CD and DVD replication plants are suffering, there is no one in the industry left who (privately at least) does not talk about the mass replication industry being in the last throes of decline. Large plants are closing with increasing regularity across Europe, Asia and America. The large volume orders are chased by an ever increasing pack of hungry DVD replicator's sales teams and independent brokers.
On top of all this raw material costs have gone up meaning that the rock bottom pricing of 2006/7 is confined to history. The high cost of Blu-ray replication has also meant that not all replicators are able to jump on to this growing format.
The covermount industry, once seen as the saviour of the DVD replication industry is fizzling fast, as consumers are no longer attracted to the prospect of yet another free film that is unlikely to get watched, and the newspaper industry succumbs to the advance of live news on the web and rolling news channels.
Against this bleak backdrop there is still a market for films and entertainment content on disc. DVD replication facilities have to adapt to the lower volume demand of small distributors who can make a profit by selling 1000 copies of a film on DVD. This is not the blockbuster territory that is still enjoying a few summer hits, but people passionate about film, typically running the entire distribution and fulfillment via home and an Amazon retailers account.
To service these customers, DVD replication plants need to have better customer service. Large movie studios and their distributors have teams of people to deal with production issues but a small film distributor won't have the artwork and production experience to manage this side of the DVD replication process. This is where medium sized DVD replication brokers can help. With the experience to deal with production issues and the need for a number of smaller clients the mutual attraction is evident. Most brokers of any size will also be placing high enough volumes of DVD replication to command keen pricing from plants, allowing a margin without pricing the project out of the market.
On demand has recently been taken to a new level with some retailers introducing DVD publishing systems (such as that made by Rimage) into stores. Here the content is stored on servers and a disc is not made until the point that the consumer orders. This cuts down on expensive stock sitting around depreciating fast, but the consumer needs to re-adjust to accepting a recordable disc. Now with the arrival of secure copy protection systems for DVDR (such as the Fortium system) and CSS for recordable discs the major studios are more receptive to this idea.
Some large volume DVD duplication companies have taken this one step further and offer low volume, on demand DVD production. Using state of the art UV cured digital DVD printers a high quality, retail quality disc can be printed in very low volumes. Artwork and masters are stored on servers allowing paper parts and discs to be generated in low volumes, typically 10's or low hundreds rather than the thousands required by DVD replication. This allows a large catalogue to be held by the distributor without the prohibitive cost of holding stock for each title. This is particularly suitable to specialist content distributors dealing in art, foreign language and documentaries - the other end of the Will Smith blockbuster spectrum.
This small scale on demand DVD replication model (strictly speaking DVD duplication) will mean a much smaller disc industry overall but one that should be able to survive for many years while the YouTube and paid for streaming market take over the rest of the video entertainment market.
Jonathan Moore is a consultant to the USB, CD and DVD industry.
More information about DVD Replication at 10th Planet Digital Media and promotional USB flash drives at flash-duplication.com.
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