- The Washington Times - Monday, October 28, 2002

DVD players are selling faster than video cassette recorders for the first time, and the trend is expected to one day send VCRs the way of old-style record players and eight-track tape decks.
Savvier consumers are getting hooked on the high-tech features of digital video disc players such as better picture quality and powerful sound as well as consumer-friendly prices.
It's a natural evolution in home entertainment, says Sean Wargo, senior industry analyst at the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), an Arlington-based industry group.
DVD players "build on existing technology and behaviors," Mr. Wargo said. "The concept of watching movies at home was already the norm."
About 32 percent of U.S. households own a DVD player, up from about 25 percent last year, according to CEA. That doesn't include all the households that have other devices such as personal computers and game consoles that can play the CD-like DVDs, Mr. Wargo said. Household DVD use jumps to almost 50 percent if all DVD-capable machine are included, he said.
From January to the week ending Oct. 11, more than 10.7 million DVD players were sold to dealers up 34 percent from the like period last year, according to CEA. Nearly 8.5 million VCR decks were sold to dealers during the first 41 weeks of this year down 24.6 percent from the like period in 2001.
With more people staying home, spending time with family and keeping an eye on their finances, the popularity of DVD players is expected to accelerate.
The devices, with an average price of about $150 each, top consumers' wish lists this holiday season for the third year in a row.
"People are shelving large-ticket items like cars for things more reasonably priced," said Rich Hill, manager of business development at Odyssey, a San Francisco-based consumer market research firm. "They are spending a couple hundred [dollars], not a couple thousand."
The average price for DVD players has dropped a whopping 74 percent since their debut in 1997. The average price then was $498, according to CEA.
DVD players have become a part of home entertainment much faster than VCRs, which are in about 95 percent of U.S. households. It took longer for VCRs to hit mainstream because of their high price and the new technology being introduced to consumers.
In the late 1970s, when VCRs debuted, their average wholesale cost fluctuated between $590 and more than $800 each, according to CEA. VCRs now can be found for as little as $70 at some retail stores.
Does this mean VCRs will soon be worthless boxes? Not yet. DVD players and VCRs seem to be co-existing happily.
About 80 percent of those households with both devices still use VCRs mainly for recording and watching home videos on VHS-formatted tapes, Mr. Wargo said. The majority of DVD players can't record, although that technology is available on higher-priced, more advanced models, such as one by Panasonic that costs about $600.
Mr. Wargo doesn't expect consumers to stop using VHS tapes for at least 10 to 15 more years, primarily because people already have home video libraries.
But within five years, VCRs won't be available in most retail stores, and in three years, more retailers will remove VHS tapes from their inventory, Mr. Wargo estimates.
Some retailers already have started cutting back or eliminating VHS. Circuit City, for instance, stopped carrying VHS movies this summer but still offers blank VHS tapes for recording. Blockbuster last year eliminated 25 percent of its nonrenting VHS inventory to make room for DVDs.
"Will we eliminate VHS? Not any time soon," said Blockbuster spokeswoman Liz Greene. "Is the ratio of DVDs to VHS changing? Yes."

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