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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Happy Canada Day from CVS Midwest Tape!

Tomorrow we observe Canada Day, and we'd like to help you celebrate all month long. Click the images below to view print-ready 8.5x11 PDF posters. Each poster focuses on Canada Day and also promotes your AV collections, specifically Canadian films, music, and literature on audiobook.

We'd love to hear how your library is celebrating this patriotic holiday! Share your library's Canada Day memories and plans in the comments section below.

Happy Canada Day! Bonne Fête du Canada!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

UltraViolet Aims to Bring Visual Media to the Cloud

Watching a movie at home used to be a simple proposition: You’d go out to buy or rent the movie, then come home and pop it in your VCR or DVD player. Now, although options for buying or renting movies have exploded, being able to watch them can be more problematic. If it’s a physical format (DVD or Blu-ray), do you have the right hardware? If you’re watching via PC or portable device, do you have the right software or app? If you select something for one device, is it compatible with another?

Many major movie studios and content distributors have recognized this problem and have banded together to create a solution.

Introducing UltraViolet
UltraViolet is a cloud-based system that will allow consumers, once they have purchased or rented a title, to access it via whatever device they choose. Rather than purchasing a title in a specific format, UltraViolet instead lets viewers purchase the rights to the title, which can then be viewed in whatever format is appropriate for a particular device.1 For example, under the current system, a consumer who purchases a title for streaming to their HDTV would be unable to watch that same title on their phone or tablet while they’re on the go, because the portable device is incompatible with the HD format. Or, if they purchase a DVD or Blu-ray, they would be unable to watch it on any device without the right optical drive. The UltraViolet system aims to eliminate such distinctions.

UltraViolet is a collaborative effort between movie and television studios, content distributors, hardware manufacturers, and Internet service providers, a consortium calling itself the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE). DECE includes such notable companies as Netflix, Best Buy, Microsoft, Sony, and the RIAA.2 The consortium does not currently include Disney (the only major movie studio not involved) or Apple (which is planning a similar service of its own). Unlike a subscription service, like Netflix, an UltraViolet account is free; account holders will pay for each individual purchase or rental.3

The benefits of such a system are obvious for the consumer, and the companies involved are hoping it will revive (like Blu-ray) the home entertainment market. However, there are some drawbacks or possible stumbling blocks involved as well. The non-involvement of Disney and Apple is just one of those. Another is that there is no provision for including content consumers have already purchased.4 Also, the UltraViolet system currently calls for a cap of six users, twelve devices, and three simultaneous streams per account, which may create issues for some households.5 The system is also dependent upon Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology, which has not been a successful strategy for other media formats.6 And, of course, if the system fails and is eventually abandoned, consumers will lose any purchases for which they don’t have a hard copy.

Cloudy Future
UltraViolet-compatible discs and apps are slated to launch this fall in the U.S.7 Until it actually happens, it’s difficult to know how successful it will be or if it will have the desired effect on the home entertainment market. As with other innovations in streaming and subscription services, it stands to reason that it will not threaten patrons’ interest in DVDs and Blu-rays at their local libraries for quite some time, if at all.

Is this the first you’ve heard of the UltraViolet system? If not, what have you heard or read? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

July Buyer's Guides Delayed Due to Canada Post Strike

While Canada Post employees could return to work as early as Thursday, mail service will remain disrupted until at least next week. Thus, shipment of our July CD, DVD, Audiobook, and Dreamscape Buyer's Guides will be delayed.

We apologize for any inconvenience, and in the meantime, we've uploaded our catalogues for on-screen browsing. Below are links to this month's catalogues as PDFs:

July DVD Buyer's Guide
July CD Buyer's Guide
July Audiobook Buyer's Guide
Dreamscape Buyer's Guide

Questions? Post them below in the comments section or call us at 866.698.2231.

3D Still Looking for a Foothold in the Home

In March we posted a report that touched on the future of 3D in home theatre technology. That article suggested that 3D would not be a mainstay in the home until 2014 at the earliest. Since then, the news hasn’t been fantastic for proponents of 3D, with sales of 3D televisions and media players falling short of expectations.1 However, a number of recent innovations and announcements have surfaced that aim to jumpstart the burgeoning 3D market

Improving Technology
One of the roadblocks to widespread adoption of 3D is the glasses that are required to make the three-dimensional illusion possible. In general, these glasses have worked in part by reducing the resolution of the images seen by the viewer. In a viewing culture where high-definition images have recently become the norm, this resolution reduction was a clear step backwards, no matter what effect it produced. However, Samsung has recently partnered with RealD, a leading manufacturer of 3D technology, on an “active technology” pairing of displays and glasses that provides the 3D effect in full high-definition.2 These displays are expected to enter the market early in 2012.

Vizio, on the other hand, is putting its effort into “passive” 3D technology that puts the burden of producing the 3D effect on the television more than the glasses.3 Active technology, such as the Samsung/RealD glasses mentioned above, require batteries or some other type of power source, making them bulky and inconvenient. The passive glasses do suffer from the reduced resolution, but are more convenient to wear and generally less expensive to purchase.

More Content
Another complaint of those shunning home 3D technology is the lack of content available for the format. This is something that content providers are working to correct. Discover, Sony, and IMAX, for example, recently launched a channel (3Net) that offers 3D programming exclusively.4 ESPN also offers a channel showing some sporting events in 3D. Despite the increased costs associated with producing content in 3D, filmmakers—particularly documentary filmmakers—are embracing the format.5

Sony, a longtime leader in home entertainment technology, is investing in the 3D concept on many different levels. Along with their participation in 3Net, plus their production of 3D televisions and Blu-ray players, they also plan to launch a line of 3D-capable still and video cameras, allowing consumers to create their own 3D content.6

The driving force that has been most successful in getting 3D into homes so far is the availability of 3D films on Blu-ray. Fortunately for 3D fans, films in this format show no signs of slowing down. The summer blockbuster season will certainly provide plenty of content in the coming months, with Cars 2, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, and Captain America being just a few of the titles on their way into theatres.7 As these and other upcoming films expand the library of 3D Blu-ray titles, consumer interest will increase. (And if you’re really into 3D film technology, check out this conversation between film giants Michael Bay and James Cameron on the process of filming in 3D.)

On the Horizon
The main issue for 3D technology manufacturers and content providers is getting people past their preconceived notions of cost and inconveniences to try out the 3D experience for themselves. Studies show that once consumers have the technology in their homes, they absolutely love it.8 This is good news for the 3D market: 3DTV sales are expected to grow 500% this year.9 While it will still take several years for it to become a mainstream technology, libraries can expect growing patron demand for 3D media as the format becomes more common.

Have your patrons started looking for 3D Blu-rays? Tell us about your experiences in the comments section below.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Report Charts Blu-ray’s Five-Year Performance

In 2009, News and Views discussed the Blu-ray format, defining it and offerings its pros and cons in comparison to DVD. In early 2011, we offered an update, detailing why Blu-ray is such an awesome format—unmatched audio and visual quality, special content and bonus features, internet connectivity, and lowering cost—and noting the format’s growing market share.

Now, five years after Blu-ray’s inception, Home Media Magazine has produced a supplemental booklet focused entirely on Blu-ray, entitled “Blu-ray Disc: 5 Years of Sustained Growth and a Home Entertainment Platform for the Future.” Statistical highlights from the report include:

  • Since the format’s induction, the following have been produced:
    • 1.4 billion Blu-ray Discs
    • 50 million Blu-ray players and recorders
    • 41 million PS3 devices
    • 188 million Blu-ray recordable/rewritable discs
    • 25 million Blu-ray PC readers/writers
  • Avatar leads the pack in Blu-ray units sold: 1.5 million copies sold in its first day of release; 4.8 billion units sold in total in the U.S. and 8.4 billion units sold in total worldwide
2010 & 2011 Performance Results
  • During the first quarter of 2011:
    • The average cost of a Blu-ray title dropped 5.5% from a year ago
    • Sales increased 10% over 2010’s first quarter
  • For all of 2010, Blu-ray disc sales were up 68% over 2009, contributing $1.8 billion in revenue with 11.25 million Blu-ray devices sold for the year
  • Production of Blu-ray Disc movies and TV programming exceeded 400 million units in 2010, almost a 60% increase over the previous year
  • About 2.4 million Blu-ray players were sold in the U.S. through September 2010, up 96% from the same period in 2009
    • About 10% of domestic homes now have a player
  • 2386 new Blu-ray releases are projected for 2011, a year-over-year gain of 72.3%
Blu-ray 3D
  • Among all its innovations, Blu-ray 3D is the most recent and impressive:
    • Consumers with 3DTVs rated feature films on Blu-ray Disc their favourite 3D programming
    • Worldwide 3DTV units will top 300 million by 2015
    • 80 3D Blu-rays either available or announced in the U.S.
    • 15% of Blu-ray discs players sold during the 2010 Black Friday weekend were 3D-capable
  • Blu-ray will account for 1/3 of total international spending (over $10 billion) on packaged media by 2014, according to IHS Screen Digest estimates
  • Global Blu-ray disc sales will hit 412 million units in 2013, according to estimates from the Japan Recording-Media Industries Association
  • HIS Screen Digest expects:
    • 2011—3D Blu-ray spending to grow 533% over 2010 with $214 million in sales and 7.5 millions discs sold
    • 2014—$909 million in sales; 41 millions discs sold
  • 3D Blu-ray:
    • Sales will reach $909 million by 2014, according to HIS
    • By the end of 2011, 3D Blu-ray players will account for more than a quarter of all Blu-ray players in the U.S. market
    • 40% of homes in the U.S., Europe, and Japan will have a 3D Blu-ray player, recorder, or home theater by 2014
The report also provides a substantial definition of Blu-ray, charts the technology as well as the brand’s history, and provides an international perspective. I would highly recommend reading the report in its entirety to learn Blu-ray’s short, yet captivating story.

What do you think of the Blu-ray brand? Does this overwhelmingly positive report match the feedback you’re receiving from patrons? How is Blu-ray performing in your library?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Netflix Hits the Ground Running

Since launching their streaming-only service in Canada in September of last year, Netflix has made quite a splash. Eight percent of Canadian households have subscribed to the service; by comparison, it took Netflix five years to reach that same milestone in the United States (where they offer DVDs and Blu-rays by mail in addition to their streaming service).1

Successful Strategy
Netflix offers an array of movies and television shows through its streaming service. The move is obviously paying off. In addition to the subscriber numbers mentioned above, Netflix is now the top user of Internet bandwidth in North America.2

By offering only the streaming option in Canada, Netflix saves the costs associated with purchasing and mailing physical discs; however, those savings are offset by the cost of licensing material to stream.3

Significant Challenges
Expanding their service into Canada wasn’t a matter of simply flipping a switch for Netflix. One challenge they’ve had to deal with is the common practice by Canadian Internet service providers of capping their users’ bandwidth usage. These caps range from 2GB to 175GB per month, depending on the subscription level. An hour’s worth of streaming video from Netflix generally consumes about 2GB of data, which can eat away at a subscriber’s limit in a hurry.4

While Netflix CEO Reed Hastings opposes data caps in general, the company has come up with a compromise to allow users to work within their limits. The company now offers, by default, a slightly lower video quality option that consumes 2/3 the bandwidth of their full-quality signal.5 Users wishing to use the full-quality stream instead may do so by changing their account preferences.

Another impediment to Netflix’s service in Canada is the size of their offering. As of now, they lack the rights to rights to stream in Canada much of the material they offer in the U.S.; as a result, their selection is only about 1/10 of what is available to our neighbours to the south.6 Netflix is aggressively seeking to expand the material they can offer for streaming. For instance, they’re currently in negotiations with CBS to offer that network’s programming to customers in Canada and Latin America, should Netflix expand in that direction.7

What Does This Mean for Libraries?
While the convenience of the streaming option may keep some viewers glued to their Internet, the current limitations of the service in Canada provide plenty of room for libraries to lure patrons with DVDs and Blu-rays. By maintaining robust collections, libraries can offer far more viewing options than Netflix’s limited options. Even as their selection expands, viewers will want to look elsewhere for content in order to keep from exceeding their data caps. Beyond that, as we reported last month, studies show that consumers still prefer DVD and Blu-ray over streaming video. With all this in mind, it seems likely that patrons will be turning to libraries to fulfill their DVD needs for the foreseeable future.


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Get Caught Listening During Audiobook Month

June is Audiobook Month! The Audio Publishers Association has planned the “Get Caught Listening” campaign, a social media blitz promoted by popular authors like James Patterson, David Baldacci, and Meg Cabot.1 The aim of the campaign is to make consumers (such as library patrons) more aware of the wealth of great titles that are available on audiobook.

In honour of Audiobook Month and to get caught up in the Get Caught Listening spirit, let’s take a look at what’s going on in the world of audiobooks.

School’s Out for Summer
A few weeks ago, we discussed ways in which you and your patrons can use audiobooks to enhance a summer vacation. Now that summer is upon us, it’s the perfect time to promote your audiobook collection. We’ve put together a collection of great summer listens for kids. In addition, summer is blockbuster season for movies; check out our June Audiobook Buyer’s Guide for audiobook tie-ins for some of this summer’s most anticipated films.

The Audies
The Audie competition is “the premier awards program in the United States recognizing distinction in audiobooks and spoken word entertainment.”2 The awards are handed out each year in May, with this year’s ceremony taking place on May 24. The big winner was Life, the autobiography of Rolling Stones lead guitarist Keith Richards, which took the award for Audiobook of the Year as well as Best Biography/Memoir. For a full list of this year’s winners and nominees, click here, and to shop our collection of winners, click here.

Oprah’s Book Club
No discussion of books in any form is complete without a mention of Oprah Winfrey’s ultra-popular book club. A selection by Oprah is a goldmine for authors and publishers—sales of Toni Morrison’s books spiked more after Oprah selected her works than after she won the Nobel Prize for literature!3

The books Oprah has chosen have sold more than 22 million copies in the past ten years, and that number only includes the special editions branded with her logo.4 Although Oprah’s daytime talk show has come to an end, she has promised to continue her book club with a show dedicated to books and authors on her new network, OWN.5 It remains to be seen if the effect will be as substantial without the daily talk show promoting books. For a list of Oprah book club selections available on audio from CVS Midwest Tape, click here.

Difficulty for Libraries
As this article from Library Journal points out, acquiring audiobooks can be a challenge for libraries due to vendor exclusives, different publication dates for audiobooks vs. print editions, and any number of other factors. The rise of digital editions has only compounded this problem. However, CVS Midwest Tape is here to help. It’s true that other vendors do offer some library edition titles that we don’t have access to, but such is the case with all vendors. However, we do have the widest array and the broadest depth of titles out of any library vendor, and we offer the most flexible standing order plans and competitively price our titles. Plus, we now offer library exclusive audiobooks from Dreamscape Media.

What are Your Plans?
Does your library have any events or promotions planned for Audiobook Month or for the summer in general? What titles are your patrons clamouring for right now? Let us have your thoughts in the comments section below.