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Insider Report

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

w/e February 4, 2006 SCRI International, Inc © 1984 - 2004

INDEX

Technology News | Industry News | Company News |
Product News | People in the News | Research News

TECHNOLOGY NEWS

New technology expands HDTV capacity

DIRECTV this month announced it will offer 100 national HDTV channels by year's end, leaving some to wonder if cable operators will be able to keep up.

However, Comcast revealed this week that it's testing a new technology that may let cable operators offer a much larger number of high-def networks. (Most cable operators now offer less than 20 HDTV channels due largely to bandwidth restraints.)

Called 'Switched Digital Video,' Comcast says it will likely deploy the new technology in the second half of 2007 -- when DIRECTV is expected to expand its high-def lineup.

"If a programmer comes to us and says, 'We want you to carry new HD channels' … we’re stuck in that bandwidth problem," Rick Riboili, Comcast's vice president of production platform engineering, said this week at an industry conference. Rioboli's remarks were reported today by Multichannel News.

But with the new technology, the cable op can easily expand high-def capacity, meaning "we don’t have to plan two or three years in advance which channels we’re going to be dropping to carry HD."

Multichannel News reports that 'switched digital video' can deliver more channels than regular broadcasting because the signals are sent via video streams only when the viewer turns to that channel. Consequently, a cable operator is not forced to store every channel in its lineup.

Rioboli told the publication that Comcast wants to ensure that the technology is stable before deploying. "We're done with the vendor evaluation and system design," he said. "Now we need to get to the point where we can realistically deploy and manage it."

HDTV alliance established In Beijing

Beijing Gehua CATV Network Company has formed an alliance with other companies to provide comprehensive high-definition television service and accelerate the development of the service in China.

The alliance includes companies such as Huacheng Film and Television Company, Dazhong Electronics, Dolby Laboratories Changhong, Haier, Hisense, Panasonic, TCL and Sharp.

The six TV manufacturers confirmed that their TV sets would conform with the national high-definition standard. A representative from Gehua pointed out that high definition TV, including LCD and plasma televisions, are replacing traditional CRT TVs because of their continuing price decline. However, they can't offer better television programmes unless there is high-definition signal access, and this is why they have formed this alliance.

New IPTV Zone at IBC2007

Recent improvements in compression technologies and bandwidth availability are set to revolutionise the way in which we consume broadcast content. Gartner has predicted that IPTV will reach 3.3 million homes in Western Europe this year and that this number will rise to 16.7 million in 2010, creating a £3 billion marketplace.

In parallel, the public’s appetite for video is driving exponential growth in internet traffic and providing additional distribution options for content creators and broadcasters. The technologies, solutions and content that are driving these revolutions will form the focus for the IPTV Zone at IBC2007, a new visitor attraction being introduced at the event this year.

The IBC2007 IPTV Zone will bring together many of the organisations and technologies that are emerging as major forces in these new markets. It will therefore provide a unique opportunity for application developers, content providers and technology companies to showcase their capabilities at the heart of the broadcast industry's leading international conference and exhibition.

The IPTV Zone will be accompanied by the IBC2007 IPTV Zone Business Briefings to which attendance is free. These briefings will examine some of the issues and opportunities arising from this revolution in broadcast content delivery in further detail and are intended to reinforce and complement the established peer reviewed, paid-delegate IBC Conference.

The IBC2007 IPTV Zone is being jointly developed and marketed by IBC, IT Europa and BPL. The Zone design and format will replicate that of the IBC Mobile Zone which was introduced in 2005 and has since grown to cover 2,500m² (a five-fold increase over 2005). The IBC2007 exhibition takes place from 7 - 11 September 2007 at the RAI, Amsterdam.

US consumers ‘ready For Mobile TV’

US consumers are willing to pay enough for watching TV on mobile phones to justify what it would cost carriers to build a new broadcast network to guarantee quality service, according to the Mobile DTV Alliance.

According to the Alliance, a successful proposition for mobile TV in the United States is high-quality video and service and flat rates of about $20 a month for unlimited viewing. To meet those standards, the alliance suggests building a separate broadcast network, which would cost a carrier between $500 million and $2 billion.

But the cost would be justified, according to Yoram Solomon, president of the alliance and author of a white paper on the economics of Mobile TV. He contends that if a quarter of the subscribers of operators are willing to pay $20 a month for the service, carriers would take in a total of $12 billion annually. At that rate, even if half of the revenue went directly to content owners, and the entire investment in infrastructure was amortised over one year, "there is still plenty of profit to share."

The Mobile DTV Alliance is an open industry consortium that focuses on selecting and promoting the best practices and open standards to deliver premium-quality broadcast television to mobile devices in North America. The Alliance includes leading companies from across the mobile business system and entertainment value chain. Sponsor members include Hiwire, Intel, Microsoft, Modeo, Motorola, Nokia and Texas Instruments.

Web TV downloads to hit $6.3bn

Downloads of television programmes and films from websites are expected to grow to around $6.3bn in 2012, although some content companies have not learned from the music industry’s experiences with Internet piracy, says a report by business information group Informa.

Global revenues generated by legal online television and film services such as YouTube, Google Video, Movielink, and Apple’s iTunes Video, are expected to grow exponentially over the next few years as a result of growing broadband penetration. The arrival of legal peer-to-peer services, where computer users share files are also expected to boost IPTV.

However, in spite of the growing popularity of online TV, the audiovisual sector is in danger of repeating the mistakes of the music industry by hoping that piracy will somehow sort itself out, says the report.

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INDUSTRY NEWS

AT&T to ramp up IPTV rollouts

AT&T's IPTV solution is working better than the company anticipated, thus the American telco plans to ramp up deployments in the coming year, Chief Executive Officer Ed Whitacre has revealed.

Whitacre commented on the expansion of AT&T's IPTV service during the company's fourth-quarter 2006 earnings call. By the end of the year, AT&T's U-verse IPTV service, as well as HD programming, will tentatively be available to 8 million homes, he said.

AT&T's IPTV service is currently available in 11 markets - and in those markets, it's available only to a handful of subscribers. AT&T had said it expected to have service available in 15 markets earlier in 2006, but the company changed its projections toward the end of the year.

AT&T blamed delays on glitches in the Microsoft software on which it operates. Executives on the conference stresed that delays in the IPTV service had been caused by software issues and did not reflect any problems with the network architecture.

TV & Interactive Q4 Revenue Up at Scripps

The E. W. Scripps Company reported fourth quarter operating results, including solid revenue and segment profit growth at its national lifestyle television networks, television station group and interactive media businesses, Shopzilla and uSwitch.

Fourth quarter income from continuing operations was $132 million, or 80 cents per share, compared with $98.8 million, or 60 cents per share, during the same period a year earlier.

The company sold the Shop At Home television network in June and announced in September that it had reached an agreement to sell its five Shop At Home- affiliated broadcast television stations. The company closed on the sale of three of the stations in December and will complete the sale of the remaining two by June 2007.

The company's net income for the fourth quarter of 2006 was $134 million, or 81 cents a share, compared with a net loss of $603,000 during the fourth quarter of 2005. The net loss in 2005 was attributable to the write-down of goodwill at Shop At Home.

The strong political advertising revenue drove broadcast television segment profit up 64 percent to $49.1 million.

At Scripps Interactive Media, which includes online comparison shopping services Shopzilla and uSwitch, segment profit for the fourth quarter was $28.3 million on revenue of $86.6 million. On a pro forma basis, as if the company had owned uSwitch during the fourth quarter 2005, Scripps Interactive Media revenue was up 21 percent.

YouTube to share revenue with users

Google is planning to share advertising revenues on its YouTube video sharing site with the individuals who submit the films.

Chad Hurley, the co-founder of YouTube who sold the site to Google for $1.65bn last year, said the system would be introduced within months.

Other video-sharing sites such as Revver and 3’s mobile phone service in the UK already make payments to users who post videos popular enough to generate advertising revenue. However, none can match the scale of YouTube’s audience or its online video library, indicating that it could generate far more money for users.

Verizon Tops 200K TV Subs

Verizon Communications reported 207,000 FiOS TV customers at the end of 2006, up 75% from the end of the prior quarter.

As of Dec. 31, FiOS TV was available to 2.4 million homes, and Verizon said almost one-half of the availability in the fourth quarter occurred in the last two weeks of the year. The 207,000 subscribers represent a 9% penetration rate.

By year-end 2006, Verizon had secured about 600 cable-TV franchises covering more than 7 million households. FiOS TV is offered in more than 200 cities in parts of 10 states.

Verizon's FiOS fiber-to-the-home network passed more than 6 million premises by the end of the year. The company expects to pass 18 million homes by the end of 2010.

FiOS Internet service was available to 4.8 million homes as of the end of the year. The broadband service had a penetration rate of more than 14% for the year, meaning Verizon had at least 670,000 FiOS Internet customers. By contrast, FiOS Internet had a 7% penetration at year-end 2005.

Verizon said earnings dilution from the FiOS deployment was 10 cents per share in the fourth quarter and 32 cents per share for the year. The company expects dilution from FiOS to be about 11 cents per share in the first quarter of 2007, declining in each successive quarter in 2007.

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COMPANY NEWS

Avid Q4 Conference Call

Avid Technology, Inc. will hold a conference call to review its financial results for the fourth quarter ended December 31, 2006, on Thursday, February 1, 2007, at 5:00 p.m. EST, following the dissemination of its press release on those results.

The dial-in number is: 719.457.2681. The replay number is: 719.457.0820. The confirmation code and replay passcode are: 8736424

The call will also be available via live audio Webcast and subsequent replay on the company’s Web site. To listen via this alternative, go to the Investor Relations page under the About Us menu at www.avid.com.

AT&T Posts Strong Q4

AT&T Inc. reported strong fourth-quarter earnings growth led by record subscriber gains in wireless, continued solid regional wireline growth, improved enterprise trends, and merger integration initiatives that continue to generate cost savings ahead of original targets.

AT&T's reported earnings per diluted share were $0.50, up 8.7 percent versus the year-earlier fourth quarter. Before merger-related costs, earnings per diluted share were $0.61, up 27.1 percent versus comparable adjusted results in the fourth quarter of 2005. This marked AT&T's seventh consecutive quarter of double-digit growth in adjusted earnings per share.

"Our execution continues to be solid, we closed the year strong, and AT&T has excellent momentum heading into 2007," said Edward E. Whitacre Jr., AT&T chairman and chief executive officer.

"Wireless had a standout quarter," Whitacre added. "Enterprise revenue trends continue to improve. Our regional wireline operations extended their record of revenue growth in both consumer and business. And merger integration initiatives continue to run on or ahead of our original plan.

"In addition to these operational achievements, I am very pleased to have completed our acquisition of BellSouth," Whitacre said. "BellSouth brings terrific markets, an outstanding network and talented personnel, and our outlook for the combination is stronger now than when we announced the transaction last March.

"Today, AT&T has full ownership of the nation's No.1 wireless provider along with the industry's premier assets in business services, broadband and directory," Whitacre continued. "We also have substantial opportunities to improve our cost structure as we integrate operations. I am tremendously excited about the potential we have to grow our business and deliver value to shareowners."

Cinea provides anti-piracy protection for BAFTA titles

Cinea, a subsidiary of Dolby Laboratories, has encrypted 23 films for award consideration by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) in the 2006–2007 season, using its S-View anti-piracy protection. After making available the S-View service to all of the major film studios as well as various independent film companies and UK distributors, Cinea aided in the award consideration efforts for nearly two dozen films, distributing approximately 100,000 copies to BAFTA academy members around the globe.

"Several studios chose to work with Cinea during the critical award consideration period because we provide a secure platform for ensuring that high-value film content will not be illegally distributed," said Laurence Roth, Vice President of Business Development and Marketing for Cinea. "We are pleased to provide a solution to the industry that not only prevents piracy but also facilitates award consideration efforts in a secure review environment."

Optibase Q4 Revenues Show 25% Increase

Optibase, Ltd. announced financial results for the fourth quarter and year ended December 31, 2006.

Revenues for the fourth quarter ended December 31, 2006 were $5.4 million compared with $3.8 million for the fourth quarter of 2005 and with $4.3 million for the third quarter of 2006. Net loss for the fourth quarter was $162,000 or $0.01 per basic and diluted share compared with a net loss of $3.2 million or $0.24 per basic and diluted share for the fourth quarter of 2005 and with a net loss of $589,000 or $0.04 per basic and diluted share for the third quarter of 2006. Weighted average shares outstanding used in the calculations were approximately 14 million for the fourth quarter of 2006, 13.2 million for the fourth quarter of 2005 and 13.5 million for the third quarter of 2006.

For the year ended December 31, 2006, revenues were $18 million compared with $19.3 for the year ended December 31, 2005. Net loss for the year ended December 31, 2006 was $3.1 million or $0.22 per basic and diluted share, compared with a net loss of $3.4 million, or $0.26 per basic and diluted share, for the year ended in December 31, 2005. Weighted average shares outstanding used in the calculations were approximately 14 million for the year ended December 2006 and 13.2 million for the year ended in December 31, 2005.

Danny Lustiger, CFO of Optibase, said, “We are very pleased with the progress we achieved during the fourth quarter. While 2006 was a challenging year, we saw continued progress for both Optibase and the broader IPTV market. Our IPTV business was particularly strong in the fourth quarter, having accounted for more than 40% of our quarterly sales. We entered 2007 with a healthy backlog, and while some uncertainty in the IPTV market remains, we are increasingly encouraged by the signs we see from telecom operators and service providers.”

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PRODUCT NEWS

Sony HDR-SR1 Review

This review is by David Hagueat SCRI's online strategic partner, DigitalMediaOnline.

In Sony’s new line up of AVCHD based Handycams, the HDR-SR1 is probably the model the serious video person would look at as against it’s sibling, the UX-1. The major difference between the two is media; the SR-1 uses hard disc technology for video storage as against the UX-1’s DVD.

Up to 7 hours of video can be stored utilising the AVCHD H.264 (MPEG4) compression system. Using CMOS technology instead of the more standard CCD, the image quality is excellent with vibrant colours and image depth. Technically, the “ClearVid” CMOS image sensor is 1/3” with a maximum pixel count of 2,103,000. This equates to 1434K in video mode and 1991K in still mode – equivalent to a 4 megapixel still camera. Of course, being Sony, the lens is a Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T with an 10x optical zoom. Aperture range is 1.8-2.9 and focal distance is 5.1 to 51mm. For those who routinely use Cokin or other systems, filter diameter 30mm.

Starting to trickle down from higher spec’d cameras is the facility have a focus ring acting as a multi-function device; in this case, via the focus ring, as well as obviously focus, white balance, AE shift and exposure can all be controlled. Other features are accessed by a touch panel system on the LCD including spot focus, colour slow shutter, self timer and tele-macro.

To aid when shooting, zebra patterning is built in and again this seems to be a facility appearing n more and more lower priced camcorders which can only be a good thing. The low light capability of the SR-1 is not that flash however at 5 lux.

Standard audio is captured via an onboard stereo mic, however there is an optional 5.1 capable mic also available as well as an external mic socket. And thankfully, headphone jacks are making a comeback to consumer / prosumer camcorders.

External connections from the SR-1 – A/V, component and HDMI - are on the left hand side under a slide down flap and a USB port is on the main body hidden under the flip out LCD screen. This section of the body also contains the Memory Stick socket.

In operation, the SR-1 feels balanced and all controls fall to hand quite naturally. One glaring fault that seems endemic these days is the fact that while the viewfinder tilts, it has no extension capability so if anything other than a standard battery is attached, it is all but useless. This problem is further compounded, as in addition to having the LCD open chewing more battery power, in bright sunlight the screen is all but useless.

One complaint about HDD based camcorders is that data has to extracted from the hard drive at some point, and potentially that is lots! The SR-1 has a one touch backup operation to cater for this. As a safety factor there is also what Sony call “Smart Protection” for the hard disc in case the unit is dropped.

Sadly of course, at this point there is still no serious editing package available on the market to take advantage of AVCHD imagery, but Sony assure us this is not too far down the track with Vegas purported to have this option as an upgrade shortly. Reports hint that the computing power necessary to edit AVCHD is around 7 times that of editing SD and it is not a matter of simply “plugging in” this capability.

The SR1 weighs 640g without a battery. The retail price is US $1,526.

47 HDTV Cameras at Super Bowl

CBS will use 47 different High-Definition TV cameras for its coverage of the 2007 Super Bowl, according to an article in Broadcasting & Cable magazine.

Although not everyone will watch the Feb. 4 game in high-def, the new picture technology is on the minds of game producers and network executives.

For instance, CBS has decided not to use the "CBS Eye Vision" feature this year partially because it's not available in HD. The feature offers viewers a 360-degree look at replays.

"That technology is old, but it never really matured just because of the flat-out cost," Ken Aagaard, CBS' senior VP of operations, told B&C. "The system costs over $2 million to build and $400,000-$500,000 to move."

But since the feature was not in HD, B&C says the network decided it wasn't worth it.

However, CBS will use the latest slow-motion replay technology that enables viewers to analyze a play in precise detail.

B&C also reports that CBS will use 21 wired cameras; three cabled handheld cameras; two wireless handheld cameras; one wireless Steadycam camera; two robotic goalpost cameras and even one robotic camera which will sit atop a tower at the CBS Miami affiliate station for outside shots.

"We're plastered (with cameras)," says Aagaard.

As it did during the regular season, CBS will also send a high-def transmission back to the network's broadcast center in New York that can be downconverted for standard definition viewers.

Escape Studios Launch Autodesk Flame Course

Escape Studios have announced the launch of a new in-depth Autodesk Flame course starting on 26th March 2007.

This 5 week course is designed to introduce the student to Flame and provide a solid understanding of the world's leading high-speed compositing package. Typical workflow and advanced techniques will be explored with the aim of enabling the student to capitalise on the extensive integrated toolset available.

The course will cover core principles of high-speed compositing and simultaneously expose the student to the power of best-of-breed technologies.

Currently, Escape Studios is the only institute in the world that offers such a comprehensive course in Flame.

Escape Studios' Managing Director James Huggins said: "This new course is a flagship component of our training strategy for the Autodesk systems products and as such will be followed by similar programmes for Smoke and Lustre. As far as we?re concerned the training options for these amazing tools have in recent years been somewhat hard to find. We are looking forward to supporting this area of the market with a stream of new talent off the back of these programmes."

Rohde & Schwarz Hardware Decoder For MPEG 2

Rohde & Schwarz has launched an optional hardware decoder for the R&S DVM family that decodes the video and audio signals contained in the transport stream, allowing users to quickly identify the programs and to immediately view and assess their picture quality.

The new decoder is suitable for both the SDTV and HDTV formats. In addition to MPEG-2, the instrument supports the H.264 coding standard. Signals can additionally be tested by means of the buffer analysis function to determine whether they are in accordance with the MPEG standard.

The new decoder is suitable for both the SDTV and HDTV formats. In addition to MPEG-2, the instrument supports the H.264 coding standard. Signals can additionally be tested by means of the buffer analysis function to determine whether they are in accordance with the MPEG standard.

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PEOPLE IN THE NEWS

Soren Johansen Joins ATG Broadcast As Deputy Director

ATG Broadcast has a new addition to its management team with the appointment of Soren Johansen as Deputy Director.

Soren Johansen began his career in 1968, gaining experience as an electronics engineer active in television and telecommunications.

In 1985 he was appointed Managing Director of Dansk Video-Tec, an A/V installation specialist based in Svendborg. When Danmon Group acquired the company in 1988, he was appointed Regional Manager of the Odense office and in 1997 became Sales Manager responsible for sales and marketing in Denmark.

New Management Assignments at Hearst-Argyle TV

Terry Mackin, Executive Vice President of Hearst-Argyle Television, Inc., who has headed the company's growing digital media group in addition to other duties, will assume full-time responsibility for digital media.

At the same time, Frank Biancuzzo, a former Hearst-Argyle Vice President for Marketing & Promotion who for the past five years has served as President and General Manager of WISN-TV, the Hearst-Argyle Television ABC station in Milwaukee, will return to Hearst-Argyle's New York headquarters as a Senior Vice President/Group Head. In his new role, Biancuzzo and Philip Stolz, also a Hearst-Argyle Senior Vice President/Group Head, will share management oversight of substantially all of the company's 29 television stations.

The new assignments, effective February 1, were announced by David J. Barrett, president and chief executive officer of Hearst-Argyle Television, Inc.

Biancuzzo's successor at WISN-TV is expected to be announced in the coming weeks.

Image Entertainment Appoints Chief Marketing Officer

Image Entertainment, Inc. , a leading independent licensee, producer and distributor of home entertainment programming in North America, announced that industry veteran Jeffrey Fink has joined the Company as Chief Marketing Officer.

Fink, with 20 years experience in the home entertainment industry, previously served as Senior EVP, Home Entertainment for Miramax Films, spearheading their theatrical and direct-to-video home entertainment new release strategy while overseeing a library of 600-plus titles responsible for over $600M in annual revenue. Prior to Miramax, Fink served as President of Sales and Marketing at Artisan Entertainment, with a tenure that ran nearly 10 years. During that time, Fink guided the independent’s entry into DVD and supervised the sales and marketing of new releases and Artisan’s 2000 title catalog, generating annual sales of $350M.

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RESEARCH NEWS

2007 & 2008 US Broadcast/Pro Video Product Reports

The 2007 & 2007 US Broadcast/Pro Video Product Reports are currently being published to allow equipment manufacturers time to review the data prior to NAB 2007.

This 30 volume series of Product Reports (28 Product Reports along with a Micro and Macro Industry Executive Summary) i sbased on SCRI's comprehensive annual survey among broadcast and pro video facilities purchase history and plans for twenty eight specific product types, tracking market size, trends, growth patterns, brand shares and industry trends.

Product Reports include a written category overview, analysis and future forecasts, plus quantitative summary tables and charts with annual purchases for 2006, 2007 and 2009 (units and dollars), purchase rates, ASPs ($), brand shares, and other breakouts by product type etc. All data is shown in total as well as by each of the six vertical user markets. Product Reports are available for the following 26 product categories: Camcorders; Camera Mounting Systems Type Tripods, Pedestals, Pan & Tilt, Other ; Cameras Type ENG/EFP, Studio ; Character / Logo Generators Type Stand-Alone, Plug-ins ; Clip/Still Stores Type Clip, Still ; Composite/Component Encoders/Decoders ; Digital Effects Processors Type Stand-Alone, Plug-Ins ; Editing Systems - Non-Linear ; Graphics & Effects Software (not incl. computer workstation/s) ; Graphics & Effects Workstations / Systems (not incl. software) ; Master Control Switchers Small (<10 inputs/outputs), Large (>10 inputs/outputs) ; Production/Post Switchers Small (<10 inputs/outputs), Large (>10 inputs/outputs) ; RAID Video Storage Fiber Chanel, SCSI, SAN, Other ; Routing Switchers Small (< 16 x 16), Large (= / > 32 x 32) ; Standards / Formats Convertors SC's with temporal processing, Formats Convertors, Other TBC's / Frame Synchronizers ; Telecine Equipment ; Terminal Equipment - A/D's, DAs, Proc. Amps, etc. ; Up/Down Converters ; Video Compression Encoders/Decoders/Transcoders Type MPEG-1,MPEG-2, MPEG-4, Wavelet, Other ; Video Disk Recorders Networked, Stand-alone ; Video Monitors Broadcast, Production, Presentation, Other ; Video Servers Networked,Stand-Alone ; Video Test & Measurement Waveform Montitors, Vectorscopes, SPGs, MPEG Test & Monitoring, Other ; VTRs

Contact SCRI's Research Director, Des Chaskelson (des_chas@scri.com) for more information and/or to place an order.

Online TV Revenues To Increase Tenfold

New research from Informa Telecoms & Media shows that legitimate online TV and video services will generate revenues of US$6.3 billion in 2012, almost ten times the 2006 figure.

Advertising will consistently outperform a la carte and subscription-based download services in terms of revenue generation and North America will be the largest revenue-generating region, accounting for 65% of the 2012 global total.

Informa's Online TV and Video: Beyond User-Generated Content report has found that the trend towards online TV and video is symptomatic of wider cultural changes. A new 'breed' of consumers has emerged who find it difficult to align themselves with the passive model of traditional linear TV.

Simon Dyson, co-author of the report said "the TV business has already acknowledged some of the changes and is pushing concepts such as on-demand and digital video recorders. The rise of online TV and video is another step that tips the balance of power towards the consumer."

While the Internet has long been considered a technology of the future for film and TV executives, it is now having a measurable impact on traditional sectors, indicating that its time has come. Digital media is changing the consumption of TV from an 'on-the-couch' to a 'watch anywhere' activity. Content has become interactive rather than passive, with the emergence of 'citizen media' concepts, such as blogs and social networks.

According to Adam Thomas, Media Research Manager at Informa, "these trends are now so pronounced, that the term 'social revolution' no longer seems too much of an exaggeration. With social change occurring on such a large scale, traditional media companies are being forced to change their behaviour and business models to adapt their offering to consumer demand. The challenge for the TV industry is to monetise this massive interest in online content."

The biggest negative for broadcasters and content suppliers is the potential for online TV and video to hurt their existing business models. To date its harmful impact has been limited and there are examples of a beneficial affect, with CBS and NBC both reporting improved TV ratings for programmes showcased online. The report has found that content companies actively co-operating with the leading online TV and video services (YouTube, Google Video, iTunes Video, MovieLink, Amazon Unbox, AOL UnCut, Yahoo! Video, CinemaNow, etc) are best-placed to avoid the internet's potentially harmful effects.

YouTube Users Watching Less TV, More Online Video

Few vehicles are as effective at reaching large segments of the population as television, a fact that has established it as the favored medium for advertisers in many product categories. For as long as that has been the case, however, TV networks and advertisers have been fearful of emerging competitors and technologies that threaten their route into consumers' minds. From the remote control to the Digital Video Recorder (DVR), there have long been predictions that live TV and its embedded advertisements were going to be adversely affected by consumers' ability to bypass commercials. More recently, a different kind of threat has emerged from YouTube, the Internet's response to one-stop digital video viewing.

Recent research by Harris Interactive(R) suggests that this fear may indeed be warranted. Over four in 10 (42%) online U.S. adults say they have watched a video at YouTube, and 14 percent say they visit the site frequently. Almost one in three (32%) of these frequent YouTube users say they are watching less TV as a result of the time they spend there. However, YouTube has its own set of challenges as it tries to monetize the viewer traffic it has amassed. If YouTube is considering airing ads before its videos, they may be advised to halt that thinking; 73 percent of frequent YouTube users say they would visit the site less if it started including short video ads before every clip.

These are just some of the results of a recent Harris Poll of 2,309 U.S. adults (ages 18 and older), of whom 363 are frequent YouTube viewers, conducted online by Harris Interactive between December 12 and 18, 2006.

Of all frequent YouTube users, two-thirds (66%) claim they are sacrificing other activities when on YouTube. Although their visits to the site are most likely to have been at the expense of visiting other websites (36%), time spent watching TV is next most likely to have taken a hit (32%). YouTube also cuts into email and other online social networking (20%), work/homework (19%), playing video games (15%), watching DVD(s) (12%) and even spending time with friends and family in person (12%).

Further compounding the problem for the TV and advertising, YouTube usage is greatest among the group already hardest to reach through television advertising: young males. Over three-quarters (76%) of 18 to 24 year old males say they have watched a video at YouTube, and 41 percent visit YouTube frequently.

"We know from some of our other data on teens that YouTube is just as popular with them as it is with young adults," says Aongus Burke, Senior Research Manager of Harris Interactive's Media & Entertainment Practice. "It has really emerged as a major force in, and problem for, the traditional entertainment industry. Not only is YouTube using a lot of their own content to steal the eyeballs they want the most, the site has provided a launching pad to wholly new forms of user-generated video entertainment that are gaining popularity quickly."

However, YouTube faces challenges of its own as it tries to cash in on the house that it has built. When asked if the inclusion of short commercials before every clip would change how often they will visit YouTube, nearly three-quarters of adults who frequently visit the site say they would visit it a lot (31%) or a little (42%) less often as a result.

"To be fair," says Burke, "as far as we know, YouTube has never publicly said that they are considering including short commercials before the clips on their site. However, we wanted to see how much resistance there would be at that extreme. Apparently, there is a lot."

Indeed, in the last year, TV networks have successfully experimented with airing of TV episodes with commercials on their websites. Nearly as many online adults (41%) say they have watched a video at a TV network website as they have at YouTube (42%). It seems like TV networks can get away with advertising more easily.

"Indeed, we have seen in previous data," says Burke, "that consumers as a rule are not averse to watching commercials online in order to catch an episode of a TV show they would otherwise miss. Yet those who are accustomed to finding and watching everything for free at YouTube may have developed a very different set of expectations for the site."

Mobile Internet use increases in UK

Mobile phone users in the UK accessed the Internet via their handsets approximately 16 million times throughout December 2006, reports the Mobile Data Association.

The association's report shows an increase of one million unique sessions over November 2006, the prior record. However, much of the recent increase could be a result of seasonal gift-giving, according to Thomas Husson, a mobile analyst at Jupiter Research.

In the last three months of 2006, mobile users accessed the web 45.6 million times. Despite the new numbers, Thomas Husson, mobile analyst, said mobile data was "far from being mainstream". He added that an increase in data use should be expected over the next year resulting from a larger installed base of Internet-capable mobile phones, better user experiences, user education, and new consumer-friendly price points

Survey: 2.5M to Buy Super Bowl HDTVs

The National Retail Federation says 2.5 million Americans plan to buy a High-Definition TV to watch the Super Bowl on February 4.

The group says 1.7 million consumers said they planned to buy a high-def set prior to last year's Super Bowl. This year's survey was conducted by BIGresearch.

"The interest in this year's Super Bowl is higher than in many other years so retailers have an opportunity to win big sales of electronics, team apparel, and food," said Phil Rist, BIGresearch's vice president.

Rist also notes that consumers this year are aware that high-def prices have fallen sharply over the last year.

"As the price of flat-screen televisions continues to decrease, they are becoming more affordable for average consumers, which is contributing to an increase in TV sales," he said.

However, some analysts said last week that retailers are not expected to offer significant discounts on high-def sets before the game. Most CE stores believe that they have already dropped prices enough.

Europe looks to telecom providers and ISPs for IPTV

Consumers would choose traditional telecom providers and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) over portal/content providers to supply their IPTV (Internet Protocol Television) service, according to European research commissioned by Juniper Networks. The research suggests that consumers’ primary concerns focus upon the quality, reliability and security of broadband connections.

Survey respondents, all consumers in the U.K., France and Germany between 18 and 65+ years of age, opted for established telecoms brands over other potential IPTV providers, because they perceive this will deliver the best quality of service.

Juniper’s research also suggests that IPTV adoption will be increasingly defined by consumer demands for highly-personalised services, enabling users to build their own schedules and packages built around on-demand content. As a result, ‘traditional’ providers in the U.K., France and Germany may have only a small window of opportunity to establish services and secure IPTV subscribers before competition hots up

African broadband should reach 7m by 2011

The number of broadband connections, both fixed and wireless, is expected to reach over seven million by 2011 with DSL subscribers making up 3,7-million over the forecast period according to African ICT market research and analysis firm BMI-TechKnowledge.

Stephane Tchies, telecoms research analyst and co-author of the report, says that the African continent is slowly moving to the uptake of broadband services from a business and consumer perspective.

"In North Africa we are seeing a healthy uptake of services with Morocco reporting 350 000 ADSL subscribers and Egypt 150 000 while the rest of the continent broadband is starting to gain traction."

According to the report, currently 76 per cent of internet connections across Africa are dial-up, 17 per cent are xDSL, 4 per cent cellular (including GPRS, Edge and 3G/HSDPA) and 2% fixed wireless broadband, including various CDMA variants and early WiMAX implementations. This split will change significantly in future, in favour of wireless technologies, although ADSL will remain dominant, especially in North Africa.

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