1997 was Record-Setting Year for Video Products.

According to statistics released January 20 by the Arlington, Virginia-based Consumer Electronics Manufacturers Association (CEMA), sales to dealers of projection televisions, TV/VCR combinations, VCRs, and camcorders each climbed in 1997 to record-setting levels. The new Digital Versatile Disc (DVD) players also showed well, selling nearly 350,000 units since the product's inception in April.

"Overall, 1997 was a strong year for the products that bring entertainment to American consumers," said Gary Shapiro, CEMA president. "The foundations of home theater---large-screen TVs (both projection and direct-view models) and stereo hi-fi VCRs---continued to shine, reaching record sales last year. And after a very successful roll-out, we expect great things for DVD as we head into the new digital age."

Weaker December sales could not cool most video categories' year-end results. VCR decks finished 1997 up 7% from 1996, with a record 16.7 million units sold to retail dealers. Manufacturers shipped a record 2.3 million color TV/VCR combinations in 1997, up 5%. Record-setting years were also realized by projection TVs and camcorders. Dealers bought nearly 920,000 projection receivers (up 3.4%) and more than 3.6 million camcorders---up slightly over 1996.

DVD, the new video format that features a crisp digital picture and CD-quality sound, along with capabilities for displaying multiple languages, subtitles, camera angles, etc., was introduced in April 1997. In just nine months, manufacturers shipped nearly 350,000 units to dealers; meanwhile, CEMA estimates that another 750,000 units will be sold to dealers in 1998.

Todd Thibodeaux, CEMA's senior economist, points out that 5-year projections for household penetration of DVD are comparable to the penetration of CD players and VCRs. "We expect the household penetration of separate DVD players to hit 7% by the end of 2001. In comparison, penetration of CD players stood at 8% after five years on the market, and VCRs could be found in 6% of US households after five years."

Sales of direct-view televisions were off in 1997, dropping nearly 5% to 21.3 million units. Large-screen (30" and larger) models provided a silver lining, however, climbing 4% over last year to nearly 2.5 million units.