When DVD Video was introduced to the market in mid-1997, it offered up to 500 lines of horizontal resolution, storage capacity of up to 133 minutes (4.7 gigabytes) of full-motion video per side on a single layer disc, enabling most movies to be stored on a single side. Dual-layer discs store more than four hours of video.
About four months after the first DVD-Video players and titles shipped to retail, the DVD Video Group launched as a unique alliance of hardware and software makers with a mission to promote the shiny disc format to consumers, retailers and the media.
Within 5 years, the group started by a dozen executives grew to about 50 member companies as DVD’s installed base passed 50 million households.
One of the most significant factors leading to the unprecedented success of the DVD format, which boasts the fastest-growing adoption curve in the history of consumer electronics and home entertainment, is widely seen as the unique cooperation between the hardware and software industries – something that became a central and widely recognized hallmark of DEG.
“The real goal was to make sure we built a stable of support,” said Mike Fidler, an industry consultant who was a key executive in the launch of DVD while a Senior VP at Pioneer Electronics and then Sony. “To have a successful format, you have to have the support of software companies.”
Fidler worked with the late Emiel Petrone, a senior Philips executive and founding chairman of the DVD Video Group, on the Group from its earliest days. He remembers working under the auspices of the DVD Video Group to evangelize for the format with studios, filmmakers, retailers and consumer early adopters. “It really was a full-fledged effort to bring everyone along with us,” Fidler said.
To studios, the Group emphasized the profit potential of the ownership pricing model for new and catalog product, coupled with the format’s less costly manufacturing and distribution. “Thinking back, we really had to convince industry people,” some of whom were concerned about disrupting the VHS rental market and the theatrical business, Fidler recalled.
To mass market consumers, who were not unsatisfied with VHS, DEG and its member companies were able to promote DVD features including high quality audio as well as video; supplemental material; no rewinding and the idea of ownership, all at a time when sales of larger screen TVs were accelerating.
DEG partnered with major studios and consumer electronics marketers in campaigns to promote DVD to the consumer and trade press as well as educate retailers, giving them tools to help merchandise the product. There was the Title Wave campaign that represented DVD as a “new wave” in home entertainment and which offered free discs with the purchase of a player.
“DEG created an avenue for format advertising,” said Steve Nickerson, President of Home Entertainment for Broad Green Pictures, who worked on the launch of DVD at both Toshiba and Warner Bros. By facilitating multi- brand promotions, such as Title Wave, it heightened DVD’s profile in retailers’ important Sunday newspaper circulars, a tactic that was also employed for DVD internationally and later, for Blu-ray.
No less importantly, DEG positioned itself as a one-stop resource for information about DVD, initially for the business press, and ultimately for consumer press as well, a role in which it continues.