Philips pitches CD-I at meeting

Philips N.V.’s efforts to rally support for its CD-I player took shape yesterday at the second annual meeting of some 1,000 developers and publishers.

Several announcements were made to generate excitement among consumers and developers, emphasizing that Philips was willing to puts its formidable marketing muscle behind the new interactive compact disc format. The Dutch consumer electronics giant is reportedly spending some $ 25 million on marketing alone in the fourth quarter.

Paul Fredrickson, vice president of Interactive Media Systems at Philips Consumer Electronics, maker of the CD-I machine, portrayed the player as likely to catch-on in the same slow fashion that both videocassette recorders and compact disc players first began.

“We’re seeing the same numbers in the first year,” said Fredrickson. “We expect a major surge” as marketing takes hold.

In quick order, Philips confirmed several new software titles, including “Voyeur,” about a would-be presidential candidate that would star Robert Culp (Daily Variety, Oct. 27). Also coming is a series from David Viscott, the doctor who has championed self-help healing. And as expected, the company finally confirmed that the band U2, which records on Philip’s Island label, would have a version of its Zoo Tour on a CD-I. All will be available next year.

PIMA president Bernie Luskin said, “There are some significant breakthroughs, as significant as the telegraph.”

To capture customers in 2,000 U.S. retail outlets, Philips is bundling Compton’s Interactive Encyclopedia, which is valued at $ 300, with its players, which are now priced at $ 700.

Also unveiled were a series of TV ads done by New York’s R/Greenberg & Assocs. promoting Compton’s and a new game, “Cyber City,” by Fathom Pictures.

According to Fredrickson, 114 Blockbuster stores are now carrying CD-I titles for rental, along with a number of Super Clubs, another video chain.

The three-day event is hosted by Philips Interactive Media of America, the company’s software arm, Philips Consumer Electronics, plus Sony Corp., which has a CD-I player, and Matsushita Electric Industrial Corp., which plans to introduce one next year.

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