Insider Reporter

Insider Report

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

w/e January 18, 2009 SCRI International, Inc © 1984 - 2009


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US DTT delay

President-elect Barack Obama has asked Congress to consider delaying the deadline for the nation’s television stations to switch to digital signals.

The incoming administration fears millions of Americans will lose access to television services if a February 17 deadline is not moved because of a spike in requests for free coupons to acquire new equipment. Despite a massive public marketing and education campaign that saw logos and advertisements plastered across television, billboards and racecars, about 7.8 million US households, of 6.8 per cent, are not ready for conversion and the cap for providing subsidised STBs has been hit – applicants are now put on a wait list for unredeemed coupons.

Consumer groups are also in favour of a delay: "This economic climate is not the right time to ask consumers to dig deeper into their own pockets to pay for the miscalculation by the federal government," Consumers Union, a non-profit group said

The National Association of Broadcasters released a statement last Thursday regarding recent discussions on whether to alter the digital television transition hard date, originally set by Congress as February 17, 2009.

Commenting on the matter, NAB Executive Vice President Dennis Wharton said:

"The certainty created when Congress set the February 17 hard date for the DTV transition was a positive catalyst for broadcasters, manufacturers, retailers, public safety groups, consumers and the government.

"NAB and broadcasters nationwide are committed to being ready by February 17 and strongly support a solution that would enable the government to continue making converter box coupons available to consumers who rely on free television. We continue to urge Congress to act swiftly to ensure coupons are made available for those who need them.

"Broadcasters have been and will continue to be committed to doing everything in our power to make this transition work to ensure that viewers continue to have access to the important news and information that free, local television provides. The debate and discussion over the DTV transition only highlights the enduring value and popularity of free and local television."

In contrast, postponing the turnoff of analog TV broadcasts beyond the scheduled date, Feb. 17, could confuse consumers, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission warned

President-elect Barack Obama's transition team on Thursday asked Congress to delay the shut-off. The main reason the team cited was that the Commerce Department earlier in the week ran out of money for the coupons that subsidize the cost of the converter boxes which allow older analog TVs to receive digital signals.

In an interview at the International Consumer Electronics Show here, FCC chairman Kevin Martin said it's important to make sure that the converter box subsidy program gets back on track, but that doesn't mean delaying the analog turnoff is necessary.

"There are options they can do without having to delay to get coupons flowing immediately," Martin said. Congress could give the program additional funding, or eliminate the 90-day expiration deadline on the coupons, he said.

"I'm concerned about a delay in the sense that if you can solve that issue other ways, a delay has actually the potential to confuse consumers," said Martin, a Republican. "All of our messaging has been about Feb. 17 -- not just ours -- the industry's."

The Feb. 17 date has been widely advertised by local TV stations.

Additionally, Martin said, some broadcasters have already scheduled the engineering work necessary to take down their analog antennas so they can maximize their digital coverage.

The date of the transition and the terms of the coupon program were set by Congress. The FCC, as the broadcast regulator, has an important role in administering the transition.

Democratic FCC commissioner Jonathan Adelstein, speaking at a panel discussion at the show, said he understood the call for a delay.

"This program has been badly mismanaged. It's not ready for prime time," he said. "There are so many elements of the preparation that have not been undertaken ... We don't have program in place in the field to help people who need assistance in their homes. The phone banks are inadequately prepared."

FCC Issues Coverage Maps of all Full Power DTV Stations

The FCC has recently published a report showing the coverage maps for all full-service TV facilities, including 1,749 stations that have both an analog and DTV facility and 69 stations having only DTV facilities. The maps and data were prepared by Hammett & Edison, Inc., under contract from the FCC and analysis was conducted by the Commission's Office of Engineering and Technology. The maps show each station's digital TV coverage after the DTV transition date as compared to its analog TV coverage within each Nielson Designated Market Area. The maps are based on standard engineering techniques used by the FCC to predict coverage. One map is presented for each TV station. The report also includes nationwide maps showing coverage for the ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and PBS networks.

While the FCC stresses the importance of providing the public with this information, the data provided will clearly be valuable to stations in planning for new translators that might be required to fill gaps in DTV coverage.

The following paragraphs are extracted from the FCC report.

"This Report provides maps showing the analog and digital coverage areas for each of the 1749 full-power TV stations in the United States. We recognize the importance of providing the public with information regarding the estimated coverage of digital signals compared with their analog signals, and expect broadcasters to make this information publicly available and a part of their local DTV education efforts.

The vast majority of TV stations throughout the country will experience a significant increase in the population that can receive their signals. Some stations, however, are expected to experience some losses in the population that will be served by digital service as compared to their existing analog service.

Specifically, our analysis found that after the transition:

  • Total Viewers
  • Approximately 89% of stations (1553 stations) will experience an overall net gain in the population that can receive their signals.
  • Approximately 11% of stations (196 stations) will have an overall net loss of population served.
  • Existing Viewers
  • Approximately 11% of stations (196 stations) are predicted to experience some existing population coverage losses of 2% or more as a result of changes in their service area.

    In addition, approximately 7% of stations (123 stations) are predicted to experience some existing population coverage loss of 2% when including both losses due to changes in coverage and as a result of technical differences in their digital signal (digital cliff effect).

    Approximately 18% of stations (319 stations) are predicted to lose coverage of 2% or more of the existing population they reached with their analog signals. However, about half of these stations are predicted to have an overall net gain in population served.

    In most instances the losses result from a broadcaster's choice to modify its service area, often to reach more overall viewers or better conform to its local market. The station may have shifted its coverage, either by a change in transmitter location antenna pattern, power, or some combination of these factors.

    In 2004, when establishing the process by which stations elected their final channel for post-transition DTV operation, the Commission stated: "each DTV channel allotment was chosen to allow DTV service thereon to best match the Grade B service contour of the NTSC station with which it was paired. Although we have declined to make full signal replication mandatory, we continue to believe that most DTV broadcasters eventually will replicate their NTSC coverage with DTV service."

    Included in this Report are maps of the entire United States for each of the top four commercial networks (ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC) plus PBS to illustrate the nationwide gains and losses. Our analyses show that 58.3 percent of the viewers who are predicted to lose reception of one or more network affiliated stations can expect to be able to receive service from another station affiliated with that same network.

    The individual station maps are grouped by the 210 Nielsen Designated Market Areas (DMAs) that television stations rely on in connection with viewing patterns. These individual station maps show areas of predicted coverage gain (denoted by green dots), loss (red triangles), and areas in which there may be loss of coverage from the station in question but where the signal is available from another station that is affiliated with the same network (orange diamonds)."

    HDTV in China gaining momentum

    An IMS Research study has revealed that 46 million homes in twenty-five Chinese cities have converted from analogue to digital cable. While DTH is expected to serve the majority of HDTV households in the Asia Pacific region, cable in China is expected to be the dominant digital platform for the country by the end of 2009, passing 69 million households by that time. IMS Research forecasts that 3.2 million of these digital cable households will have the capability of viewing HDTV programming by the end of 2013

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    CBS content deal with Verizon

    Verizon Communications and CBS have reached an expanded deal to carry CBS television shows like on Verizon's FiOS TV service as well as its wireless network. The companies said Verizon has broadened and extended the rights for retransmission consent for CBS network stations as well as its affiliates, and local video-on-demand for the FiOS TV platform as well as mobile rights for Verizon Wireless' V CAST Video service.

    Muted’ CES

    The reality of the economic situation means this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, underway in Las Vegas, will be a relatively muted affair. The organisers are predicting attendance down over 10,000 on last year’s 141,000. The show's 2,700 exhibitors have taken considerably less space than last year's 3,000 exhibitors.

    Jason Oxman of the Consumer Electronics Association said "A lot of companies are asking us for meeting rooms that haven't done so in the past." Companies are looking to do business at the show."

    Open Mobile Video Coalition

    The Open Mobile Video Coalition (OMVC), an alliance of US broadcasters dedicated to accelerating the development of mobile digital television, have announced the first wave of broadcasters that have committed to launching mobile digital television (DTV) services in 2009.

    At CES broadcasters have declared their intention to launch mobile DTV across 63 stations in 22 markets, covering 35 per cent of US television households. Of the 63 stations, there will be 14 NBC affiliates, nine ABC affiliates, nine CBS affiliates, five FOX affiliates, nine ION Television affiliates, four CW affiliates and four MyNetworkTV affiliates, along with nine additional PBS stations that are in discussions with the OMVC to join the 2009 launch.

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    Intel And Adobe To Extend Flash Platform To TVs

    Adobe and Intel Corporation have announced plans to collaborate on the development to port and optimize Adobe Flash technology for the Intel Media Processor CE 3100. This effort is expected to provide consumers with richer and more seamless Web-based and video viewing experiences through advanced Intel-based cable set-top boxes, Blu-ray Disc players, digital TVs and retail connected AV devices.

    The high-definition capabilities of the Adobe Flash Platform, together with the Intel Media Processor CE 3100, the first in a new family of purpose-built Intel System on Chips (SoCs) for CE devices, creates a powerful entertainment hub capable of delivering rich Web content and Adobe Flash based applications to an array of Internet-connected CE devices. Intel and Adobe are working together to optimize both the Adobe Flash Player and Adobe Flash Lite for the CE3100. Intel plans to ship the first CE3100 with support for an optimized implementation of Adobe Flash Lite before mid-2009.

    The two companies are uniquely positioned to support consistent, rich Internet content across PCs, laptops, netbooks, mobile Internet devices (MIDs) and now the TV, extending the shared business objectives of accelerating rich video and Internet content across the full breadth of consumer devices.

    “The Intel Media Processor CE 3100 is a highly integrated solution that provides a powerful, yet flexible technology foundation that will bring to life the high-definition capabilities of Adobe Flash,” said William O. Leszinske Jr., general manager of Intel?s Digital Home Group. “Our effort with Adobe is poised to accelerate a rich, yet relevant Internet experience on the TV that will provide consumers with access to a growing number of Flash based applications that will ultimately be enjoyed across a number of screens seamlessly, from the laptop to a MID and now the TV.”

    Intel and Adobe have a long history of technical collaboration, including, most recently, being founding members of the Open Screen Project. Announced in May 2008, the Open Screen Project is designed to enable a consistent runtime environment across screens. The initiative has 20 major industry partners and is dedicated to enable Web content, standalone applications and full Web browsing across televisions, set-top boxes, mobile devices and other consumer electronics that take advantage of Adobe® AIR? and Adobe Flash capabilities.

    “The Open Screen Project is striving to remove barriers for developers and designers as they look to publish content and applications across desktops and devices,” said David Wadhwani, general manager and vice president, Platform Business Unit at Adobe. “The Intel® Media Processor CE 3100 provides a powerful platform capable of delivering outstanding Flash experiences to millions of homes as a new generation of televisions and set-top boxes makes its way into the living room.”

    Adobe and Intel are also working together to bring an optimized implementation of Adobe AIR technology to Intel's digital home platform in the future.

    TV Magic and Panasonic Offer Free Seminar

    Broadcast systems integrator TV Magic and Panasonic are partnering to present a free seminar and mini trade show focused on effective file-based high-definition (HD) workflows and systems, from acquisition through to archive. Scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 22, at the Crystal Cathedral in Crystal Grove, Calif., the daylong seminar will feature key elements of an efficient file-based HD workflow with attention to image capture, storage, editing, audio, and systems design and integration.

    "Today's solutions for file-based HD workflows enable dramatic improvements in efficiency throughout the production, delivery, and archiving of higher quality — and thus more compelling and valuable — media assets," said Stephen Milley, vice president of sales and marketing for TV Magic.

    "By working with Panasonic and other companies, we're offering individuals and organizations the chance to learn more about how they can implement the latest HD solutions to achieve more streamlined operations."

    TV Magic and Panasonic will be joined by representatives from other leading broadcast solutions providers, including 1 Beyond™, Apple®, Sennheiser, Camera Dynamics, Evertz®, Leader, Omneon®, Fujinon®, Quantum, and Rimage. Featured solutions will include Panasonic's P2 systems, Apple's Final Cut Pro® and Xsan®, and Sennheiser's mic and audio systems. Seminar attendees will have the opportunity to get hands-on experience with equipment and receive expert advice on their use and integration into new or existing facilities.

    Lionsgate steps in for TV Guide

    In a surprise last minute move, Lionsgate has stepped in to snap up TV Guide Network and its web presence after the owners had agreed to sell to TV producer Allen Shapiro and One Equity Partners. The news sees owner Macrovision Solutions Corp. selling the company for $255 million to the Hollywood studio. The sale price is essentially the same as the previous deal. In a statement Macrovision president and CEO Fred Amoroso, says: "This transaction improves the probability and the timing of closing the transaction." Amoroso continues, "Throughout our divestiture process, speed, certainty to close and the overall terms of the transaction have been important considerations for us."

    Lionsgate co-chairman and chief executive, Jon Feltheimer said "This is tremendous real estate, rarely available, that fits extremely well with our strategy of combining content creation, distribution and direct access to the consumer."

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    JVC - New Final-Cut-Pro 6-Ready Solid State Camcorders

    JVC further expands its ProHD camcorder line-up by introducing two professional solid state camcorders, the industry's first to store files in the native Quicktime format for Apple's Final Cut Pro onto reliable and inexpensive SDHC media cards.

    The compact hand-held GY-HM100 3-CCD camcorder is introduced in January 2009, while the compact shoulder GY-HM700 is scheduled for introduction in February 2009. Both camcorders record 35Mbps high definition video and uncompressed audio directly to inexpensive SDHC media cards in the native Quicktime format used by Apple Final Cut Pro.

    The growing trend in the professional video market is to record directly from camera to solid state memory, and the current leading solutions have made the workflow quite expensive for most users, relying on proprietary media and file formats. In addition, compatibility with major non-linear editing (NLE) systems requires codec converting or re-wrapping format files, a process that significantly slows down the post production process. Professional users are yearning for a simple, fast solution that allows instant editing of recorded material without file conversion, and a media cost approaching the economy of tape.

    To meet this demand, JVC has adopted the Apple QuickTime file format for Final Cut Pro. And, to keep media costs as low as possible, JVC selected the reliable yet inexpensive SDHC media card—one of the most widely-used solid state memory cards on the market today.

    More details will be released in February 2009.

    NeuLion IPTV HD TV Box

    NeuLion, provider of live and on-demand programming over the Internet, has unveiled the IPTV HD TV Box delivering high definition programming in 720p and 1080i to the television.

    NeuLion's existing IPTV HD PC browser service provides HD quality programming of live channels, sports, entertainment events and video on demand in up to a 1080i format to its Network Partners across the globe. The launch of the HD TV Box provides adaptive streaming in high definition without buffering. NeuLion now offers HD streaming services of live TV channels, live events and video on demand over the Internet directly to the television. NeuLion lets the consumer choose viewing of content on either the TV, PC or both -- all in high definition and allows the consumer to pick the device, place, time and programming.

    LG Electronics First to Unveil 'Broadband HDTVs'

    LG Electronics extended its partnership with Netflix, Inc. LG Electronics First to Unveil 'Broadband HDTVs' , as the two companies announced the first broadband-enabled HDTVs with Netflix streaming software embedded directly in the TV, requiring no external device. LG's new LCD and plasma "Broadband HDTVs" will display the growing library of movies, TV episodes and high-definition (HD) content that Netflix members can watch instantly directly on the TV with Ethernet connectivity.

    Available this spring, the new LCD and plasma HDTVs will join the LG BD300 Network Blu-ray Disc Player, the first Blu-ray disc player to stream movies instantly from Netflix. These products - and five new models of Blu-ray Disc players and home theater systems planned for 2009 - will offer consumers a variety of ways to enjoy more than 12,000 choices of movies and TV episodes instantly from Netflix. Netflix members owning one or more of the devices pay as little as $8.99 per month for unlimited instant streaming and unlimited DVDs from a catalog of more than 100,000 DVD titles in more than 200 genres.

    LG Electronics and Netflix will demonstrate these broadband HDTVs this week at the 2009 CES(R), Booth #8214, Central Hall, Las Vegas Convention Center.

    "Embedding the Netflix streaming software in the television is a natural progression of our partnership with Netflix and our innovative product line," said LG Electronics USA President Teddy Hwang. "This is an LG industry-first, which provides another flexible option for consumers seeking to access exciting content directly through their HDTV."

    "LG Electronics was first to embrace Netflix as a streaming partner a year ago, and was first in 2008 to introduce a Blu-ray disc player that streams movies from Netflix," said Netflix CEO Reed Hastings. "So it's fitting that LG is the first to introduce Netflix instant streaming directly to the TV with these next-generation HDTVs."

    Netflix began offering its instant streaming functionality on the PC in January 2007 and made the leap to the TV last year via Netflix ready devices such as the LG BD300 Blu-ray disc player. With today's announcement, Netflix will be streaming, for the first time, directly to the TV with no external device required.

    Instantly streaming content from Netflix to the LG HDTVs will rely on a broadband connection and Queue-based user interface. Netflix members will use the Netflix Web site to add movies and TV episodes to their individual instant Queues. Those choices will automatically be displayed on members' TVs and available to watch instantly through the HDTV. Once selected, movies will begin playing in as little as 30 seconds. With the accompanying remote control, Netflix members will be able to browse and make selections right on the TV screen and also have the ability to read synopses and rate movies. In addition, they will have the option of fast-forwarding and rewinding the video stream.

    "The partnership between Netflix and LG Electronics continues to give consumers more and better options for home entertainment," said Hastings.

    Thomson launches HD / DOCSIS STB

    Enabling cable operators to speed up the process of migrating to high definition programming and offer an even richer portfolio of services, Thomson announced the launch of a new HD digital set-top-box (STB) with integrated cable modem.

    The latest introduction to its 700 Series of cable STBs, the DCI704 will allow Thomson’s cable operator customers to deploy HD digital television services in tandem with high-speed Internet access across their networks. Featuring in a single box an integrated DOCSIS/EuroDOCSIS cable modem, the DCI704 gives operators the opportunity to extend their subscriber base by offering next-generation services such as video-on-demand.

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    Founders leave Sling

    A year after its sale to EchoStar the co-founders at Sling Entertainment are leaving the company. Brothers Blake and Jason Krikorian, respectively chief executive and senior vice-president of business development, and Jason Hirschhorn and Ben White, president and chief creative officer of the Sling Media Entertainment Group are all leaving immediately.

    The senior executives all agreed to stay for at least a year following the $380 million acquisition. The move follows the recent string of announements at CES including Sling DVR, and iPhone app.

    Genachowski for FCC

    Barack Obama will name his technology policy adviser Julius Genachowski as the next chairman of the FCC, says the WSJ.

    Genachowski, a former Harvard Law School classmate of Obama's, helped draft the Obama campaign's tech policy plan, which some at the time boiled down to "open government, open networks, and open markets."

    Genachowski has a range of experience in the law, business, politics, communications, and new media to draw on. He is co-founder of venture capital firm Rock Creek Ventures, a former adviser to FCC Chairman Reed Hundt, and was a senior executive from 1997 to 2005 at Barry Diller's Internet company, IAC/InterActiveCorp. He is also former law clerk to Supreme Court Justice David Souter and retired Justice William Brennan. His congressional experience includes the staff of the Joint Select Committee

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  • Broadcast/Pro Video Product Sales Top $10 billion -- read more

  • 2008 - 2009 Broadcast/Pro Video Product Reports
  • 2008-09 Broadcast/Pro Video Macro Industry Overview Report
  • 2008-09 Broadcast/Pro Video Micro Quantitative Product Data Report
  • HDTV / Digital Trends Report
  • IPTV / Mobile TV Report

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