Market Watch

Hi-Def Formats Jostle for Position in China

August 13, 2010

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Contrary to a recent report that TCL, one of the two consumer electronics (CE) companies currently manufacturing China Blue High-definition Disc (CBHD) players, was considering withdrawing from CBHD production altogether, Screen Digest has learned that the format is in fact expected to secure more manufacturing support in the fourth quarter of 2010. China-based had also reported that players from TCL and Shinco Electric had been found to be incompatible, but we understand that this is not the case, and although some early TCL players experienced problems with CBHD's DKAA DRM system, these have since been withdrawn. Meanwhile the domestic format still appears to enjoy the support of the Chinese authorities - a recent event promoting 3D on CBHD was, unusually, attended by a number of senior departmental Government officials - and local sources expect CBHD players to be included in various new Chinese set-top boxes later this year.

Despite initial reports when CBHD launched in mid 2009 that it was outselling Blu-ray Disc (BD) by four to one, Screen Digest research indicates that neither format has yet achieved anything like mass market recognition in China. BD has officially been available in China since August 2008 and Sony began releasing titles since later that year, but Disney, Fox and Warner have been less aggressive in promoting the format while Paramount and Universal have yet to release any BDs in China. Warner and Universal (both of whose titles are distributed in China by Warner's local joint venture CAV Warner) are so far the only studios also supporting CBHD which we understand currently has a slate of around 120 titles (including local content) compared with BD's 190. But while fears of parallel exports mean that Chinese BDs are priced at international levels and thus cost up to seven times as much as a standard DVD, CBHD discs are unplayable outside China and retail for substantially less. This price difference, along with the greater focus on local content, is key to the positioning of CBHD as a more mass market product than BD. The real test for both formats will be the key sales period between China's National Day holiday in early October 2010 and the Chinese New Year in February 2011 - and with next-generation BD players scheduled to launch in 2011 at less than yuan 1,000 ($147) each the ability of local CE companies to offer entry-level CBHD players at true mass market prices is likely to prove crucial to the format's success.
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