gloria Estefan, and Billy Joel. "We think you will find
SACD becoming more of a mainstream format within the next
few months," said Cohen. What do replicators have to say
about all of this? With the exception of Sony Disc Manufacturing,
most replicators seemed to have little faith in the future
success of SACD. However, those interviewed say they are
ready, willing and able to make DVD-Audio once the labels
order product. But as of mid-September they were still waiting.
A few replicators did say that overall, the holiday busy
season is off to a slow start. Potential clients as well
as their own competitors were said to be trying to secure
CD and DVD capacity for October in anticipation of a late-blooming
Christmas rush. However, it doesn't appear that DVD-Audio
is a major part of label and replicator planning despite
new CD releases expected from the Backstreet Boys, Christina
Aguiliera, Madonna, and Ricky Martin.
Sean Smith, senior vice president of marketing for JVC
Disc America, is still optimistic. "I think DVD-Audio will
happen this year. JVC has launched a player. It'll take
about a year and a half to two years to get the installed
base going. All of the majors have titles planned. We've
seen them. Many release dates are in fourth quarter."
Sonopress has made a product demo with AIX Media, according
to Bob Spiller, Sonopress president. "We can watermark the
content, but we're waiting for the latest encryption scheme
from the DVD Forum's working group." Spiller said. "The
latest info I have is that it hasn't yet been sanctioned."
Once the encryption technology is finalized, how long
will it take replicators to swing into action? Not long,
they?ve said. "We need to make sure we have the right encryption
technologies installed, but that should be no big deal.
We also might have to make minor modifications in the way
that we master, but other than that, we're ready to start
producing in a standard DVD mode," Spiller said.
John Town, corporate director of research and development,
Technicolor Video Services, said that a module to do the
encryption will need to be added to the line, but that should
not be a problem. "We've been offered the module as a beta
only, but we really haven't had the demand from major clients
yet. And, I don't think that will change for us this Christmas.
However, long-term, we believe in the format, and that one
day your set-top boxes and computers will be able to play
DVD-Video and DVD-Audio. For the luxury car, too, DVD-Audio
will be a good application. The format will find a niche."
Cinram sees DVD-Audio developing with major labels during
the fall and increasing into 2001 as the installed base
of hardware increases. "We are already working with some
of our major customers in the development of their initial
DVD-Audio products and are currently able to provide complete
manufacturing services for this product," said Ned Insley,
vice president of sales and marketing.
Why The Lack of Enthusiasm For DVD-A? Could it
be the cost factors attributed to DVD-Audio that are holding
back its introduction? Replicators doubt it. "It will be
more expensive to produce masters for DVD-Audio, but media
replication costs will be the same as they are for DVD-Video.
Master costs are higher because it is multi-channel and
high-definition," said Town.
Consumers want high-quality sound. That's been proven
as music video sales, which were always lackluster on VHS,
have been a rollicking success on DVD. Most music video
titles are still being released on both DVD and VHS. One
label executive said sales are tracking approximately 50/50
right now, but that's expected to change as the installed
based of DVD players grows. In the UK, DVD music videos
are tracking much stronger than VHS overall at a ratio of
about 70 to 30, she said.
One technology that could be slowing the enthusiasm of
DVD-Audio is digital downloading. "There's this pent-up
demand that labels know is out there, and Napster is filling
it. A tremendous amount of energy seems to be going down
that path for this busy season. It's a proven market. It
appears, DVD-Audio is a second step," Spiller theorized.
Perhaps DVD-Audio will not stun the music market the way
DVD-Video has, but neither did stereo on its inception.
It slowly overtook mono and became standard as people replaced
mono Victrolas with stereos. If the price is right, DVD-Audio
could be part of the music industry's evolution in much
the same way, analysts say.