Insider Reporter


Insider Report

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

w/e January 14, 2010 SCRI International, Inc © 1984 - 2009

INDEX

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

TECHNOLOGY NEWS

3-D TV Backlash Begins

According to a recent AP report, the onslaught of 3-D TVs has generated a lot of buzz in the Consumer Electronics Show this year, but the technology is generating criticism in the tech blogosphere where it is being criticized as being too costly, and sometimes even inadequate.

Bloggers have questioned whether television viewers will embrace the new technology and whether it makes sense for consumers to spend thousands of dollars retrofitting their home theatres.

Entrepreneur Mark Cuban thinks that 3-D TV viewing quality is not going to be superb as marketed by its developers. He explains that companies such as Sony, Vizio, and LG use conversion software to take 2-D to 3-D so it’s basically a “cheat”.

Eric Savitz of the Tech Trader Daily is skeptical that 3-D capable sets would take off with consumers anytime soon. After all, he wrote, do people really want to sit on their couches wearing goofy 3-D glasses?

Citing Phillip Swann, the editor of TVPredictions.com, Mr. Savitz showed a forecast of the television business in 2010 in which Mr. Swann wrote that 3-D TV is not ready for prime time at home, and that viewers who had spent a fortune in the past few years on flat screens may not want to shell out on 3-D. “People are not made of money,” he writes. “They are not going to go bankrupt just so they watch Avatar in 3-D at home.”

Other blogs slashed 3-D TV’s overpricing and lack of demand. 3-D sets could costs thousands of dollars, precluding consumers from adopting the technology. Impracticality is another snag. Consumers who buy 3-D TVs need 3-D goggles to go with them. Imagine rummaging through your stuff at home to locate your 3-D glasses.

Some find the whole 3-D TV experience distracting. Dan Costa of PC Magazine contends that watching a movie in 3-D becomes less about the plot and more about the effects 3-D creates. He says that wearing 3-D goggles once in a while for watching a movie in theater might be endurable, but having people watch Sunday games, for examples, with 3-D glasses strapped around their heads sounds like a long shot.

Mobile Digital Television Highlight at CES

As the electronics industry converged on Las Vegas to showcase the latest new product introductions, Mobile Digital Television technology is bringing home prestigious awards from the most discerning technology editors in the world.

“We are gratified that so many manufacturers and retailers understand the potential that exists to bring live, local TV programs to viewers wherever they are going. The full ecosystem was on display, showing CES attendees the real innovations developed to support a new era in over-the-air TV broadcasting”

With the collaboration of broadcasters, programmers, and technology companies, the Open Mobile Video Coalition sponsored a special TechZone at CES 2010 to highlight the Mobile DTV ecosystem. More than a dozen companies introduced more than 20 new Mobile DTV products that they plan to roll out in the coming year. Technologies on display at CES included netbooks equipped with Mobile DTV; battery-operated Portable Mobile TV Sets; Mobile DTV USB Receivers for Laptop computers; the award-winning Tivit -- a unique Wi-Fi Access Point for Mobile DTV Reception; prototype cell phones with Mobile DTV; demonstrations of Electronic Service Guides and Interactivity (Voting, Polling, Web access); and displays of transmission and test equipment for broadcasters.

Unlike current mobile TV offerings that are subscription-only and largely offer only pre-recorded shows, Mobile Digital TV from local broadcasters offers real-time coverage of local breaking news, local weather, and local emergency alerts in addition to favorite network programs shows that consumers really want to watch. With some 30 stations already on the air, broadcasters are now upgrading their transmission systems to offer a variety of Mobile DTV channels

Hundreds of broadcasters, cable and television executives, retailers, and government officials saw broadcaster innovation and collaboration for themselves in Las Vegas, with Mobile Digital TV emerging as one of the most talked-about new technologies of this year's show.

“We are gratified that so many manufacturers and retailers understand the potential that exists to bring live, local TV programs to viewers wherever they are going. The full ecosystem was on display, showing CES attendees the real innovations developed to support a new era in over-the-air TV broadcasting,” said Brandon Burgess, Chairman of the Open Mobile Video Coalition (OMVC) and Chairman and CEO of ION Media Networks.

With development partially funded by the OMVC, the “Tivit” from Valups won three awards for innovation at CES. Tivit is a small Mobile DTV receiver that beams TV signals via Wi-Fi to an iPhone, iPod Touch, BlackBerry, or laptop. The Tivit is one of several devices that will be part of the OMVC’s upcoming consumer showcase in Washington, D.C. that is designed to gauge consumer interest in Mobile Digital Television. The showcase begins in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area in the first quarter of 2010, with eight local area television stations transmitting up to 20 channels of free and premium broadcast TV programming to hundreds of mobile devices that will be used by actual viewers and local residents. The Dell Inspiron Mini 10, a new mini netbook computer, the Samsung Moment™ mobile phone, LG Mobile Digital Television and the Tivit are among the Mobile DTV-enabled devices that will be made available to showcase participants in the nation’s ninth-largest media market. Local and national programming from familiar network broadcasters will be available in the event organized by the OMVC.

EU TV channels and platforms grow despite recession

The MAVISE database, created for the DG Communication of the European Commission, shows that despite the economic crisis in 2009, the number of channels and the number of television platforms continues to grow in Europe.

More than 245 European television channels were launched in the course of 2009. The most popular genres of new channels were sport (38 new channels in 2009), followed by children (17 launches in 2009). Among these recent additions are new public channels on the DTT networks such as Ramasjang and DR K from Denmark, but also more than 150 new thematic channels on the cable, satellite and IPTV platforms, and also many local channels.

At the same time approximately 220 channels ceased transmission in 2009. This figure takes into account the demise of over 100 local Spanish channels following the closing down of the Localia network of channels, controlled by the Prisa Group. Hence, around one hundred national channels closed down in 2009.

Twenty four countries now have digital terrestrial television systems up and running while three others are in the process of launching. DTT services have been completely implemented in six European countries where switch-off of analogue terrestrial broadcasting is now complete (Germany, Denmark, Finland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Sweden). Switch-off has taken place in regions of Austria, Belgium (Flemish Community), the Czech Republic, France, Italy and the UK. Switch-off is due to take place in 2010 in Austria, Malta, Spain and Slovenia.

DTT was launched in 2009 in Latvia, Poland, Portugal and Slovakia and will be launched in Bulgaria, Ireland and Romania in 2010. Pay DTT TV services were launched in 2009 in Germany, Latvia and Spain. At the end of 2009 one can estimate that there are more than 730 channels being broadcast over European DTT networks, of these more than 300 are local and regional channels. This compares with approximately 500 in April 2009.

Digital television has also developed on the other platform types, particularly pay-DTT, IPTV and mobile television. There are still over 4000 cable operators in the 29 countries but the overall number of cable operators has dropped slightly, and the sector continues to experience consolidation (for example in Germany, Finland, Hungary and the Czech Republic).

In line with the deployment of DTT throughout Europe, the number of companies distributing pay DTT services has been increasing: the number rose from 14 at the end of 2008 to 20 at the end of 2009.

There has also been a growth in the number of satellite packagers available in Europe, an increase from 51 at the end of 2008 to 60 at the end of 2009. This also indicates high levels of competition particularly in Hungary, Poland and Romania where each country has five different satellite packagers.

The total number of operators of services for mobile networks (both TV services for mobile phones on 3G networks and mobile personal TV over DVB-H) has also increased in the last year despite the fact that DVB-H platforms have only taken off in a couple of European countries.

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INDUSTRY NEWS

Consumer electronics to grow in 2010

The consumer electronics (CE) industry will generate more than $165 billion in US shipment revenues this year, a slight increase from 2009, according to the semi-annual industry forecast released by the US Consumer Electronics Association (CEA).

"2009 is a year none of us wish to repeat and now we look forward to 2010. There is light at the end of the tunnel and it is the bright light of innovation," said CEA President and CEO Gary Shapiro. "We are seeing more innovation at this show than at any show in our history. There are a record number of new exhibitors, more than 330, among the 2,500 companies showcasing the next generation of technology."

The television market has been one of the primary revenue drivers the past several years as consumers made the transition to high-definition, flat-panel sets. Unit sales will climb to more than 37 million in 2010 but price drops will cause display revenue to decline slightly to $22 billion. Innovation in TV displays, such as 3D, Internet connectivity and OLED technology, will continue to grow and help maintain revenue in the display category. CEA projects sales of more than 4 million 3D television sets in 2010.

Online video in China

Baidu, the leading Chinese language Internet search provider, has confirmed plans to establish a new independent company to provide licensed online video to Chinese Internet users.

The new company will work closely with content providers to provide copyrighted premium video content including movies, TV series, sporting events, animation and other varied content to Internet users through an advertising supported model. Yu Gong, formerly president and chief operating officer of China Mobile's 12580 business, has been appointed chief executive officer of the new company.

Comcast, NBC deal to be reviewed by USDoJ

The US Department of Justice will join the Federal Communications Commission in reviewing Comcast's $30 billion deal to take control of General Electric's NBC Universal.

Comcast's proposed deal with General Electric for NBC Universal would hand the country's number 1 cable operator control of a major broadcast network, 26 TV stations, several cable channels and a movie studio. Many public interest groups have expressed concern over the concentration of media outlets in a single company. Comcast and NBC each also has a visible presence in online video content, a big growth area.

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COMPANY NEWS

Vudu seeking buyer?

Online video service Vudu is in acquisition talks, say US press reports, and Wal-Mart is believed to be the "likely buyer."

Founded in 2004, Vudu offers a Web-based movie and TV episode distribution service via STB. The company's service uses peer-to-peer technology to help distribute large video files. Wal-Mart failed in an attempt to launch its own media download service in 2007.

Vudu has raised a total of $21 million in funding to date, from backers including Benchmark Capital and Greylock Partners.

MGM sets deadline for bidders

MGM, the film studio burdened by about $4 billion in debt, has set a January 15th deadline for potential buyers to say whether they are interested in acquiring the company.

About a dozen parties, including film studios and investment groups, signed non-disclosure agreements allowing them to examine MGM’s finances, according to reports. MGM put itself up for sale in November. Creditors of the studio hope get at least $2 billion from a single buyer or selling assets separately.

Mindspeed Q1 Revenue on Target

Mindspeed Technologies, a supplier of semiconductor solutions for network infrastructure applications, announced preliminary results for its fiscal first quarter of 2010, which ended on January 1, 2010. The company now expects revenues in its fiscal first quarter of 2010 to be approximately $37.0 million. The company's previous guidance for fiscal first quarter revenue was to be in the range of $36.1 million to $37.5 million.

"We are very pleased with the progress in our business model as evidenced by the strong operating performance, profitability and cash generation that we expect for the fiscal first quarter of 2010. Overall, we were also pleased with the market trends and the demand dynamics in the fiscal first quarter, which met or exceeded our expectations at the beginning of the quarter. Importantly, we are currently participating in multiple, exciting growth product cycles within our multiservice access (MSA) and high-performance analog (HPA) businesses and are continuing to see strengthening, broad-based, global demand from numerous tier one customers, particularly in China,” said Raouf Halim, chief executive officer of Mindspeed.

Wegener Corp. Q1 "Dissapointing"

Wegener Corporation announced financial results for the first quarter of fiscal year 2010, ended November 27, 2009. Operating results for the first quarter of fiscal 2010 were revenues of $1.9 million and a net loss of approximately $(990,000) or $(0.08) per share compared to revenues of $2.3 million and a net loss of $(1.2) million or $(0.09) per share for the same period in fiscal 2009.

"We are disappointed by our first quarter performance and are very focused on making improvements," stated Troy Woodbury, President and CEO of Wegener Corporation. "As mentioned when we released the preliminary results for first quarter, we continued to cut costs in the first quarter and the fiscal 2010 first quarter operating results reflect approximately $247,000 in severance costs compared to $24,000 in the first quarter of fiscal 2009.

"As I have discussed previously, I have recently met or talked with a number of our key customers to ascertain what will be required to increase bookings. They have given us excellent feedback on products needed for the future and areas of improvement needed at WEGENER. I will continue to travel and meet with our customers on a regular basis and we are very focused on implementing changes that we believe will result in improved performance in the future. We have recently hired an experienced salesperson to work in the digital signage market which should continue to be a strong growth area for WEGENER.

"We are appearing before the Nasdaq Hearings Panel on January 13, 2010 to present a plan for bringing Wegener Corporation back into compliance with the Nasdaq listing requirements. I believe that our plan is reasonable and is achievable. Also, while I am not giving specific earnings guidance, I do believe the second quarter of fiscal 2010 will have improved operating results over the first quarter. I look forward to discussing all of these items on our conference call this afternoon."

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PRODUCT NEWS

Panasonic Full HD 3D Camcorder

Panasonic Corporation will release aprofessional, fully-integrated Full HD 3D camcorder in Fall 2010. The company will begin taking orders in April.

Using a standardized, fully integrated design, the Full HD 3D camcorder will be offered at a much lower price than traditional 3D rigs. Transportation expenses for this handheld unit will be less and faster setup times reduce labor costs. Using standard, re-recordable SDHC/SD Memory Cards available already everywhere, media costs become almost insignificant. Panasonic In addition to a camcorder, Panasonic also plans to offer a professional-quality 3D Full HD LCD monitor for field use as well as a professional HD digital AV mixer for live event production. Panasonic will offer professional production equipment to allow video professionals to efficiently create 3D content, so consumers can enjoy 3D video using Panasonic 3D home theater systems.

Movie companies and content producers are eager to produce more 3D content. 3D video is set to become a mainstream motion picture technology. In response to the resurgence of 3D movies, in September 2009, Panasonic proposed the world’s first 3D home theater systems, based around 3D-enabled Blu-ray Disc players and Plasma TVs (announced and exhibited at CEATEC 2008). In February 2009, the company established the Advanced Authoring Center (within Panasonic Hollywood Laboratory) – at which 3D movies are authored for replication on 3D Blu-ray Discs (announced at CES 2009). Currently, producing 3D movies is a painstaking process. Panasonic intends to promote the production of high-quality 3D video content by accelerating the development of 3D video production systems designed to boost production speed and efficiency.

Sony and All Mobile Video Team For 3D Production

Sony Electronics and All Mobile Video are combining their technology resources to build a new fully 3D-capable, cine-enabled HD video production truck. The new truck is planned to hit the road this summer and is expected to handle a range of projects, from sports to live events to entertainment. AMV will also demonstrate the new truck in Sony’s booth at NAB 2010.

The 53-foot double Expando, which will be similar in design to AMV’s current Titan unit, will feature 3Ality Digital 3D rigs using Sony HDC-1500 cameras, as well as Sony’s MVS-8000G production switcher, SRW recording decks and HD production monitors.

“The 3D landscape is exploding, with consumer demand for 3D content increasing due to recent successful motion pictures and live events,” said Eric Duke, president of All Mobile Video. “With more 3D networks and channels coming online, there’s a greater need for high-quality 3D production capabilities, making the timing perfect for unveiling this new mobile unit.”

Duke added that the new truck “is among the first of the next generation of customized 2D/3D HD capable mobile production trailers,” giving producers a more efficient way of rapidly deploying state-of-the-art services in 2D or 3D without the need for separate mobile units and crews.

“3D is the new technology requirement for live production,” said Alec Shapiro, senior vice president for sales and marketing, Sony Electronics’ Broadcast and Production Systems Division. “We’re proud to take our relationship with AMV to a new level, developing a cutting-edge platform that will provide the ultimate in image quality, performance and flexibility, while delivering the unique 3D viewing and entertainment experiences that consumers now expect.”

STMicroelectronics unveils 3D-ready STB

STMicroelectronics, a supplier of set-top-box ICs, has announced details of a new generation of decoder chips that will enable hybrid Internet/broadcast-TV STBs featured to deliver enhanced user experiences and allow consumers to experience broadcast, Internet or personal content on the TV, intuitively and at any time. The STi7108 joins ST’s successful STi710x video decoders, and also provide features to support 3D graphics user controls, 3D TV, content protection, and connections to external devices.

Thomson launches 805 HD platform

Thomson, a global provider of services to content creators, has launched its latest third generation high definition set-top box, the 805 HD platform. Available with or without a hard disk for PVR functionality, it includes embedded memory to enable over-the-top services and other functionalities including time shifting. The 805 platform can be tailored to the precise needs of each operator. Interfaces are available for DVB-T and the newer and more efficient DVB-T2 for terrestrial television, and for DVB-S and DVB-S2 for satellite broadcasting.

Microsoft Mediaroom 2.0

Microsoft has unveailed Microsoft Mediaroom 2.0 at CES 2010, the next version of the world’s most deployed IPTV platform.

Mediaroom 2.0 is scheduled to be available for operators to start testing beginning next month. Mediaroom 2.0 can be deployed by operators as their entertainment cloud powering the delivery of a complete television service, including cloud digital video recording (DVR), on-demand features, interactive applications, and access to both operator-hosted content and externally hosted content such as Internet TV. The operators’ service can be enjoyed by their subscribers on multiple screens including the TV (with Mediaroom set-top box), Windows Media Centre, Web browsers (for Windows-based PCs and Macs), Xbox 360 and compatible smartphones.

DivX launches Internet TV platform

Digital media company DivX has announced the launch of DivX TV, a comprehensive embedded Internet TV platform that provides access to a diverse line-up of online media content streamed directly to any connected device from any manufacturer.

Eliminating the need for a PC or a separate, dedicated box under the television, DivX TV represents a step forward in connected entertainment. With an user-friendly interface and a broad content line-up, the DivX TV platform is easy to implement and can be supported on virtually any kind of Internet-connected consumer electronics device. The DivX TV platform will also enable consumers to stream their own personal digital media content over a home network, and offers full playback of a variety of video formats, including all DivX videos.

Utah Scientific and Barco Join Forces

Utah Scientific announced that it has entered into an agreement with Barco to integrate Barco's high-resolution multiviewers with Utah Scientific routing switchers. The integrated systems will give operators a simple method for instantly identifying the status of multiple video sources in television and other video operations.

"Barco and Utah Scientific are two outstanding companies that for many years have provided complementary products," said Tom Harmon, president and CEO of Utah Scientific. "By leveraging the strengths of both companies, we can offer our customers an integrated, cost-effective solution packed with industry-leading features."

Jim Durant, market manager of broadcast for Barco North America, added, "Utah Scientific and Barco have a history of working together successfully on behalf of our customers. This agreement enables us to provide them with a combination of two best-of-breed, tightly integrated products: a state-of-the-art multiviewer and a top-of-the-line router."

During the first phase of the agreement, Barco and Utah Scientific engineers developed the MV-Bridge, a hardware/software solution that integrates the control systems of the Barco SMV-116 multiviewer with Utah Scientific routing switchers to ensure seamless functionality for users.

Barco's 16-channel SMV-116 is a compact high-resolution multiviewer that includes a comprehensive set of standard features, including as many as 16 auto-sensing composite, SD, and HD (3G) inputs, as well as DVI-I video inputs (up to 1080p) for displaying schedules or important computer status information.

Utah Scientific routing switchers include the full range of analog, digital, and HDTV systems with integrated high-density frame sizes from 8x8 to 1056x1056 (including the 144 frame in 9 RU, 288 frame in 16 RU, and 528 frame in 20 RU — all with 3G HD capability).

RESEARCH NEWS

3D Projections

In-Stat projects 41 million 3D displays in five years, which is 1 million more than Insight Media forecast in a report announced a month ago.

In-Stat’s consumer survey shows that while nearly two-thirds are at least somewhat interested in home 3D, the percentage increases to 76% among those who have seen a 3D movie in a theater in the past year.

“Exposure to 3D films is important to the debut of 3D TV, because consumers who have seen 3D films are more interested than the general population in being able to view 3D content at home,” says Michelle Abraham, In-Stat analyst.

But consumers are not willing to pay much of a premium on a 3D TV or 3D Blu-ray player.

Other findings in the report based on recent research by In-Stat:

  • 3D Blu-ray player shipments will track closely with 3D TVs.
  • Many Pay-TV operators will use half resolution 3D as a stepping stone and learning opportunity for full HD 3D in the future.
  • On a regional basis, North America will be the largest market.

    SCRI RESEARCH NEWS

    2009-2010 Broadcast Pro Video Marketplace Reports

    2009-2010 Broadcast Pro Video Marketplace Reports Series is now available. A total of 25 individual product reports as well as a macro industry overview and micro quantitative data analysis reports are available. Contact des_chas@scri.com for more information.

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