Debate over Divx, DVD heats up AFM panel

Divx prexy Brindze defends product

The fiery debate over DVD format disc technology and the upstart Divx Entertainment discs reignited Tuesday as video and Divx executives squared off in a “Home Video Meets Godzilla” panel at the Miramar Sheraton Hotel for AFM.

Calling his company’s product the only disc that gives the consumer the ability to “choose,” Divx prexy Paul Brindze defended his company from a panel that was clearly set against Divx and its alternative approach.

Divx is a disc content system that is incorporated into the DVD technology, but demands the consumer purchase of specialized hardware beyond even the DVD hardware.

Brindze said the basic difference is the availability of product on Divx, which plays on a disposable disc that connects through the telephone and allows only a certain number of viewings of any given feature or product at any time.

“There is a sizable minority that isn’t happy with the fact that they can’t find what they want to find on that first visit to the video store,” he said.

Brindze also emphasized the advantage to retailers of selling the discs “out the door” instead of depending on the variables normally associated with the video rental system, regardless of whether its translated to DVD.

Rather than renting DVD discs, Brindze said consumers will be allowed to take the disc for use several times and then throw it away.

But video dealers and technology experts were less sublime about the Divx.

“The reception that product has had has been decidedly unenthusiastic at his point,” said Jeffrey Eves, president of the Video Software Dealers Assn.

“Divx produces a disc which is not playable on our computers systems,” chimed Alan Bell, program director of DVD for the IBM Corp.

Terming Divx a combination of “revenue sharing and pay-per-view disguised as DVD,” Eves also charged Divx with using “strong financial inducements” to convince studios to put their product on Divx discs. Divx has already secured deals with Disney, Paramount, Universal, DreamWorks and 20th Century Fox to carry its product.

Divx has been controversial over both its approach and its financial backing. The company’s equity partners include the law firm Ziffren, Brittenham, Branca & Fischer, as well as the computer, TV and video hardware store chain Circuit City.

Brindze, a former partner in Ziffren, Brittenham, said Divx was also crucial to the studios because it provided the only workable method of blocking piracy and unlawful copying.

Paul Culberg, exec VP of Columbia TriStar Home Video, concluded with the pronouncement that DVD — regardless of whether its has Divx — would ultimately be a development that will be larger than the “roll-out of the VCR and audio CDs.”

He pointed to more than 200,000 units of the film “Air Force One,” a statistic that would place an “Air Force One” DVD disc in every home that has a DVD player

“It’s a staggering consumer reception of a new format,” he said.

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