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Insider Report

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

w/e January 14, 2007 SCRI International, Inc © 1984 - 2004

INDEX

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

TECHNOLOGY NEWS

Sony readies for IPTV

Sony Corp said it would now enable most of its new televisions, including HD, to play video from the Internet. Talking at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, it said the drive to converge Internet and other digital video with traditional devices was key for its four strategic growth areas: video gaming, digital imaging, high definition and mobile products.

Starting earlyin 07, Sony will equip its TVs with an attachable module that can stream broadband high-definition and other Internet video content such as programmes with the push of a remote control button. Sony also introduced an icon-based user interface, called Xross Media Bar, that is similar to a system already found on its PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Portable gaming devices.

Microsoft IPTV Plans at CES

In his traditional opening address of CES, Microsoft chair Bill Gates unveiled that in 07 the Xbox 360 will double as an IPTV STB. Alongside he detailed programming deals with the likes of Nickelodeon, Showtime and Starz Networks with its Vongo pay movie service.

These agreements could foreshadow a shift by TV networks to use the web as a way to distribute their programming to TV, a potential danger for other distributors like cable and satellite.

Gates also unveiled a new product in conjunction with HP which lets people store all their data on a central device and access from any number of Windows-connected products. The Windows Home Server is a storage system that can hold more than one terabyte of data.

He also confirmed that next year would see his last keynote speech at CES as he steps down as head of Microsoft.

Consumer Electronics Revenue to exceed $155 billion in 2007

Factory gate sales of consumer electronics are projected to exceed $155 billion in 2007, or seven per cent growth, according to the industry forecast by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA). "The consumer electronics industry has outdone itself once again, with revenues totalling $145 billion in 2006, and we're on track for another year of healthy growth," said CEA President and CEO Gary Shapiro.

Todd Thibodeaux, CEA's senior vice president of industry relations, said the display category will continue to fuel industry growth in 2007. "The TV market is setting all-time revenue records. CRT-based sets are giving way to flat panel displays. The successful ongoing transition to digital television is driving demand in this market space."

Korean IPTV

Hanaro telecom has achieved 200,000 subscriber sign-ups for its hanaTV service, a Korean TV-Portal service that enables subscribers to watch any content they want on TV at their convenience. With the target to acquire 1 million hanaTV subscribers this year, Hanaro has secured contracts with 150 domestic and foreign content providers including Walt Disney, Sony Pictures, BBC Worldwide and 20th Century Fox.

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INDUSTRY NEWS

Mobile D TV Alliance Builds Momentum Into 2007

The Mobile Digital TV Alliance announced the conclusion of a very successful initial year, citing strong membership gains in 2006, with the additions of members from prominent global companies in the broadcasting, semiconductor, manufacturing, and infrastructure markets. This is underscored by technical achievements such as the adoption of DVB-H by the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) as the first official open standard for mobile digital video broadcasting, and the Alliance’s publication of the first set of implementation guidelines.

“This has been a great year for the Mobile DTV Alliance, given that we are barely a year old,” said Yoram Solomon, president of the Mobile DTV Alliance, and Senior Director of Strategic Marketing and Industry Relations for Mobile Connectivity Solutions, Texas Instruments. “We look forward to a great 2007 as we persist in our efforts to promote the adoption of DVB-H as the standard of choice in North America. We will continue to foster cooperation and development with member companies and make a hands-on contribution to the standard that is globally a major force in the implementation of mobile digital TV.”

Bollywood piracy probe

US Chamber of Commerce is to launch a probe into counterfeiting in India's film industry and hold a global summit in bootleg capital China to highlight intellectual property rights abuses. The two nations are already on the priority watchlist of the US Trade Representative office's annual report of measures taken by countries around the world to protect intellectual property rights.

Chamber chief Thomas Donohue said the three-pronged programme of education, detection and enforcement would include "a study in India to measure the effects of piracy on Bollywood."

MediaFLO adds FOX to mobile service

MediaFLO, subsidiary of QUALCOMM, has confirmed a multi-year license agreement with Fox Mobile Entertainment and Fox Interactive Media that will bring programming from Twentieth Century Fox Television, Fox News Channel and FOX Sports Interactive to MediaFLO USA's new mobile entertainment service.

"Fox Mobile Entertainment, Fox Interactive Media and MediaFLO USA are combining to demonstrate the full potential of mobile media in what promises to be a breakthrough year in the delivery of mobile television services," said Paul Jacobs, chief executive officer, QUALCOMM.

XM Satellite Radio growth slows

XM Satellite Radio Holdings said it ended 2006 with more than 7.6 million subscribers, falling short of its target because of low retail demand. It said a year ago it had hoped to top nine million users in 2006 but eventually trimmed that estimate to 7.9 million subscribers. In the fourth quarter, XM added some 442,000 new net customers, less than half of its increase of nearly 900,000 in the same period in 2005.

"XM completed another year of significant subscriber growth, despite retail softness, and did so with continued cost controls" Hugh Panero, XM's chief executive, said.

Earlier this week, Sirius, which launched its service about one year after XM, said it ended 2006 with 6.024 million subscribers and achieved its first quarter of positive free cash flow in the fourth quarter.

Both companies are expected to introduce new retail products that could spur consumer interest. Significant subscriber gains are likely to come from partnerships with automakers, as more and more cars are manufactured with satellite radio built-in.

Rumours persist of possible merger in 07, with Sirius particularly enthusiastic.

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COMPANY NEWS

Grass Valley Reports on State of Industry

This report is part of the series reported by SCRI's & our online partner Digital Media Online. SCRI will publish a new report featuring a different company over the next several weeks.

What's the state of the broadcast industry today? We asked key broadcast product vendors the same five specific questions about their products, customers and growth areas they see for their companies and the broadcast industry in general. We now simultaineously publish the answers of all the companies that responded to our query, in hopes of giving you a good idea of the issues on the minds of broadcast equipment suppliers circa late 2006. Here is the response from Grass Valley.

1. Tell us why your biggest-selling product is so successful.
The Grass Valley product range covers the whole spectrum of digital video production, so picking a single top product is difficult.

An outstanding success for Grass Valley has been the Profile® series. It was the very first practical video server, and it has linked the Grass Valley name with excellent video servers for more than a decade. Advances pioneered by the Grass Valley Profile have included multiple I/O ports; mixed HD and SD operation and seamless multi-format outputs; SAN central storage; and wide area network interconnections.

While the Profile platform – now in its fifth generation – remains an important item in our product portfolio, the unrivalled knowledge and experience gained by our server team has allowed us to introduce radically new platforms. In 2005 we launched the K2™ Media Server, a new approach to central storage which uses IT industry standard disk arrays and network topography (Gigabit Ethernet) to deliver outstanding performance at an extremely cost-effective price point.

2. What do you hear your customers characterizing as their major problem that's solved by your products?
Nearly everyone in the production and delivery business wants to migrate to a tapeless workflow. That is why Grass Valley camcorders (Infinity), servers (Profile, M-Series™ iVDR and K2 Media Servers), routers (Trinix™ and Concerto™ Series) and modular conversion products (8900 series Kameleon™ and Gecko™) are selling so well. They can all be configured in different ways to handle a variety of formats and signal types.

The other big trend in the broadcast industry is the need for remote monitoring and system diagnostics. The Grass Valley NetCentral™ software uses the industry-standard SNMP format to allow users to monitor and even operate individual devices or entire facilities from a remote location using a PC.

In addition, the Grass Valley C2MD solution offers customers engineering and consulting expertise, system integration and a hardware/software package, as part of a comprehensive Thomson service contract that monitors a facility's equipment and initiates maintenance repairs from a remote site. This service has been quite successful in helping to operate multi-channel facilities.

3. What do you see as the next growth area for the broadcast industry?
We see the industry continuing to embrace new multi-format technologies and systems that provide flexibility and reliable performance. Broadcasters are faced with the prospect of having to deliver content to multiple platforms (TV, internet, mobile devices), so the tools they use have to support that in a cost-effective way. At Grass Valley, the ability to do this quickly and affordably is the foundation of our product design and marketing activities. HD replacement is also a key transition for the industry.

4. What's the biggest growth area for your company in particular?
The biggest potential for growth for Grass Valley, as it is for the industry as a whole, is to seize the opportunities that the digital revolution has brought about.

At one end, it allows us to create products and systems that deliver unprecedented quality, with complete HD production systems now available at unprecedented prices. At the other, it is driving new delivery platforms, so that conventional broadcast television is just one way in which audiences can enjoy media and content owners can earn revenues.

Grass Valley is already a leader in this new industry landscape, with a whole range of products from powerful and creative production and post production tools through digital format conversion and encoding right down to transmitters ready for mobile broadcasting.

This is new territory for everyone, whether they are a broadcaster moving into IPTV and mobile content, or a new entrant into the media market. All are seeking solutions from a supplier they can trust.

5. How do you view the current state of HD conversion industry-wide? Is it a done deal or do we have a ways to go, and what's your company doing to assist in that switch?
Everyone agrees that HD is the way to go: it looks great, and audiences love it. The migration is well under way in North America, and HD is now on air in Europe as well as Australia and the Far East.

It remains a continuing migration, though. Traditionally it has been seen as extremely expensive, demanding a heavy investment in kit which comes with a premium price tag. That perception is now changing through manufacturers like Grass Valley who are breaking down the barriers through more affordable equipment and simple migration strategies.

For all the key equipment in a broadcast facility, Grass Valley now offers products which are either multi-format or can be field upgraded from SD to HD when the time comes. New products like the Infinity camcorder can be switched from SD to HD between shots, yet come with a better price/performance tag than preceding, SD only equipment from other manufacturers. Grass Valley production switchers allow SD and HD content to be freely mixed, so new content and archive material can be used in the same production without complications and without tying up external resources.

These are just a couple of examples of the way that Grass Valley is supporting broadcasters as they migrate from analogue to SD digital to HD.

Crown Castle live mobile TV beta service

Crown Castle has cofirmed that its subsidiary, Modeo, has launched a live, commercial quality mobile TV beta service in New York City after more than three years of development. The Modeo service includes live video content from leading network programmers such as Fox News, Discovery Channel and others, as well as streaming audio content from Music Choice, to Modeo Mobile TV Smartphones.

Initial distribution of the Modeo Mobile TV Smartphones to beta programme participants began in the last week of 2006 and will continue throughout the first quarter of 2007.

Chyron & REZN8 Partner Up

Chyron Corporation announced that Emmy-Award winning REZN8, one of Hollywood’s leading premier digital design companies, is partnering with Chyron as part of a major television network re-branding project.

REZN8, a leader in the design and development of Graphical User Interfaces (GUI), company branding and real-time viewer experiences, boasts an impressive client list including Fox Sports, ABC News, CBS News, CBS Sports and Hallmark, to name but a few. The application development group at REZN8, in conjunction with its design teams, will use Chyron HyperX graphics systems with Lyric PRO advanced creation software, to develop applications that are designed to have compelling impact on the ease and the efficiency of creation of HD design graphics used in high-profile sports programs.

This relationship is set to be long-term, with future on-going and in-depth developments being anticipated as the partnership progresses. The results will not only be milestones in the way that broadcast graphics have historically been created – allowing REZN8 to facilitate and export external, 3-dimensional projects into the Chyron environment – but they will also enable the production of stunning graphics in a dynamic, playout environment in a significantly more cost-effective manner . The objective is to both drive down production costs and to simplify ease-of-use and the graphic production process thereby maximizing the economic benefits and utility for the Chyron user.

Google buys into China media site

Google has invested in Xunlei Networking Technologies, a Chinese multimedia site. Xunlei says it has 120m users who download about 50m files daily from its site, which features a range of video, music, mobile phone ringtone and other content. By comparison YouTube has 70m unique users a month who download 100m videos a day.

China-based venture capital firm Ceyuan Ventures and Fidelity Asia Ventures, an arm of US funds group Fidelity, will also buy stakes in Xunlei. IDG Venture Capital, part of International Data Group, and Morningside Ventures are to increase their existing stakes in Xunlei.

As is common with China’s main portals and peer-to-peer (P2P) websites, Xunlei’s site is cluttered with pop culture content targeted at young people.

Like YouTube, Xunlei has a mainstream as well as some amateur video content. Pictures and video clips range from Asian-style anime to soft-core pornography clips, which can be accessed with Xunlei download software.

Google’s main rival in the country is Baidu.com, which controls well over half the country’s search market, or around three times Google’s share, according to recent industry estimates. China’s web population is around 132m and growing, making it the world’s second-largest.

Movistar and Endemol in a mobile TV deal

Telefonica's mobile company, Movistar, has signed an agreement with Dutch production TV company, Endemol, to launch the TV programme "Get Close to..." through its mobile phones.

Following its success in the UK with the music band The Sugababes, the Spanish version of this reality programme will follow everyday life of the Spanish singer Melendi for six weeks, 24 hours a day. Movistar clients will be able to watch the episodes for E 1 and some of the scenes will be even filmed by the singer. Contents from the programme will be also available on the Internet, www.portalmix.com

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PRODUCT NEWS

Mobile digital TV from Samsung

Samsung Electronics has developed a way to broadcast digital television signals to car screens and to devices such as DVDs, game and music players, with the aim of creating a standard for portable digital television. The company said it is not yet developing commercial products based on the technology, but plans to demonstrate it for the first time at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week.

Samsung said its portable TV technology, known as Advanced Vestigial Sideband, could potentially work on cellphones, but it is focusing initially on car TVs and dedicated media players. "We would like to expand the market by developing TVs that people could carry around with them," it said. "This is a different way to bring portable to the consumer but it's not about the cellphone."

Samsung hopes the technology will become a standard in the first half of 2007. It began its efforts to standardize the technology in December 2005 and has been working with the Advanced Television Systems Committee, which oversees standards for digital television in the United States.

Sanyo's smallest & lightest HD Camera

Packed with performance upgrades including a new 7.38-megapixel CCD image sensor that dramatically improves low-light sensitivity, the new SANYO Xacti HD2 is the world's smallest and lightest high-definition digital video camera and the highly anticipated next-generation follow-up to 2006's innovative and multi award-winning HD1 and HD1a series.

The SANYO Xacti HD2 combines the functionality of a 720p high-definition digital camcorder and 7.1-megapixel digital still camera into one ergonomic, pocket-sized device. For optimized performance, a new HDMI digital interface, built into the HD2's multifunction docking station, provides an all-digital output to HDTVs and high-definition video recorders. Featuring a unique pistol-grip and thumb-operable design, the HD2 can record up to 21 minutes of high-definition video (or up to one hour of standard-definition video) per gigabyte of available memory on any standard SD or high-capacity SDHC card (memory cards sold separately). Using a single 8-gigabyte SDHC card, HD2 users can easily and spontaneously shoot nearly three hours of high-definition video, up to eight hours of standard-definition video or thousands of 7.1- megapixel digital still images.

"The enormous worldwide demand for the high-definition HD1 series inspired and invigorated SANYO's design team to significantly raise the performance bar on the HD2," said John Lamb, Senior Marketing Manager for SANYO Fisher Company's Audio Video Division. "Increased low-light sensitivity is just one example of how the HD2 has been engineered to provide a more satisfying user experience than ever before."

Nokia N93i digital camcorder / multimedia computer

Nokia introduced the Nokia N93i, a compact digital camcorder and multimedia computer in one. Boasting a host of advanced features -- from DVD-like quality video capture to direct video uploads -- the Nokia N93i enables you to record great quality video wherever and whenever you feel inspired.

"With devices such as the Nokia N93i, we believe that video can become a similar kind of mass market phenomenon as mobile photography has become," said Satu Ehrnrooth, head of Nokia Nseries Cameras Category, Multimedia, Nokia. "

"The slim Nokia N93i is the ideal device for user-created video content, as it is a connected digital camcorder that is always with you. You can even instantly upload video clips in their original size directly from the device to online blogs or video communities. With the Nokia N93i, sharing your stories is now as easy as recording and viewing them."

NTT Super 3G

NTT DoCoMo plans to introduce an upgraded version of its third-generation service, "Super 3G", which will boost the speed of mobile data transmission to match that of fibre-optic broadband communications. DoCoMo said it expected to complete development by 2009 and have it commercially available by 2010.

Super 3G would bring the speed of data transmission up to more than 100 megabits a second for downloading and more than 50Mb/s for uploading, compared with up to 384 kilobits a second for current 3G technology, making the new network up to 260 times faster.

In November last year, following the start of number portability, DoCoMo saw its first net decline in subscribers, of 17,500. Introducing Super 3G would, says DoCoMo, allow it to offer advanced services without substantial capital spending. Unlike 4G, which DoCoMo had expected to introduce around 2010, Super 3G would not require replacing the 3G network of base stations.

40M multimedia phones sold by Nokia

Nokia said it had sold close to 40 million multimedia phones in 2006 and nearly 70 million music phones. It said the total multimedia phone market was 90 million units in 2006, and is expected to grow to 250 million units in 2008.

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PEOPLE IN THE NEWS

Scopus Video Networks appoints CEO

Scopus Video Networks announced the appointment of Dr. Yaron Simler as Chief Executive Officer. The appointment is a part of a succession plan that was announced in the company’s filings for its December 2005 IPO, and has been effective commencing January 1, 2007. Dr. Simler will continue to serve as a member of Scopus’ Board of Directors.

Dr. Simler succeeds David Mahlab, who co-founded and led Scopus through its first decade. Mr. David Mahlab has been appointed as an active Chairman of the Board. Former Chairman, Yoel Gat, will remain a member of Scopus’ Board of Directors.

Since August 2005, Dr. Simler has served as Scopus’ President. Previously he was President of Harmonic's Convergent Systems Division (CSD). Dr. Simler received his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley.

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RESEARCH NEWS

  • Broadcast / Pro Video Market Size Forecasts -- 2005, 2006, 2007

  • Broadcast / Pro Video Market & Technology Trends Report - 2005 -2006

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