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Sony Touts HD Growth in Europe

Sony executives gathered in Amsterdam Thursday to report on robust growth for its HD production equipment in Europe and to unveil some new HD models, including a new camcorder and disk recorder that both support the low-cost compressed HDV format.

“We have reached the tipping point of the industry’s adoption of HD,” said Sony EVP Mitsu Ohki, who said the Japanese electronics giant is benefiting from a “migration to HD happening all over the world.”

Sony’s HD sales had risen from 38% of overall worldwide equipment sales in fiscal 2004 to 53% in fiscal 2005, says Ohki, with 2006 experiencing continued steady growth for HD. Ohki pointed to the Torino Olympics and FIFA World Cup as two big drivers for HD in Europe this year, and noted that Sony sent teams from 20 different countries to support those events.

Naomi Climer, a former top engineer at the BBC and ITV who is now VP of Sony Professional Solutions Europe, said the industry “will remember this year as the year HD took off in Europe.”

In addition to strong professional sales of HD equipment, Sony is seeing HD growth on the consumer side as well, says Climer, with its Bravia high-definition flat-screen TV taking large percentage of the display market. Climer pointed to recent projections from research firm Strategy Analytics that forecast 11 million total HD sets in Western Europe by year-end 2006 and 35.5 million by the end of 2008.

In that vein, Sony is featuring a large consumer electronics area on its IBC stand, including two flat-screen displays showing hi-def content from a Blu-ray disk and HD over IP network, respectively. The company is also playing the output of an HD-equipped outside broadcast (OB) truck over a Wi-fi network onto Playstation Portable devices.

On the professional side, Sony has just sold its 100,000 unit of the HDCAM format, which was introduced in 1997. Its biggest HCAM acquisition order in Europe to date is a recent sale to rental house Visual Impact Hire for 50 HDCAM camcorders.

The company says it has sold 14,000 units worldwide of its XDCAM and XDCAM HD optical disc-based formats, which like Blu-ray also use blue-laser technology.

Proving more popular, however, is the low-cost, compressed HDV acquisition format. Since its introduction in January 2005, Sony will have shipped 91,000 professional HDV units worldwide by the end of September, says Climer.

At IBC, Sony is introducing the HVR-V1E professional camcorder, which features three imaging sensors and will sell for 4,600 euros, and the HVR-DR60 portable hard disk recording unit, which will offer 4.5 hours of continuous recording and will sell for 1,700 euros. Both products will begin shipping in November.