Warner Drops DVD-A Prices

Things are looking up for high-resolution audio, with price drops for DVD-Audio discs announced by one major record label in a move to attract a larger audience.

In mid-June, Warner Music Group (WMG) issued a statement that it would begin pricing its DVD-A titles "as equivalent to CD pricing as possible." The decision means an effective reduction of 25–35% in DVD-A prices, according to the announcement. WMG believes that equivalent pricing will induce consumers to opt for the DVDs rather than the CDs, especially because Warner discs are encoded with Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks that can play in any DVD machine. Warner's back-catalog CDs, typically sold at deep discounts, won't be included in the price-matching program.

Warner Home Entertainment (WHE), the music group's sister company, has been extremely aggressive about reducing prices on DVD movies. WHE president Warren Lieberfarb was an industry leader in opposing the defunct Divx format, and has often stated that "DVDs are sell-through, not rental product." Some Warner video titles can be found in retail outlets for as low as $12.95. Warner Music's $24.95 DVD-A titles will drop to approximately $18.95 each, according to the announcement.

Warner's price reductions will force the entire industry "to take a look at this and how this may influence the audio format," said 5.1 Entertainment sales and marketing vice president Jeff Dean. "Warner Music Group has instituted an aggressive pricing policy that bears review by all labels supporting the DVD-Audio format," Dean said.

Telarc has recently cut its retail prices for SACD recordings by 20%, lowering the tab from about $25 to $20. The label has only two DVD-A titles in its catalog, both with $24.98 suggested retail prices. EMI will continue to support $24.95 prices for its DVD-As. Curiously, EMI emphasizes DVD-Audio in North America and SACD elsewhere in the world, perhaps because of the deep market penetration of DVD-Video players here. Many record labels are said to favor SACD because that format doesn't require menu structures or video content.