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Both Disks and Players Proving Popular

July 5, 2000
Portable DVD players can be expected to further boost the DVD market. (AFP/Jiji)

The market for DVDs (Digital Versatile Disks) and associated products is starting to grow at a fast rate. Until now, the home entertainment market has been dominated by videocassettes, but DVDs are becoming popular for the higher image quality they offer. Videocassettes still have by far the largest market share; as of early 2000, they accounted for 70% of the home video market, versus 23% for DVDs. (Other recording media such as laser disks account for the remaining percentage.) However, many experts in this field predict that DVDs will supplant videocassettes as the most popular medium for moving pictures in the near future.

The Attraction of DVDs
To make a DVD, images and sound are digitized and written onto a compact disk, which can then be played on a special device for that purpose. Thanks to digital signal compression technology, a DVD has about seven times the recording capacity of a normal CD. This makes it possible to fit 135 minutes of images onto a regular-sized CD, which measures about 12 centimeters (4.7 inches) in diameter.

The main appeal of DVDs is the sharp images and high-fidelity sound they offer. The film Titanic viewed on DVD is indistinguishable in quality from the movie-theater version.

Regular shipments of DVD players to the Japanese market began in November 1996. By mid-1999, reasonably priced DVD players costing 30,000 yen to 40,000 yen (286 to 381 U.S. dollars at 105 yen to the dollar) had become available, paving the way for the spread of DVDs. Then, on March 4, 2000, the PlayStation 2 game console was released with a built-in DVD player. The inclusion of DVD features in this hugely popular console gave an additional boost to the popularity of DVDs.

This year, many stores that carry DVD players are seeing year-on-year growth of 50% to 200% each month in the number of machines sold. In 1999, the number of DVD players sold was 390,000; electronics industry sources predict that sales will reach 800,000 units in 2000.

Hollywood on DVD
The disks themselves are also selling briskly. Time Warner Entertainment Japan released The Matrix, an American film, on DVD on March 17, 2000, for 4,200 yen (40 dollars). Originally, Time Warner had planned on releasing the film a week later, but moved the date up in order to catch the wave of DVD enthusiasm sparked by PlayStation 2's release. Thanks to this good timing and Time Warner's finely tuned sales strategy, the DVD version of The Matrix sold 600,000 copies in the first two weeks. The company predicts that sales will reach 1.5 million by the end of 2000, shattering the conventional wisdom of the DVD world, where a recording is considered a hit if it sells 10,000 copies.

Other companies have also produced and released DVD recordings of blockbuster American films, such as Titanic, The Bridges of Madison County, and Top Gun. According to a spokesperson for one such company, "The size of the DVD recording market was about 30 billion yen [286 million dollars] in 1999, but in 2000 it is sure to expand to 100 billion yen [952 million dollars]."

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Trends in JapanCopyright (c) 2000 Japan Information Network. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.