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

w/e May 29, 2007 SCRI International, Inc © 1984 - 2007

INDEX

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

TECHNOLOGY NEWS

Telecoms to invest more in IPTV

Telecoms operators looking to replace dwindling revenues from voice calls are set to invest more in Internet TV this year, raising total spending on wired infrastructure by 1.6 percent to $41 billion, iSuppli forecast.

The market research firm reported global spending on telecoms equipment would reach a temporary peak this year but the 1.6-percent forecast rise looked anaemic in comparison with increases of 10.7 percent in 2006 and 8.3 percent in 2005.

Of the $41 billion, iSuppli estimates telcos will spend $9 billion on IPTV-related equipment, increasing investments in their core networks to provide the bandwidth and service necessary to support Internet TV.

ISuppli forecasts the number of IPTV subscribers worldwide will surge to 105.8 million by 2011 from 3.4 million in 2006. By 2011, IPTV budgets will rise to account for 20 percent of telcos' total capital spending, iSuppli predicts.

ISuppli said North America and Europe, with the fastest establishment of IPTV services, would be the main beneficiaries of increased carrier expenditure.

In developing nations, carriers would also increase spending as they aimed to make more money from data, iSuppli said, wihle in Japan spending would decline as deployment of fibre to the home slows.

AT&T Expects to Invest $ billions in IPTV

AT&T Inc. expects targeted advertising related to its video and wireless services to become a billion dollar business in three years, accroding to a recent Reuters report.

AT&T's combination of being the largest U.S. broadband Internet provider, a wireless carrier and its U-Verse video service delivered over broadband networks provides it with a unique opportunity to sell advertising, said John Stankey, AT&T's president for operations support.

"We really expect over the next three years that we are going to be able to put this into something significant to contribute to the bottom line," Stankey said at the Reuters Global Technology, Media and Telecoms Summit in New York.

AT&T, the top U.S. phone company, plans to spend between $6 billion and $6.5 billion to build out the infrastructure for U-Verse, which started rolling out last year over high-speed fiber-optic networks.

The company has said it expects the service, which is built on top of Microsoft's IPTV platform, to be made available to 18 million homes in 13 U.S. states by the end of 2008.

Europe's IPTV market to double in 2007

Subscriptions to IPTV services across Europe will rise to 5.6 million in 2007 from 2.9 million last year, with subscription revenue rising to more than 1 billion euros ($1.33 billion) from 470 million euros, according to Screen Digest.

Almost 1 million of the new customers will be in France. Digital terrestrial TV (DTT) is one of the main driving forces of IPTV uptake in France, the UK and Spain, with ten IPTV services using hybrid DTT/IPTV boxes in the three markets.

Such services are popular because they allow customers to access the DTT channels for free, and give them the option to take pay-TV and video on demand.

BT in the UK and France's Darty, which is owned by electrical goods retailer Kesa Electricals are two operators using this model, with Italy's state broadcaster Rai testing it.

The top five IPTV operators in Europe -- France Telecom's Orange, Spain's Telefonica, France's Free Telecom, Neuf Telecom and Italy's Fastweb -- accounted for 60 percent of the total IPTV market in the five countries France, Spain, Italy, Germany and the UK at the end of 2006.

The UK will experience the biggest IPTV growth in 2007, with Screen Digest forecasting that subscriber numbers will grow from 80,000 to 300,000 by the end of this year.

WiMAX broadband technology taking off

WiMAX (also known as 4G, or "fourth generation") is a wireless Internet broadband technology similar to Wi-Fi, but with a much greater range. While Wi-Fi access points have a range of about 100 feet, WiMAX base stations can cover an area roughly the same as existing cellular networks, making it relatively easy to blanket an entire metropolitan area with just one provider.

However, unlike Wi-Fi, WiMAX networks require dedicated, licensed wireless spectrum to use -- in the expensive 2.5GHz band. Many operators are willing to pay for this spectrum as it is available now, while the international standard bodies are dragging their feet in offering more high-bandwidth wireless spectrum.

The wireless operator most bullish on WiMAX's potential is Sprint. The company says it will spend $1 billion this year alone, and another $2 billion next year, to build a WiMAX network in 19 cities by April 2008, covering more than 100 million people. It plans to test mobile WiMAX networks in Chicago and the Baltimore/Washington, D.C., area by the end of the year.

Virtually every wireless network infrastructure provider is actively producing equipment for these new services. Samsung, Nortel, Alcatel, Nokia and Motorola are all involved in deploying the technology on a global scale.

With this on the horizon, content producers are already planning to create more sophisticated fare. MobiTV, a producer of mobile video programming, in January began demonstrating high-definition-quality programming on a WiMAX demo network at the Consumer Electronics Show.

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INDUSTRY NEWS

AOL -- Mobile ads could grow to $5 bln in 5 years

The market for advertising on cell phones could grow to $5 billion in five years, with marketers already clamoring for entry into the emerging outlet, AOL CEO Randy Falco told the Reuters Global Technology, Media and Telecoms Summit in New York.

AOL, the Internet division of Time Warner Inc., said earlier this week it had purchased privately held mobile advertising company Third Screen Media, in an effort to capitalize on growing interest in cell phone advertising.

"I think mobile is one of the great growth opportunities, along with global that we have," AOL CEO Randy Falco stated.

Falco cited industry estimates that target revenue from mobile advertising increasing ten-fold in five years from an estimated $500 million to $900 million currently. Falco noted that these were not AOL estimates, but said they were not "crazy" predictions.

"It will certainly be in the $4.5 to $5 billion range in terms of the marketplace," he said. "I think you need to be there. That's money that's coming from some place. It's coming from other media."

DVRs dent US advertising market

US TV broadcasters are struggling to persuade advertisers to pay up for commercial slots in the coming autumn season amid confusion over exactly how many viewers actually watch the adverts reports Reuters.

This year's "upfronts" were dominated by how DVRs and the Internet are undermining the value of prime television ad slots. Industry watchers predict advertisers will spend less money during the upfront season again this year, the third year of decline. Last spring, just below $9bn was spent securing slots for the autumn television season, with many advertisers deciding to wait until nearer the time.

An estimated 17 per cent of American households now have DVRs.

DirecTV Q1 Profit less than Expected

DirecTV Group Inc. posted a smaller-than-expected 43 percent rise in first-quarter profit, on rising costs that underscored concerns about growth in the satellite television market in the face of tough competition from cable and phone companies.

Chief Executive Chase Carey said the company would have to do better at controlling costs, which spiked in the quarter due to service and equipment costs related to customers upgrading their services.

"We have to and will do a better job in terms of service costs," Carey said, noting that part of the increase was due to increasing popularity of high-definition television (HDTV). DirecTV paid out $218 million for set-top box equipment to help retain and upgrade customers in the first quarter this year compared with $40 million in the year ago quarter.

"If anything we feel pretty good about the competitive marketplace," Carey said. "We had a good solid quarter highlight our ability to compete."

ECI Telecom, Motorola in broadband access agreement

Motorola, Inc. and ECI Telecom announced a new strategic relationship pairing ECI's IP DSLAM portfolio with Motorola's Fiber-to-the-Node (FTTN) and Fiber-to-the-Premises (FTTP) solutions.

With increasing consumer demand for higher-speed broadband driven by the explosive growth in bandwidth-intensive content and peer-to-peer (P2P) applications, carriers are recognizing the need for Ultra-Broadband access network solutions.

This multi-year agreement provides Motorola access to ECI's complete portfolio of carrier class access infrastructure products including Outside Plant (OSP) and Central Office (CO) IP DSLAM solutions.

The new agreement between Motorola and ECI gives Motorola the global rights to brand, market, and sell ECI's portfolio of access infrastructure solutions.

The focus of the relationship is on the OSP and IP DSLAM products. Motorola will be investing in integration of these platforms into their current Ultra-Broadband access portfolio and hence will have an exclusivity period for the North American market.

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COMPANY NEWS

Motorola buys IPTV Encoding Company, Modulus Video

Motorola Inc. said it will buy Modulus Video Inc., a privately held video encoding company, for an undisclosed amount.

Modulus Video does encoding that enables the delivery of video content in the IPTV, cable, broadcast and satellite marketplace. Modulus Video has partnered with Motorola for more than two years.

Motorola said the purchase will complement its recent acquisitions of Broadbus, Kreatel, Tut Systems and Netopia.

Microsoft buys AQuantive for Web Video Share

Microsoft Corp.'s $6 billion deal to buy Internet marketing firm aQuantive Inc. is an effort to capture a bigger role in the nascent Web video market and increases pressure on competitors to make acquisitions of their own, according to a recent Reuters report.

AQuantive will likely have fetched the largest price in a wave of online ad consolidation, but as many as eight more deals could come down the pike for smaller, niche ad plays, with a range of $300 million to $500 million, Reuters reported.

Disney in Mobile Deals with Sprint-Nextel and Verizon

Walt Disney Co. announced mobile deals with Sprint-Nextel and Verizon. One makes Disney-ABC Television Group content available to Sprint-Nextel Corp. subscribers, and the other sees ESPN, with Verizon Communications, reviving a branded mobile service whose first iteration was axed late last year.

The ABC move marks the first large-scale mobile programming effort by a major broadcast network. Previously, only full-length episodes of CBS' just-canceled "Jericho" were offered on Sprint phones, with Verizon presenting only short clips and a live option and with shows only available at specific times.

The Sprint partnership will make full-length episodes of ABC primetime series including "Desperate Housewives," "Grey's Anatomy," "Lost" and "Ugly Betty" and such ABC News programs as "Good Morning America," "World News With Charles Gibson," "Nightline" and "This Week With George Stephanopoulos" available on the carrier on an on-demand basis as well as on ABC Mobile, a new linear channel that, for now, will only be available on Sprint.

The Disney Channel also has a linear channel on Sprint under the arrangement, and full-length episodes from the kids network including "Hannah Montana," "The Suite Life of Zack & Cody," "Cory in the House" and "Kim Possible" will soon be offered on-demand as well.

All the Disney content on Sprint is available in a package costing $20 a month, with a Disney Channel-only option for $15 per month. The on-demand shows will be available the day after their network airing, with the previous four episodes of the selected series included in the offering.

With Verizon, ESPN is relaunching its Mobile ESPN service, "retooled and rebranded" as ESPN MVP, as the company put it.

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PRODUCT NEWS

Avid iNEWS Command

Avid Technology announced the immediate availability of the Avid® iNEWS® Command system version 1.0, offering automation control over news playout devices; including video servers, still stores, and character generators. The system integrates with virtually any newsroom computer system (NRCS), allowing operators to make last minute changes within seconds of broadcast, and to trigger playout events based on rundowns from the Avid iNEWS NRCS or any other MOS-enabled newsroom playlist.

“The iNEWS Command system provides robust, on-air reliability without requiring investment in costly full station automation. The system is targeted specifically for playout operations and is the ideal solution for broadcasters that want to link together multiple on-air devices and workflows, and reduce transmission errors,” said Johnathon Howard, director of on-air product management, Avid. “Avid’s success with broadcasters over the years has been based on our track record of helping small- and large-scale organizations operate with greater flexibility and efficiency in the newsroom. Integrating iNEWS Command in a news production workflow enables broadcasters to prevent a single point of failure with a backup system that takes over automatically when one component becomes unavailable. Plus, iNEWS Command tightly synchronizes all playout devices to ensure that last minute changes are reflected accurately on air – a critical factor in the news business, where every second counts.”

Avid iNEWS Command is available now. Base pricing for the system begins at $15,000 USMSRP; a sample configuration with software for a single control workstation and two viewing workstations, and licenses four video and two graphics channels is $30,000 USMSRP. Additional video and graphics channels can be added for $1,000 to $2,000 USMSRP per channel. For more information please visit www.avid.com/avidinews.

Shotoku Robotic Head Joins with Ross Video Switchers

Shotoku Broadcast Systems announced that the company recently completed the first ever integration of their TR-8T robotic camera control panel with Ross Video’s Synergy switcher. The new configuration was engineered in response to a request from TVSN, Australia’s only home shopping channel. The channel, which broadcasts 24/7 to over 1.5 million homes, wanted to use existing joystick and controls on a Ross Synergy 3 SD switcher panel to robotically position cameras mounted on Shotoku pan and tilt heads.

Utilizing the advanced capabilities of the Ross Synergy and Shotoku systems, the combination puts both switcher and robotic camera positioning within reach of a single operator and eliminates a separately located robotic camera control panel. This milestone integration increases operator productivity and was important to TVSN because they produce over 220 hours of live programming a month. The reconfiguration saves control room space and is highly suited to suites with limited space.

Shotoku and Ross Video engineers worked closely together to design the interface between usually considered separate systems. The integration was fast-tracked, tested for reliability and expressed to TVSN to meet a tightly scheduled installation in a newly upgraded studio. Integrating robotic controls into production switchers maximizes system availability and usability while minimizing cost.

During programming, the Shotoku TR-8T control systems will be used by operators to position the Shotoku TG-18 pan and tilt heads. Using a touch screen interface that rapidly identifies and recalls programmed shots, the TR-8T provides an intuitive user interface and smooth operation during high-pressure situations. During less hectic programming periods, such as overnights, a single operator covering vision switching and camera positioning can easily produce high quality programming from a single control position.

Killer Apps for 3G?

Mobile operators around the globe are busy rolling out 3G services and upgrades but despite the billions of dollars spent on new networks and marketing, operators are still struggling to find the new features customers cannot live without that will finally make 3G pay.

Analysts say many operators have neglected the development of content and services that their customers want in their headlong pursuit of new technology. Meanwhile users are still mostly just using their phones to make voice calls and send text messages.

As well as the video and music downloads they hope will attract younger users, operators are looking at new features such as video conferencing and localised mobile search services that work with the GPS navigators now fitted in many high-end phones.

Operators in developed Asian markets have been quicker to roll out 3G than their counterparts in Europe and the United States.

More than 74 percent of Japan's 97 million-plus subscribers were signed up for 3G services at the end of April. South Korea also expects a boost in 3G users as the leading operators launch upgraded 3G networks this year.

And operators everywhere are shifting from voice-centric 2G services to 3G at a growing pace.

According to the Global mobile Suppliers Association, the number of subscribers to W-CDMA networks, the 3G upgrade of the most popular GSM standard, is nearly 100 million worldwide after growing by more than 4 million a month on average in 2006.

Top handset makers are in a race to offer low-priced 3G phones equipped with a range of functions such as high-speed connectivity and video calls.

LG Electronics Inc.'s low-cost 3G phones and latest devices Hewlett-Packard Co. unveiled in China are among the examples.

LG Elec to halt some plasma output

LG Electronics said it is to halt production at the smallest of its three plasma panel lines before the end of next month, Reuters reports. The world's No. 2 maker of plasma panels said in a statement it was considering several strategic options to "efficiently adjust the plasma display business." It did not elaborate, but said details of the new strategy could come within several months.

Dismal plasma display panel (PDP) screen results wiped out booming mobile phone earnings at LG, which posted a January-March net loss of 122.6 billion won. Its display division, which makes plasma panels, flat-screen TVs and monitors, posted an operating loss margin of 16 percent.

Plasma screens, which once dominated the 40-inch-and-larger TV market with cheaper price tags and technical advantages, have been pummelled in a price war with liquid crystal display (LCD) screens backed by larger production lines and economies of scale.

Some analysts fear plasma makers are now on the verge of becoming niche market players. In March, while denying rumours it was pulling out of the plasma market, Dutch electronics giant Philips said that over time LCD would "become the dominant flat panel TV technology".

LG's CEO said last month the company may have to withdraw from some areas, although he played down talk about a possible sell-off or shutdown of the plasma display operation.

LG's move stands in contrast to Samsung SDI, which on Monday told Reuters it was hoping to turn to a profit in the fourth quarter, helped by growing demand. Samsung SDI expected the average retail price of plasma TVs to fall 20-30 percent this year, although slower than last year's 35 percent drop.

Analysts say plasma makers have no clear strategy but to wait for the industry standard to move to the 50-inch-and-bigger category, where PDPs are expected to remain cheaper than LCDs for the next 2-3 years.

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PEOPLE IN THE NEWS

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RESEARCH NEWS

SCRI RESEARCH NEWS

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