NEW YORK (Billboard) - The DualDisc marks its one-year anniversary of mass distribution this month, but the new hybrid CD/DVD once expected to become the physical successor to the CD may already be on life support.
A year after a consortium of major and indie labels announced they would back the product, its future appears to be riding on the one leading music company actually pushing it as a priority: Sony BMG Music Entertainment.
All the majors are sold on the notion of using bundled audiovisual experiences to add value to physical goods. And hit-starved retailers are clamoring for more combo products. They are charging anywhere from the same price for both versions of an album to $3 more for DualDisc.
Sony BMG is set to release more than 100 DualDisc titles in 2006. The shipment total is expected to surpass its 2005 output of more than 13 million units on 102 titles. Among the acts with DualDisc titles in the first half of this year are Pink, Dixie Chicks,, Weird Al Yankovic, the Fray, the Jonas Brothers and London Pigg.
On the other hand, Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group and EMI combined did not come close to Sony BMG's DualDisc output last year. The prospects for 2006 do not look any better.
While all three majors are officially reviewing the product, few, if any, DualDisc titles are on the way this year. "It's just about a dead issue," a source at one major label says. "We'll put out a few here and there, but it's not anywhere near a major initiative."
The rub in the debate over DualDisc remains cost. The price of manufacturing a DualDisc is double the average CD -- about $1.20, versus 50 cents-60 cents for the traditional CD with jewel box and booklet, distribution sources say.
Universal, Warner and EMI all are balking at the notion of dramatically increasing their manufacturing costs for a product that they say lacks clearly defined consumer demand. An NPD study of DualDisc usage published in August found that nearly half of all DualDisc buyers did not realize they were purchasing the configuration until after they left the store.
Other roadblocks to acceptance include mixed enthusiasm from artists about producing DualDisc content, the long lead time to properly produce the hybrid titles and a limited number of manufacturers that can actually make the discs.
The three holdout labels are more attracted to 2-in-1 CD/DVD combo packages, which are cheaper to produce than the all-in-one DualDiscs. They also are releasing combo packs in greater numbers.
Still, Sony BMG is not dissuaded by the resistance of the other majors. The company's executives are heartened by another set of NPD stats, indicating that 72% of consumers that own a DualDisc title would buy another one in the next six months.