Disney Expanding DVD Trials

Walt Disney Company's home entertainment division will expand its test marketing of self-destructing DVDs in Florida next month, according to an announcement from Los Angeles. In April, Buena Vista Home Entertainment plans to rollout the company's "EZ-D" disposable DVDs through retailers in Florida and other major markets in the Southwest.

The move is the next stage in a test-marketing program launched last September, in which Buena Vista tried the low-cost discs in four metropolitan areas across the country—Austin, TX; Peoria/Bloomington, IL: Charleston, SC; and Kansas City, MO. Plans at that time were to release six to eight major motion picture titles at a retail price of $6.99 per disc at a rate of one every two weeks during the ensuing six-month test period. So far, EZ-D titles that have been test marketed were released long enough after the standard commercial discs that they didn't cannibalize normal sales or rentals. Results have been encouraging, according to the company, which will drop the price to $5.99 per disc for the next phase of the trials.

"We are extremely happy with the test, which proved that there is a consumer desire to have an alternative to traditional video rental," said Buena Vista marketing manager Lori MacPherson. "That's why we are more than doubling our retail test markets and adding additional titles." Developed by New York-based Flexplay Technologies, the discs have a chemical treatment that begins to react with air once the packaging is opened. Within 48 hours, they have darkened to the point that they are no longer playable.

Disney is the only major studio to endorse the technology, but believes that the convenience and low price will prove attractive to consumers. Far below standard DVD prices, but still much more expensive than rentals, EZ-D discs offer the advantages of viewing when it's convenient to do so without the worry of return dates or late fees.

Disney claims to have set up a recycling program in response to complaints by environmental groups about needless litter from the discarded discs. The next step in the trials will involve putting EZ-D displays in convenience stores and in pizza shops. A total of about 2500 locations including outlets in Denver, Phoenix, and San Antonio will be selling the discs by the end of May, according to Buena Vista.