Industry Roundup

Passion piracy? Hollywood duplication facility Lightning Media is on the receiving end of a lawsuit by Mel Gibson's Icon Distribution Inc., alleging copyright violations over illegal copies made of The Passion of the Christ, Gibson's controversial new film now in theatrical release. Passion pulled in over $125 million in ticket sales in its first week.

The suit was filed in US District Court in Los Angeles, seeking damages for lost sales due to piracy, and accusing three former Lightning employees of making unauthorized copies, all of whom worked the night shift at the plant. Richard Young of Northridge, Victor Ochoa of Reseda and Frank Pelayo of Burbank have been charged with conspiracy to violate federal copyright laws, but have not been named as defendants in the civil suit brought by Icon. Lightning has initiated new security precautions as a result of the allegations, according to reports from LA.

TiVo on a tear: The San Jose–based maker of digital video recorders almost doubled its revenue in its fiscal fourth quarter ended January 31, with a total of $42.6 million, an 85% increase from the $23 million posted in the same period last year. TiVo added 330,000 subscribers in the fourth quarter, almost three times the 115,000 added in the same three months a year earlier. Total subscribership is now 1.3 million, twice last year's level, with about 200,000 of the new subscribers attributed to a joint marketing deal with DirecTV.

TiVo narrowed its ongoing losses to $12.4 million, down from the $32.5 million loss posted in the fourth quarter of the previous year. Operating loss for the fourth quarter was $6.5 million, down from $11.5 million in the same period a year ago. For the fiscal year, operating loss was $22.5 million, less than half the $57.1 million lost the year before. The company expects approximately 1.5 million new subscribers to sign on in fiscal 2005, for a total subscriber base of almost 3 million.

Samsung drops DLP prices: On March 3, Samsung Electronics announced an across-the-board $500 price cut on all of its Faroudja technology-equipped DLP rear-projection HDTVs. The 43" HLN4365W is now $3199, the 50" HLN5065W is now $3699, and the 61" HLN617W is now $4699.

Akai revival: The Akai brand hasn't been seen in the US in years, but will be returning this summer on a new series of DLP rear-projection TVs from APH USA, according to a recent announcement. First model out will be the 56"-diagonal model PT56DL20, with a 16:9 aspect ratio, slated to arrive at retailers in mid-summer. The first sets will use Texas Instruments' second-generation HD2 chips, with third-generation chips to be installed in models to follow. Pricing is still undetermined, but will be a "breakthrough" according to advance publicity. Akai brand slim-profile rear projection sets should be available in three or four sizes by year's end.

Affordable plasma: In February, Planar Systems announced a 1024 x 768 pixel 42" HD plasma TV with a sub-$4000 retail price. The PDP42HD specs brightness at 750 cd/m2, with contrast ratio at 800:1. Features include seven inputs and picture-in-picture. The plasma display is available from online sources such as Dell, PC Connection, PC Mall and Tiger Direct, the announcement stated.

Korean manufacturer Daewoo is ramping up its digital video offerings, with several new flat panels and LCD rear-projection sets. New models include a 60" HD-capable plasma monitor, the DP-60GM, priced at $9999; the 50" DP50GM at $7499; and 42" DP-42SM at $3499. The DP-42SM is an EDTV unit. The larger sets are specified at 720p native resolution, with 160-degree viewing angle and "1000cd/ m2 peak luminance." Daewoo plasmas are claimed to offer some protection from image burn, a consistent problem with plasma displays. The company will deliver six LCD TVs this year, from 15" to 40" diagonally, all with 720p native resolution and 800:1 contrast ratio.

Also coming from Daewoo are four rear-projection HDTV monitors, two using CRT light sources and two using LCDs. CRT models include the dual NTSC tuner-equipped 47" DSJ-4701CRA at $1299, and the 55" DSJ-5510CRA at $1599. LCD RP sets offer 720p performance and include the 50" DSJ-5020LN at $3999 and the 60" DSJ-6000LN at $4499. The 60" set should be available now, according to a company announcement.