With Sony launching aggressive promotional efforts for MiniDisc, and hardware prices dropping, blank media suppliers see good news for 1998. "I am very optimistic about MiniDisc," says Maxell director of marketing Peter Brinkman. "We see the beginning of a boomlet in 1998." "MiniDisc is being repositioned as a portable medium for compiling music," he says. "That is where the success has come in both Japan and Europe, and that is where it is going to make its mark in the U.S."
Brinkman puts 1997 MiniDisc hardware sales at 1 million pieces and says that "conservatively, it will grow to between 3 and 4 million in 1998. Much of that will be influenced by the pricing of the hardware, wider distribution of hardware, and advertising."
"The trends are in place," he continues. "In Japan, more than 45% of blank media is MiniDisc, and it is also growing in Europe. In the U.S., we had a blended skepticism through the middle of last year, but now retailers are realizing the format will be viable and profitable. Specialty electronic retailers will be leaders in promoting MiniDisc, and mass merchants will follow."
Lower MiniDisc hardware pricing is one factor fueling the upswing in sales, says Brinkman. "What you will find over the next 12 months is hardware manufacturers launching different models, and that will proliferate new prices. Also, I think mass merchants will begin to embrace the format in 1998 and 1999." Prices on play-and-record portable units, now at $399, could compress down to $299 by the fourth quarter, he says.
Maxell is taking a leadership position in MiniDisc, with an advertising campaign that has been in place for several months and new blank media, Brinkman points out. The company is offering a two-pack to sell for between $12.99 and $15.99 and a four-pack to sell for between $19.99 and $24.99. Brinkman is also developing plans for six-, eight- and even larger multipacks because "retailers are asking for larger pack sizes." In addition, Maxell has entered the MiniDisc accessories area with a laser lens cleaner at $19.99, and Brinkman notes that "the role of related key accessories is also important."
Initially, he expects MiniDisc to augment the blank tape business, not replace it. "This is a logical extension of our line," says Brinkman. "Long-term, it will affect blank tape sales, but for now, it is bringing customers into the stores."