DVD-R: RIP

Monday July 14, 2008 – Stewart Wolpin

All the publicity surrounding the late battle between Blu-ray and HD DVD, along with the slow-and-steady rise of cable, satellite and IPTV box DVRs, has obscured the decline and near extinction of the non-PC DVD recorder. It seems only yesterday that DVD+R vs. DVD-R was the industry’s most potentially volatile and damaging format war.

In its heyday just two years ago in 2006, there were 24.9 million non-PC DVD recorders sold worldwide, representing a substantial 15% of all non-PC DVD sales.

How times have changed. DTC estimates that non-PC DVD recorders now represent just 7% of all non-PC DVD sales, or 9.9 million units, further shrinking to 3% and 3.6 million units by 2013.

DVD recorders were available by themselves or in combination with hard disc drives or VHS decks. This latter combination, the easiest way of dubbing old VHS tapes to disc, are the popular configuration of DVD recorder still on sale. While Toshiba, Panasonic and Sony remain the primary booster of DVD recorders, few new decks are being introduced. Most of the fringe manufacturers who hoped to capitalize on a once promising product category have dropped out of the market completely.

The rise of the DVR has lead directly to the decrease in DVD recorder popularity. Just two years ago, less than 5 million STBs included a DVR, including 1.7 million non-DirecTV TiVo boxes, according to CEA. Currently there are still only 1.7 million TiVo-owned subscribers, but CEA projects nearly 16 million DVR STBs will be sold this year. CEA reports 25 percent of American homes have a DVR and The Carmel Group forecasts more than 50 percent of cable and satellite homes will include a DVR-equipped STB by 2010. DirecTV already reports 41 percent of its users have a DVR-equipped receiver.

This speedy DVR adoption stands in stark contrast to the rapid drop in DVD recorder sales.

DVR isn’t the only culprit contributing to the demise of the non-PC recorder. Originally intended as a replacement for the VCR, a role obviously usurped by the DVR, the DVD recorder’s primary usage evolved into a camcorder dubbing device. But the rise of DVD-based camcorders obviated the need for DVD dubbing.

In spite of decreased importance, there are pockets of DVD recorder popularity. For instance, Japan is DVD recorder crazy; DTC estimates that 40% percent of worldwide DVD device units – and the primary reasons Japanese manufacturers continue to make DVD recorders – are sold in Japan. Japan is so DVD recorder crazy, it is the only market in which Blu-ray recorders are sold. Pioneer announced on July 7 it would start selling a Blu-ray recorder in Japan by the fall. According to Fuji Chimera Research Institute, Blu-ray recorder demand in Japan is expected to increase 18 fold to 3.6 million units by 2012.

To paraphrase Monty Python, the non-PC DVD recorder may not be dead, but it was coughing up blood this morning.