Korea Times: Sony home video at the tail end of a Korean exodus

Korea Times reports that Sony's DVD distribution arm in Korea has decided to stop selling discs in that country, making it the last of the major studios to do so.

A request for confirmation by BetaNews with Sony went unanswered as of press time. If the news is accurate, Sony would actually be the last of the major Hollywood studios to pull out of the South Korean market over the last two years, following Paramount, Disney (Buena Vista), Universal, and 20th Century Fox. It seems as if Korean consumers just aren't interested in DVDs any more.

Total revenues from the sale of DVDs in Korea in 2008 are expected to total 328 billion won ($290 million USD), down from a high of 773 billion won ($684 million) in 2002.

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There's likely a very good reason for this, and it has to do with broadband penetration. According to statistics from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, South Korea ranks as the top country in terms of household penetration, with some of the highest data rates in the world.

Many Koreans have opted to take the download route when it comes to obtaining media. The Korean Film Council recently released data that indicated nearly half of all respondents claimed to have downloaded a movie, and that was not including those who may have obtained content illegally through P2P or other means.

If unlicensed downloaders were counted, the rates would have flirted with the 70% mark, said council representatives.

Koreans' moves away from physical media is sure to worry entertainment executives. With many media execs giving discs only five or so more years of viability, and the country's citizens living "two to three years ahead of anyone else," as the Korea Times put it, direct digital media could be the future of entertainment.

At the same time, data rates would need to catch up to that of Korea and other countries in order to make it viable. Right now, the US average speed is only about 2.3 Mbps according to a recent study, far too slow to make downloadable media viable.

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