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Monday, August 07, 2006
Warner Plans to Sell Albums on DVDs

Warner Music Group Corp. is planning an aggressive attempt to address the issue by pushing consumers to buy their music on specially outfitted DVDs.

Warner, the world's fourth-largest music company, is in the final stages of securing technical licenses that will enable it to sell a bundle of music and extra features on a single DVD, according to people familiar with the matter. The DVD would include a music album that plays in both stereo and surround-sound on a standard DVD player -- plus video footage that plays on a DVD player or a computer. There will also be song remixes, ring tones, photos and other digital extras that can be accessed on a computer.

The company plans to make the new format available to its subsidiary record labels for product-planning purposes as early as next week and to introduce the discs to consumers with a handful of titles in October.

The DVD album is the latest in a parade of would-be successors to the CD, including the surround-sound products Super-Audio CD and DVD-Audio, and most recently DualDisc, which plays like a CD on one side and like a DVD on the other. Warner was one of two companies, along with Sony BMG, to embrace DualDisc last year. But the capacity of both the CD and DVD sides of DualDiscs is limited compared to normal CDs and DVDs. In contrast, the storage capacity of the planned Warner DVDs is up to four times what can be held on the DVD side of a DualDisc. Warner and Sony BMG have sharply scaled back their DualDisc output.

Warner is not proposing any generic name for the new format, beyond simply "DVD album. But there are some stumbling blocks that may discourage consumers from embracing DVD albums. The new discs would not play on normal CD players, meaning consumers could not simply pop their new discs into their car stereos or other players. And users would not be able to copy the main audio mix onto their computers. On the proposed DVD album, the main audio mix is to be protected by the same software that already protects the content on normal DVDs.

The DVD album would include "preripped" digital tracks of the entire album, ready to be copied onto a user's computer -- a totally separate set of data from the higher-quality, DVD-audio sound that users hear when they slip the DVD in a player. The lower-quality, "preripped" tracks could be copied to a CD.

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