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Why Digital TV Switch Will Be Delayed

Congress will push back the 2009 deadline when it realizes that millions of voters might lose their TV signals -- this according to the following report by Phillip Swann at SCRI's online partner, TV Predicitons.

A coalition of industry groups this week announced plans for a consumer education campaign to increase awareness of the nation's transition to Digital TV on February 17, 2009.

I applaud the initiative. However, despite their best efforts, I predict that the campaign will fall short and that Congress will extend the 2009 deadline by at least one year.

No Viewer Left Behind?
On February 17, 2009, Americans will need either a Digital TV -- or a 'digital-to-analog' converter box -- to continue to watch television. (Note: Cable and satellite boxes will be able to convert the signals.)

At the press conference today in Washington, D.C., the DTV Transition Coalition, which includes broadcasting, cable and CE groups, vowed that no viewer would be left behind when the switch occurs.

Coalition members said the educational campaign -- and the benefits of Digital TV (High-Definition TV; multicasting etc.) -- will motivate Americans to get ready for the switch.

However, despite their sincerity and resourcefulness, coalition members are simply not up to the task. Nor are the multiple government agencies involved in making the transition a success.

The DTV Coalition says blue skies are ahead.

And here's why:

1. There's Not Enough Time
The transition is now less than two years away and several research studies have demonstrated that a majority of Americans are blissfully unaware it will occur. No matter how much money is spent on an educational campaign, it can't possibly get the word to everyone in time. So it's inevitable that millions of people will fail to either buy a set or get a converter box by February 17, 2009.

2. There's Not Enough Money
Even if there was enough time, Congress has allocated a measly $5 million for the federal DTV educational campaign. That's a drop in the bucket, as John Kneuer, the Bush administration official in charge of the transition, once said. (Although he now takes the remark back). In addition, Congress has authorized just $1.5 billion in converter box subsidies which won't be enough to cover the need. Consequently, millions of people will have to spend their own money on the set-tops. And that won't happen because...

3. People Are People
Even if they become aware of the transition, many Americans will hesitate to act if they know it will require spending money. It's human nature, folks. Instead, they will sit back and call the federal government's bluff. "Go ahead and take my TV signals, if you dare," they will say.

4. Politicians Are Politicians
And when the brave souls who people the halls of Congress realize that millions of voters may lose their TV signals, they will vote to extend the February 17, 2009 deadline by at least one year. And they will likely increase the converter subsidy to ensure that almost everyone who needs one will get it without paying.

Yes, this will be costly -- but not more costly in the minds of lawmakers than seeing their constituents storm their offices carrying pitchforks.

So best of luck to the DTV Transition Coalition, particularly since its mission will likely extend to 2010 if not beyond that.

Can Blu-ray Replace the DVD? In 3 Years?

The Blu-ray HDTV DVD will replace the standard-def DVD in three years, according to a Blu-ray spokesman.

That's a bold statement considering that more than 80 percent of U.S. homes now have a standard DVD player while less than two percent have a Blu-ray player.

But Frank Simonis, the European chairman of the Blu-ray Disc Association, said this week that "within three years, it will just be Blu-ray."

Blu-ray, which was launched last year, is also still battling with another high-def format, HD-DVD.

While Blu-ray sales appear to be pulling away from its HDTV DVD rival, it still has a long way to go. Total Blu-ray players, including Sony's Play Station 3, which comes with a Blu-ray player inside, are less than two million in Japan and North America.

Reuters reports that 5.2 million Blu-ray discs have been sold worldwide, a far cry from the billions of standard DVDs that have been sold.

However, Blu-ray has the backing of seven of the eight major movie studios, although four of them are supporting both high-def DVD formats.

Satellite TV Grows 200 Percent In Seven Years

Satellite TV's DIRECTV and EchoStar now collectively own nearly 30 percent of the pay TV audience. And their share of the pay audience has risen roughly 200 percent in the last seven years. That's according to figures released today by the Television Bureau of Advertising.

The group says the satellite TV industry had 29.2 percent of the pay market in February 2007, compared to just 9.5 percent in February 2000.

Meanwhile, cable TV's audience share of the pay market has fallen from 89 percent to 71 percent in that time period.

Counting homes that do not subscribe to either cable or satellite, the TVB says dish services are now in 25.2 percent of all TV households. Cable operators are in 61.3 percent of all homes.

The cable-satellite war is expected to escalate in the next few years with the growth of High-Definition TV. Both cable and satellite are jockeying to position themselves as the go-to service for new high-def owners.

New telco TV services from Verizon and AT&T also hope to snare a slice of that market. But as of February, Verizon reported having just 207,000 subscribers while AT&T had just 7,000.

Back to SCRI News Briefs Index


AT&T live TV on PC

AT&T has confirmed the launch of AT&T U-verse OnTheGo, a new premium service that will allow AT&T U-verse customers to view live television on a PC using any broadband Internet connection. The service is the first of its kind offered by a television provider. AT&T U-verse OnTheGo is delivered under an existing agreement between AT&T and MobiTV, provider of mobile and broadband television services. OnTheGo subscribers can currently access some 30 channels, several of which feature live programming.

INHD Changes Name to Mojo

INHD, the High-Definition TV network, will change its name to Mojo starting May 1. The name change has been expected for months, but it will come with an expanded high-def lineup and advertising campaign. TV commercials will feature the "Mr. Mojo Risin'" lyric from The Doors' song L.A. Woman.

Rob Jacobson, CEO of In Demand, which runs the high-def network, says Mojo will continue to target "active affluent" males. The four-year-old channel has offered a variety of male-oriented programming such as sports, concerts, beer-oriented reality series and action movies.

“We were confident that there would be strong appeal for exclusive content aimed at high-end males,” Jacobson told the publication. “We get a lot of sampling and advertisers have responded to reach out to this sweet spot of consumers.”

INHD has featured a "Mojo block" of programming in primetime since last June, which has increased the emphasis on reaching male viewers. Jacobson says the addition has boosted advertising revenue by 37 percent.

Streaming Media East 2007

With online video quickly becoming one of the hottest technologies on the Internet, more and more content and broadcast executives are scrambling to learn both about the technology and how to profit from it. For many executives, the Streaming Media East (, May 15-16, NYC) conference & exhibition is a "one-stop shop" for their entire staff to learn about streaming, Webcasting, downloading, and all forms of online video. Now in its 10th year, the Streaming Media East show boasts the largest audience and exhibitors of any show focused on online video and the largest roster of speakers who are creating, producing and adopting online video products and services.

The Streaming Media East conference organizers, led by online video guru Dan Rayburn, have reworked the program to give attendees more "how-to" sessions providing step by step instructions on how to implement online video and be able to apply it immediately within their organization.

"The Streaming Media East show is the largest and most interactive conference in the industry for attendees to learn about the distribution and delivery of online video to any IP connected device," said Dan Rayburn, conference chairman.

This year's conference will feature two keynote addresses: on Tuesday, May 15, Sean Alexander, Director, Video Platform for Microsoft, leads off with his address, "Microsoft's Next-Generation Rich Media Platform." The following day, Martin Nisenholtz, Sr. VP of Digital Operations for The New York Times Company, discusses "Video Journalism on the Web: Where Is It Going?"

Speakers from the following companies will be represented at Streaming Media East: Associated Press, Fox Interactive Media, Google, CSTV Networks, USA TODAY, BitTorrent, NBC Universal, MTV Networks, TiVo, ESPN, AOL, Turner Broadcasting System, Scripps Networks, ClickZ News, Carat Fusion, World Wrestling Entertainment, Wachovia,, Spark Capital, Forrester Research, Veoh Networks, Lycos, MarketWatch, Business Week, Economist, Microsoft, Adobe, Showtime Networks, TANBERG, Johnson & Johnson, Lehman Brothers, VideoEgg,, Motionbox, eWeek, Wall Street Journal, nbbc,,, CondeNet,, WGBH, Brightcove, Carlsberg, Campfire Media and more.

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Starz sues Disney

Liberty Media Holding 's Starz Entertainment cable network is suing Walt Disney for allowing other movie download services to sell titles while they were exclusively licensed to Starz. The lawsuit was brought against Disney's Buena Vista Television, which this year signed deals to sell movies on iTunes online store and Wal-Mart's new movie download site.

According to the lawsuit, Disney is barred under a 2005 licensing agreement with Starz from selling some of its films for transmission over the Internet before and during a period of exclusivity agreed upon for Starz.

Starz has paid more than $1 billion for the exclusive rights to Disney films since 1993, according to the lawsuit. It also has the right to offer the films on its subscription Internet download service, Vongo.

News Corp. and NBC Universal online TV venture

News Corp. and NBC Universal have unveiled a long-rumored online TV venture.

The not-yet-named joint venture will distribute video to its own site, as well as to Yahoo, MSN, AOL and MySpace. Even before it was announced, the partnership was tagged as a foil to Google's YouTube, the Internet's top video destination today and one that's irked traditional media firms with heavy-handed negotiating over distribution rights.

But NBCU and News Corp. execs said their NewTube will be bigger ' and better ' than YouTube. The venture represents "the largest Internet video-distribution network ever assembled," the companies claimed, reaching 96% of monthly unique visitors to U.S. Web sites.

"We expect this site to be, or we hope it to be, the No. 1 video destination on the Internet," News Corp. president and chief operating officer Peter Chernin stated.

But the unnamed venture, referred to by founders as NewCo, isn't intended to be a "YouTube killer," Chernin said. "If this was a 'YouTube killer,' we wouldn't have any distribution partners," Chernin said.

He added that the companies are already in discussions with other content providers and distributors ' including Google. "We had a conversation with [Google CEO] Eric Schmidt this morning, and they are considering this," Chernin said.

The video site is scheduled to debut this summer with "thousands of hours of full-length programming, movies and clips" from NBCU's and Fox's cable channels, national broadcast channels and Universal Pictures and 20th Century Fox.

Back to SCRI News Briefs Index


Newsrooms Go Multiplatform

Like other parts of the broadcast plant, newsrooms are being asked to do more with their existing staffs, whether it's producing high-definition newscasts or repurposing content for multiple platforms.

As newsrooms' head count remains the same, or even declines, automation, editing and graphics vendors are taking on stations' challenge. They are offering an array of software-based tools that streamline many facets of the news-production chain.

Major trends include desktop-based editing and graphics tools that enable journalists to do more and provide built-in functionality for automatically repurposing content for the Web.

Device-automation systems that allow software to replace people for certain newscast functions, such as camera control or graphics output, are also gaining popularity (with management, at least) as broadcasters either cut staffs or reassign personnel for new-media production.

"Whether it's editing, newsroom systems or on-air graphics, everything we're doing right now is leaning toward not only accommodating what [stations] have traditionally done but also leaning toward new mediums," says Johnathon Howard, director of on-air product management for Avid. "The newsroom system now has to be able to support RSS feeds and broadcasting to mobile phones. You have more and more distribution methods, but customers want to use the same amount of people, if not less. That makes our technology have to be as flexible as possible."

In that vein, Avid sells a multiplatform software tool called Active Content Manager. Says Howard, "It takes all of the traditional types of assets and basically divorces the content from the display, so you can write once and publish to several different Websites and mobile-phone [platforms]."

Broadcast users of Apple's Final Cut Studio editing and graphics software have been known to repurpose a piece of content as many as 30 times'counting broadcast versions, Webisodes, podcasts and the like'according to Richard Townhill, Apple director of professional video product management. One of the most popular applications in the Final Cut Studio suite is Compressor, which can be configured to automatically transcode content for different platforms.

"We're no longer in the days when people could produce one tape and send it off," says Townhill. "Now we've got all these other screens that people consume content in."

Graphics supplier Vizrt will use next month's NAB show to introduce a version of its Viz|Multi-Platform Suite (MPS) that links with Vizrt's broadcast-graphics tools and delivers real-time graphics and video content to Internet browsers and mobile devices. The Viz|MPS system actually separates graphics from video content and enables a viewer's PC or mobile-phone display to render platform-specific graphics in real time, without affecting a station's production workflow. MPS will send different sets of instructions to different mobile-phone models, explains Vizrt Americas President Isaac Hersley.

"The render is physically on the phone itself. We're just sending an instruction set on how to build the related graphics with the video behind it," he says. "The quality is pretty good, as we don't have to send composited graphics [with the video]." He thinks there is a large opportunity to use MPS to deliver targeted advertising as well as news graphics.

Chyron is taking an opposite tack with its WAPSTR system, designed to help broadcasters bring user-generated content to air. WAPSTR allows still images and videos from mobile phones to be uploaded directly from the field into a newsroom system. At NAB, Chyron will also show a new version of Interfuse, an adaptable graphics-workflow solution that can be configured for news, sports or election coverage.

The really big trend from graphics providers like Vizrt, Chyron and Avid division Pinnacle, however, is template-based graphics that run on desktop PCs and allow journalists and producers to easily create simple graphics, such as "lower-thirds"'what newsrooms call graphic information: the reporter's name and location and perhaps a channel logo appearing on the bottom of the screen. That previously required a dedicated graphics operator.

NBC has deployed template-based graphics throughout its news operations, concentrating high-end graphics production in Fort Worth, Texas, and New York. When combined with low-resolution'video editing and Web-production tools incorporated into newsroom computer systems like AP's ENPS (Electronic News Production System) and Avid's iNews, template-based graphics make the multi-tasking, video-savvy journalist a reality.

Avid's Instinct system allows iNews users to create video sequences while editing text, so "text drives the editing model," says Howard. To make journalists who are not familiar with nonlinear editing comfortable, Instinct uses a vertical storyline instead of a timeline to measure video.

AP has added support within ENPS for NBC's NameDropper HD system, which lets affiliates localize network HDTV programming, such as Today, with insertion of call letters and logos, time and temperature, news crawls, and promotional messages. Stations can easily and automatically integrate material from ENPS rundowns or content collections with NameDropper HD, and local-station crawls can be triggered on demand or automatically.

Harris has made a low-resolution, desktop-based proxy editor, VelocityPX, a key part of its new NewsForce file-based newsroom system. The system, which is compatible with both ENPS and iNews, links low-res sequences ready for air with corresponding high-res material on a storage-area network comprising Harris Nexio servers.

"Everything we've been preaching about for the last 10 years, with people empowered at the desktop to do more, that's come true," notes AP Director of Broadcast Technology Lee Perryman. "The next wave that's coming up is people trying to figure out how to competently and effectively do online communications and Web production from the same newsroom. In most stations, it's still a separate guy in the corner. But that's changing with the interoperability of the newsgathering and production processes. That's the next growth area."

For its part, AP has created a Web-syndication system in partnership with Microsoft, the AP Online Video Network, that lets stations easily provide syndicated content to other markets and realize new revenue from advertising sales, with AP handling streaming and rights management.

"I see stations spending more and more time trying to find ways to make money repurposing content," says Perryman. "The key is finding a way to work smart in multiple platforms at the same time."

Working smart is also the pitch behind device-automation products like Grass Valley's Ignite and Ross Video's OverDrive, software-based systems that are based on production switchers and use a graphical user interface to provide touch-screen control over various devices integral to live news production. Those include robotic cameras, video servers, tape decks, audio mixers, routers and graphics devices.

A common complaint regarding those systems has been that they lack the flexibility to deal with breaking news. Both Grass Valley and Ross have created optional switcher-based modules that can give directors more hands-on control. Both companies are also working to expand their device-control software so that it can automatically repurpose news stories and quickly publish them to the Web, without requiring time-consuming'and costly'manual intervention.

Grass Valley markets Ignite as a way to cut personnel costs and reinvest the proceeds in new production gear required for HD newscasts or secondary digital channels. Some major broadcasters have bought into the premise. ABC has rolled the system out to support high-definition newscasts at KABC Los Angeles and KGO San Francisco, and WTVD Durham, N.C., is slated to launch Ignite this spring. Other customers include Cox, Meredith, Entravision and Gray.

Ross Video's OverDrive has proved popular with several smaller station groups like Barrington Broadcasting and Freedom Communications, as well as with network customers like ABC News' Washington bureau and The Weather Channel.

A new development this year, says Product Manager Brad Rochon, is the ability to support multiple clients on OverDrive's client-server architecture. That allows producers in different locations to control a production through a local-area network or simply to browse a rundown from a desktop before heading down to the control room. OverDrive also can handle back-to-back productions without a break, which some broadcasters are using to seamlessly roll from a 5 p.m. newscast into a 6 p.m. one.

Rochon says many customers are using OverDrive to launch newscasts, including the rush of new early-morning news programs. The same approach works for secondary DTV channels or streaming live to the Web (he is in discussions with a major network about using OverDrive to run its broadband news service).

"You keep the overhead low by using the same equipment and the same room, just less people to actually bring it to air," says Rochon. "It does give you a lot of different opportunities."

Adobe Creative Suite 3 Production Premium

Adobe Systems announced Adobe® Creative Suite® 3 Production Premium software, a complete integrated post-production solution. Adobe Creative Suite 3 Production Premium offers unprecedented levels of integration across major new releases of its video, audio and web software, including Adobe After Effects® CS3 Professional, Adobe Premiere® Pro CS3, Adobe Encore® CS3, Adobe Photoshop® CS3 Extended (see separate release), Adobe Illustrator® CS3, Adobe Flash® CS3 Professional, and Adobe® Soundbooth™ CS3. Now post-production and rich media professionals have a complete, cross-platform, integrated workflow that enables them to create and deliver visually innovative projects for film, broadcast, web, DVD, and mobile devices.

Adobe Creative Suite 3 Production Premium will begin shipping worldwide in the third quarter of 2007 and will be available for pre-order immediately through Adobe Authorized Resellers and the Adobe Store at Estimated street price for Adobe Creative Suite 3 Production Premium is US$1,699. There are numerous upgrade paths available for Adobe customers. For more detailed information about features, upgrade policies, pricing, and international versions please visit:

Japan’s SD-Enabled Phones Deliver Recordable Broadcast Mobile TV to Millions

The SD Card Association announced at CTIA 2007 that the 5 million Japanese consumers who watch mobile TV programming on their phones – and can record the programming with SD High-Capacity (SDHC) and SD memory cards – will more than double in 2007 to 12 million mobile TV viewers. Thirteen handset models feature SD recording technologies today and three-quarters of all mobile phones in Japan are equipped with SD slots.

“The remarkable regional success of mobile TV in Japan provides a glimpse into the global market opportunity for video content,” said Paul Reinhardt, executive director of the SD Card Association. “SDHC memory cards provide the recording technologies and digital rights management protection to support worldwide mobile TV success.”

Both SDHC and SD memory cards enable consumers to securely store and watch video when they want. SDHC and SD cards have built-in specifications for copy protection rights management (CPRM) and SD-Binding specifications tie stored content to authorized devices from carriers.

The SDA is working with the leading mobile TV technologies, including MediaFLO, DVB-H and DMB, to increase the portability and interoperability of content in and between devices such as mobile phones, car navigation systems and portable DVD players.

“The SDHC standard helps to promote broad adoption of mobile TV by enabling technologies that satisfy consumer demand while protecting content providers and carriers,” said Joseph Unsworth, Principal Analyst at Gartner. “And by working to provide SD standard specifications to support all leading mobile TV technology standards, which tend to be adopted by region, the SD memory card format will continue to position itself as the most widely adopted standard.”

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Ex Sony & ClickStar Head Named GM Of Newly-Created ICTV ActiveMedia Group

ICTV, creator of network- based solutions that blend the choice and control of broadband video with the quality and responsiveness of television, announced the creation of ActiveMedia Group(R), a division to be headed by cable and Internet entertainment entrepreneur Nizar Allibhoy and dedicated to the development of Web created, TV-delivered ActiveVideo(TM) programming.

Allibhoy joins ICTV as Senior Vice President and General Manager of the ActiveMedia Group ( after having served in a variety of senior level entertainment positions, including Vice President, Content Distribution Services at Sony Pictures Digital and CEO of ClickStar, an online film distribution company co-founded by actor Morgan Freeman's Revelations Entertainment and Intel Corp. With the ActiveMedia Group he is responsible for the development and support of programming solutions that allow network operators, content providers and advertisers to maximize the revenue potential of the ICTV ActiveVideo platform.

Based in Los Angeles, the ActiveMedia Group will provide resources and support for the creation of web-driven ActiveVideo programming solutions offered directly to network operators by ICTV. Leveraging the unique capabilities of ActiveVideo, the group will create content that seamlessly can cross the boundaries between network technologies and consumer devices, enabling the true three-screen viewing experience. This programming will complement the brand-name channels already created for the ActiveVideo Distribution Network (AVDN), as well as other channels under development from major media companies.

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    IPTV Market Leader Report

    MRG, Inc. announces its new IPTV Market Leaders Report for March 2007, which tracks the top IPTV vendors in 24 sub-sectors (six each for four geographical regions) based on their deployments and installed base in over 570 IPTV Service Providers (SPs) worldwide. The report demonstrates the extreme volatility in the IPTV industry, with half the number one market leaders changing position since the previous report. "The greatest volatility was in Video-On-Demand, where all but one of the number ones changed," states Len Feldman, IPTV Analysis Director. "The least volatility was in Video Headends, where not a single number one changed since the last report."

    The causes of some of this volatility include M&As such as that of Alcatel-Lucent; large increases in subscriptions (as seen at Verizon, France Telecom and Telefonica); and commercialization of in-house software, as seen with PCCW's Cascade software. "As large Service Providers pick up subscribers, we're seeing more surprises," states Gary Schultz, MRG President. "We believe some volatility will continue in most sectors as vendors compete in a healthy and open 'best of breed' market." Sectors tracked in each region include Middleware, Video Headends, Set-top Boxes, Content Protection, Access Ports, and Video-On-Demand (VOD) licenses. A total of about 80 competing companies or divisions are ranked. While about 300 of the 570 (mostly telco-based) Service Providers examined are US Independent Operators, the biggest share of subscribers come from the European market.

    The report also anticipates upside growth potential of each of the top 25-30 vendors in the industry, based on the twenty largest and fastest-growing Service Providers in four global regions in which these vendors have deployed products. Growth prospects can be very important to even a small company with installations in high-growth SPs like China Netcom or Belgacom, even though the vendor itself is small at the moment.

    Mobile Broadcast TV Survey Results

    QUALCOMM Incorporated and KDDI Corporation announced encouraging results from an extensive consumer survey of attitudes towards mobile TV. The survey, which was conducted by Accenture Japan Ltd. and included more than 3,000 Japanese consumers, showed that subscribers are far more likely to take up mobile broadcast services when they experience it firsthand, and it provides compelling evidence for the commercial viability of MediaFLO services in the Japanese market.

    "We are convinced that the survey results illustrate that paid mobile broadcasting services are attractive to Japanese customers despite the availability of the free ISDB-T service, and we believe that both services can coexist," said Kazuhiko Masuda, president of MediaFLO Japan Planning Incorporated. "Based on these extremely positive results, MediaFLO Japan Planning Incorporated intends to move forward with preparations for a commercial service in Japan."

    "We see Japan as a leading market for deployment of advanced mobile services like mobile TV," said Peggy Johnson, president, QUALCOMM Internet Services and MediaFLO Technologies. "The survey results demonstrate the full potential of multichannel broadcasting in Japan, and we will continue to work with KDDI to make MediaFLO available to Japanese consumers. We believe that MediaFLO is the right mobile broadcasting technology for the demanding Japanese audience."

    The survey yielded notable results in three key categories:

    User Intention

  • The survey clearly showed that mobile broadcast is an experience-driven service in that people's intention to use the service increased the more they understood the service
  • 41 percent of survey respondents said that they intended to use mobile broadcast services
  • 83 percent of focus group testers -- users who were given the opportunity to try out the service -- responded that they intended to use the service
  • This result was significantly higher than positive online survey respondents (52 percent)

    Service Requirements

  • Approximately 40 percent of respondents wanted to use the service "while traveling to school or work"
  • Broken down by genre, the most desirable content was "News" and "Movies/Drama/Anime"
  • Respondents expressed interest in each of MediaFLO's four service features: video streaming, audio streaming, Clipcasting(TM) and IP datacasting
  • 92 percent of handset users responded positively to the picture quality and clarity of movement, while some 87 percent were positive about the usability of the electronic program guide
  • 45 percent of respondents indicated that they wanted 31 channels or more, and thus the service caters to this demand for multichannel broadcasting

    Potential Market Size

  • The potential Japanese market size for paid multichannel broadcasting to mobile phones within five years of service launch is estimated to be as large as 450 billion yen ($3.8 billion) with about 40 million users
  • The potential economic benefit to the market of a mobile broadcast service launch is estimated to be some 1.9 trillion yen ($16 billion)

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