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Insider Report

news and views on broadcast and professional video/audio sectors, worldwide

w/e December 15, 2009 SCRI International, Inc © 1984 - 2009


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CEA Advances Mobile DTV Through Plugfest

The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)® completed hosting the first ever ATSC Mobile DTV Plugfest. A Plugfest is a technical event designed to provide participating companies with an opportunity to test interoperability of their devices with those of other participating companies. This Plugfest focused on testing against the recently approved ATSC standard for mobile DTV and had over 15 participating companies. The four-day Plugfest was hosted at CEA headquarters with engineers from around the world participating. The Plugfest utilized four independently developed transmission systems, 12 receiver systems, and four software vendors.

CEA’s Vice President of Technology and Standards Brian Markwalter said, “CEA is taking a lead role in promoting rapid deployment of Mobile DTV services, and we are delighted to work with our broadcast partners to get this technology into consumers’ hands. Mobile DTV utilizes DTV channels and delivers live, on-the-go content to consumers when and where they want. CEA is excited to facilitate this critical interoperability checkpoint as companies extend the capability of broadcast television beyond the home to new platforms.”

Companies participating in the first ATSC Mobile DTV Plugfest included: Axcera; Dell; DTV Interactive Co., Ltd.; Elgato Systems; Expway; Grass Valley; Harris; JVC-Kenwood; LG Electronics; PIXTREE; Roundbox and Samsung.

Mobile DTV will be center stage at the 2010 International CES, January 7-10, 2010 in Las Vegas. The Open Mobile Video Coalition (OMVC), representing more than 800 TV stations across the country, will sponsor the CES Mobile DTV TechZone in the Central Hall of the LVCC. Leading manufacturers will demonstrate new devices and transmission equipment bringing the excitement of mobile DTV to American consumers in 2010.

The ATSC Mobile DTV standard was approved on October 15, 2009. Consumer electronics manufacturers are working through a CEA Mobile DTV special interest group to move the technology from concept to standard and bring products to market for consumers to enjoy in 2010. For consumers, this standard will allow the ability to watch live, local TV broadcasts on a variety of mobile and video devices.

Report urges global IPTV standard

A study by management consultancy Arthur D. Little has warned that without a single, global IPTV standard, the industry could fail to deliver.

According to the report "Open standards for IPTV Set-Top Boxes," with a variety of Internet-ready consoles already in the home (gaming platforms, PCs, DVD players), the industry has yet to reach a consensus as to which device will serve as the hub for delivering IPTV.

It says mass-market take up of IPTV via set-top boxes (STBs) is the industry’s best chance of funding large-scale fibre broadband infrastructure, so ensuring the STB becomes a universal household fixture must remain a top priority for telecom regulators and players along the supply chain.

"With no widely accepted standard for delivering IPTV, the industry risks lower interoperability and higher costs," said Erik Almqvist, partner and head of Arthur D. Little’s Telecommunication, Information, Media and Electronics (TIME) Practice in the Nordic region. "In some cases proprietary solutions can solve this problem, but for the set-top box no proprietary standard is emerging that can achieve sufficient acceptance to drive global demand."

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Comcast and NBC meet with regulators

Comcast chief executive Brian Roberts this week tried to allay concerns that the $30 billion deal between his cable company and NBC Universal would lead to less choice in programming and a retreat from local broadcasting.

The deal, announced last week, will go before antitrust watchdogs at either the Justice Department or Federal Trade Commission. The Federal Communications Commission will also determine if the deal benefits the public as it decides whether to approve the transfer of broadcast licenses in the deal. Analysts generally expect the merger will be approved by regulators -- particularly at the FCC -- who have some latitude to attach conditions to the merger that could pave the way for competition in the nascent but fast-growing market for Internet video.

Roberts and NBC Universal executives want the deal to be viewed as a straight transaction between a cable company and media giant.

What they don't want, according to the executives who visited The Washington Post last week, is for regulatory reviews to get muddled in murkier discussions about how the merger will impact the future of television since more viewers get their shows over the Internet.

"Today NBC makes certain content available online, and I can't imagine we will change that process," Roberts said in a meeting with The Post's editorial board and newsroom reporters and editors.

Roberts and NBC Universal chief executive Jeff Zucker met Tuesday with Julius Genachowski, chairman of the FCC. They also met with Democratic Commissioners Michael Copps and Mignon Clyburn and Republican Commissioner Robert McDowell. They didn't meet with Republican Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker because she was on business travel.

The FCC didn't comment on the meetings. But Roberts said the FCC discussions were intended to brief regulators on the deal and to reiterate what it views as public interest commitments to local broadcasting and program-access rules that require Comcast to share content with other cable and satellite competitors.

"Today was the beginning of the process, kicking off what will be a thorough review," Roberts said. He reiterated that regulatory scrutiny of the deal could take between nine months and one year.

CBS sees advertising revival

CBS said the fourth quarter was better than the preceding three quarters, buoyed by higher prices paid for advertising time sold closer to when TV programmes aired. Advertising pricing is up more than 25 per cent and, combined with more advertisements sold, CBS is expecting to add $100 million more in sales for 2009 than last year.

Dish reaches 14m subs.

Dish Network has recently passed the 14 million customer milestone. This achievement follows Dish Network's third quarter in which it added more net subscribers than any company in the multichannel video distribution business.

"Surpassing 14 million subscribers is testimony to the strides we made over the past year in providing a best-in-class video experience," said Charlie Ergen, Chairman, President and CEO of Dish Network. "We have more high definition channels than any other TV provider, we feature award-winning DVR technology, and we do it all at the most economical prices in the business."

Dish Network offers more than 150 national HD channels, local HD channels in 152 markets, and top-rated 1080p technology that provides the best picture available.

Google sees growth in online video ads

Google is banking on significant growth in online video ads as marketers become more sophisticated at targeting consumers interactively. "The one big shift in the next three to five years is going to be video advertising," Nikesh Arora, president of global sales operations and business development, commented.

"If you believe there's a big consumer shift going on, the advertising dollars will have to follow," Arora said of the increasing popularity of watching video on the Web.

In the third quarter, Google said it monetised 1 billion video views week on YouTube.

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Hollywood Reporter sold to e5 Global Media

The Hollywood Reporter has been sold to e5 Global Media, a new company jointly owned by equity partner Pluribus Capital Management and financial services firm Guggenheim Partners.

As part of the transaction, seven other assets from the Nielsen Co. have also been acquired: Billboard, Adweek, Brandweek, Mediaweek, the Clio Awards, Backstage and Film Journal. Two Nielsen publications -- Editor & Publisher and Kirkus Reviews -- will end operations.

New firm will also acquire the Film Expo business, which includes ShoWest, ShowEast, Cinema Expo International and CineAsia trade shows.

THe deal is scheduled to close Dec. 31. No financial details have been released.

Wegener Appeals Nasdaq Delisting

Wegener Corporation previously announced that on December 9, 2009, it received a letter from The Nasdaq Stock Market indicating that the Company's securities will be delisted from Nasdaq at the opening of business on December 16, 2009 and a Form 25-NSE will be filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission which will remove the Company's securities from listing and registration on Nasdaq.

However, the December 9th Letter also indicated that an official appeal by the Company to the Nasdaq Hearing Panel would stay the suspension of the Company's securities and the filing of the Form 25-NSE pending the Panel's determination. On December 11, 2009, the Company officially filed an appeal with the Nasdaq Hearing Panel.

The Company intends to address the issues relating to the Equity Rule as part of the Wegener Appeal relating to the Marketplace Rule. In particular, the Company currently intends to exercise its right, as provided under Nasdaq procedures, to present a plan to regain compliance with the Equity Rule, including a time line for compliance, at a hearing before the Nasdaq Hearing Panel.

A Wegner news release states that no assurances can be given that the Wegener Appeal and submission of a plan for compliance, if made and presented, will be successful. The Company's securities will continue to be listed on Nasdaq during this appeal process.

Apple Countersues Nokia

In a very concise statement, Apple has let the public know that it has filed a counter suit against Finnish handset maker Nokia, who at the end of October 2009 took the Cupertino company to court over alleged patent infringement for technology related to its GSM, UMTS, and WiFi “standards”. Read our detailed report here.

In its response lawsuit, Apple says Nokia infringes on 13 of its own patents, and even outright accuses the company of theft:

“Other companies must compete with us by inventing their own technologies, not just by stealing ours,” said Bruce Sewell, Apple’s General Counsel and senior vice president.

Disney joins FLO TV line-up

FLO TV, provider of the FLO TV live mobile TV service, has expanded its content distribution agreement with The Walt Disney Company to add content from the ABC Television Network and Disney Channel to its line-up, joining content already available on ESPN MobileTV. As part of the deal, FLO TV users will have access to some of the most popular shows in primetime from ABC Mobile and a simulcast of the Disney Channel.

Sonic Solutions strategic alliance with verve-media

Sonic Solutions and verve-media have formed a partnership to incorporate interactive commerce functionality into the Roxio CinemaNow entertainment platform. The collaboration will enable content owners and retailers to explore new innovative revenue models through interactive contextual advertising. For consumers, the new capability will provide a unique viewing experience in which information or purchasing options for products featured in, or related to, the content being consumed are dynamically available upon request.

Liberty interested in MGM

Liberty Media Corp Chief Executive Officer Greg Maffei has said the company will look at the Hollywood studio and library assets of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which is considering selling itself to the highest bidder.

Maffei said the company would look at MGM for a possible transaction but said the assets are not a "must-have" for its Liberty Starz unit. MGM is struggling with nearly $4 billion in debt and has sent a prospectus to about 20 interested parties including Time Warner, News Corp, Lions Gate, and Sony.

Industry observers estimate MGM could be worth around $2.5 billion. It is owned by a group including private equity firms Providence Equity Partners and TPG and media firms Sony and Comcast. The group bought MGM for $2.85 billion and assumed $2 billion in debt as part of the purchase.


Discovery appoints Liguori as CEO

Discovery Communications has turned to a Hollywood marketing executive to lead its joint ventures with Oprah Winfrey and Hasbro. Peter Liguori, the former Fox Broadcasting chairman, will take over as Discovery’s chief operating officer, replacing Mark Hollinger, who took over the group’s international networks last week.

The former HBO and FX Networks executive confirmed he had spent part of the intervening months advising Comcast on its bid for NBC Universal, which was driven by the cable group’s interest in NBCU cable channels such as USA Networks.

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Apple Launches iPhone Broadcasting

Apple is now allowing its users to broadcast live video for free. With Apple’s approval of Ustream Live Broadcaster for iPhone this week, users of the popular device can broadcast live video, or for that matter, report live from a scene. Apple approved the free app this week after Apple CEO Steve Jobs approved another live streaming video app called “Knocking Live” last week. That app allows one-to-one live video streaming, while Ustream allows one to many.

“Ustream Broadcaster enables live streaming on 3D or Wifi and users can notify their Twitter communities when they start broadcasting and interact with their viewers using chat of Twitter through Ustream’s Social Stream,” the company said on its Web site. Ustream Broadcaster mainly targets the latest iPhone version 3GS, although it can also work on the iPhone 3G. Ustream also allows users to record video directly to their iPhones. Streaming video is directed to Ustream's servers and then rebroadcast to desktop or mobile clients, according to ars technica.

“I got emails from, I’d say, hundreds saying the world has changed today,” Ustream co-founder John Ham told the Los Angeles Times. “This is the first time on the iPhone globally that Apple has approved an application to let you broadcast to potentially millions.”

UStream Broadcaster is also available for Motorola’s Droid smartphone as well as Nokia smartphones. Another smartphone video broadcast company, Qik, announced this week that it has submitted its app to Apple for iPhone approval.

Also this week, Ralph de la Vega, the head of AT&T’s consumer divisionm told investors that the company may penalize those customers—estimated at only about 3 percent—who use its data network excessively.

AJA Releases Free iPhone App for Video Pros

AJA Video Systems, a manufacturer of professional video interface and conversion solutions, announced the release of AJA DataCalc. AJA DataCalc is a free storage requirement calculator designed for video professionals and is available now as a free download from the Apple iTunes Store here.

Designed as a fast and simple tool for audio and video professionals, AJA DataCalc can be used in the field during acquisition, or in the edit bay during post-production, allowing the user to effortlessly calculate their storage consumption and data capturing requirements.

"We're all big fans of the iPhone and wanted to create an application that would be useful to our customers in professional digital content creation," said Nick Rashby, President, AJA Video Systems. "DataCalc is right in line with AJA's product philosophy which aims to deliver products that simplify and streamline the often complex workflows of video professionals. It's a simple little application, that has already proven to be very handy in the field!"

AJA DataCalc supports a wide array of video compression formats such as Apple ProRes, DVCProHD, HDV, XDCAM, DV, RGB and YUV Uncompressed and more.

The application features an intuitive user interface where most settings can be entered with a simple finger scroll through lists of the most common file format configurations. Durations can be entered in units of days, hours, seconds or even in a precise time code frame count. A 'More' button allows the user to further select and specify frame rates, frame sizes, compression type; or in the case of audio: sample rates and bits per sample. From the 'More' page, press on the 'Information' icon to get to a 'Summary' page to review results and have the option to deliver the data via email.


Worldwide STB market falls 10% sequentially in 3Q09

The worldwide set-top box market contracted 10% in the third quarter of this year relative to the previous quarter to reach US$ 2.6bn, according to a new report from Dell'Oro Group.

"The global economic recession, with its shrinking incomes, high unemployment, and tight credit market, has resulted in significantly less home construction and fewer residential home moves, causing pay-TV operators to struggle to gain gross subscriber additions," said Greg Collins, Vice President at Dell’Oro Group. "Consumers, now faced with less disposable income, are more apt to choose less expensive, lower-tier services, thus boosting the low-end set-top box market."

During the third quarter of this year, vendors such as Motorola and Cisco (both of which have a high degree of exposure to the North American market) saw "large contractions" in IP set-top box shipments, according to the report, due to the decline in net subscriber additions.

In China meanwhile, Huawei continued its strong growth, putting more pressure on the likes of ZTE and UTStarcom. ZTE did however retain its place as third-largest vendor worldwide of IP set-top boxes, according to Dell'Oro Group.


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