The surprise success story in the pre-Christmas shopping period was Digital Versatile Disc equipment. Major retailers such as Tesco, Debenhams and Dixons have since trumpeted the sales of thousands of DVD players over the festive period as the reason for their improved results.
Overall some 750,000 players and 16.6 million discs - led by Ridley Scott's 700,000-selling epic Gladiator - were sold last year. For discs, this represents a four-fold increase over 1999. In reaching these numbers, DVD, which was launched two years ago in the UK, has overcome an army of cynics ready to deride it as the latest technology turkey.
The runaway growth of the market has prompted the launch of at least half a dozen specialist magazines. DVD Review, What DVD?, Total DVD, Ultimate DVD, DVD Magazine and DVD Buyer have appeared on the racks in the past two years and others, such as Haymarket's DVD, are about to launch.
Apart from a few subtle differences, all contain much the same mix of news and reviews of new releases, technology and hardware plus occasional star interviews.
Herein lies the magazines' problem. Saturation point has almost been reached and will inevitably lead to the closure of smaller titles during the year ahead, even if the market for the technology continues to grow at the same pace. One of the best-selling titles, What DVD?, has recently redesigned and repositioned itself for this very reason.
'Having consumer DVD magazines is unprecedented for the home entertainment market,' says Steven Pearson, account director of Peter Noble PR, which represents major DVD distributors Warner Brothers and Buena Vista.
'Video PROs have (previously) relied on film titles. There are no mainstream video magazines on the market and this demonstrates the crossover appeal of the DVD format,' he adds.
The greatest difficulty for PROs servicing the market, says Pearson, is securing review copies of new film releases in time to meet the magazines' deadlines.
'We won't tend to get the review copy until the whole thing is ready for release, so what tends to happen is the review comes out one month after the DVD, unless you can instigate activities such as a cover-mount that will allow you to hit the release date,' he says.
The challenge for DVD magazines now is to work out how they can differentiate themselves from rivals in their own market and beat off competition from more general consumer titles which have cottoned on to the interest in this technology.
Publisher: Paragon Publishing
Circulation: ABC 36,012
'DVD Review has had one clear brief since the beginning and it's summed up by the name of the magazine. We review DVDs, not waste readers' time with 'previews' of films they saw in cinemas six months ago, and give heavy emphasis to the DVD format's advantages over VHS in terms of special features.
'Feedback from readers proves the formula works. We're the clear market leader and, if anything, are increasing our lead while the competition remains static. The initial target audience was the male 25 to 40 early adopter, which served us very well for the first year-and-a-half of the magazine's life. Now that DVD is becoming more mainstream, we're broadening our scope to add more of a lifestyle element, without losing sight of what the magazine is a success at in the first place.
'We have had a good relationship with most of the major PR players in the DVD market. In general the agencies try to help us as much as they can, more often than not the bottlenecks occur at the client end with review disks and artwork.
'Right now the DVD magazine market is saturated and I wouldn't be surprised to see the smaller titles disappear before the end of the year. Paragon Publishing is building on the success of DVD Review and DVD Buyer with the launch of a sister magazine, Essential Home Cinema.'
Publisher: Future Publishing
Circulation: 25,000 sales (no ABC)
'We decided to retarget What DVD? over the last few months to reflect the increasing amount of material arriving on disk. Dropping the hardware reviews gave us a lot more focus on the software people are buying and the discs that they are looking forward to seeing in the shops.
'We are targeting everyone with a DVD player as the market is maturing rapidly. There are over 2,000 discs in the shops now, and with over 1,000 more to come out this year.
'We found our readers far preferred us to look at the discs and the extras they contain before writing the review, as opposed to a film review and just a listing of extras. We like to tell them whether the disc is worth owning for more than the movie alone. Hence our strap- line/mission statement - 'Movies are only the half of it'.
'There are too many DVD magazines on the shelves at the moment, so I expect we will see some of the less successful titles disappear, leaving three or four either vying for the top spot, or satisfying different sectors of the market.
'Our relationship with PR companies is generally very good. In fact, the PR companies have always recognised the importance of DVD and getting the discs reviewed - it has taken slightly longer for some of the major studios to come round to this way of thinking.'
Publisher: WV Publishing
'Total DVD was the UK's first dedicated monthly DVD magazine. WV has a 20-year track record in home entertainment publishing featuring titles including What Video, Home Cinema Choice, Camcorder User and Computer Video. While some rivals lack the background to produce authoritative hardware reviews, Total DVD covers both DVD software and hardware, reaching both established and first-time buyers.
'The magazine's software reviewers assess DVDs in terms of both content and technical quality, and its authoritative position has been confirmed by regular media appearances including The Big Breakfast, Weekend Watchdog and radio.
'The DVD market largely follows America, so UK readers have an insatiable desire for advanced information about DVD releases. Dates, content information, artwork, high-quality pictures suitable for cover use, and incentives such as interviews will guarantee coverage.
'Competition in the DVD monthly market is intense but we believe that rivals such as Ultimate DVD and DVD Monthly will soon be squeezed out.
Without its regular cover-disc What DVD? will also wane, leaving Total DVD, DVD Review, and possibly DVD magazine. We're also placing increasing importance on popular promotions such as cover-mounted discs, books, accessories, and subscription deals.'