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Insider Report

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

w/e NOVEMBER 10, 2009 SCRI International, Inc © 1984 - 2009

INDEX

Technology News | Industry News | Company News |
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TECHNOLOGY NEWS

Telco predicts 300-400 IPTV subs by year-end

US telco Otelco, based in Alabama, has revealed that it expects to reach 300 to 400 customers for its IPTV service by the end of this year, based on penetration levels to date.

The company (which also serves the states of Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri and West Virginia) added that it expects its IPTV-capable network to pass more than 5,000 homes by the end of this year. Its expansion plans for next year include adding another 2,000 homes to its IPTV footprint, reaching a total of 7,500 homes by the end of 2010.

The company already offers cable TV services to its customers, and reports that combined revenue from its pay-TV services reached US$ 614,000 for the third quarter of this year, up 2.2% year-on-year.

CES Report Proposes Broadcasters Give Up Spectrum from Broadband

A report submitted to the FCC proposes television broadcasters give up all —or alternately, a portion — of their spectrum to make way for anticipated growing demand for wireless broadband connectivity.

The report, authored by Coleman Bazelon of The Brattle Group and submitted to the commission by the Consumer Electronics Association, estimates consumer benefits from repurposing the broadcast spectrum to support ubiquitous wireless broadband availability at more than $1 trillion.

The report, “The Need for Additional Spectrum for Wireless Broadband: The Economic Benefits and Costs of Reallocations,” lays out several scenarios for clearing some or all of the spectrum devoted to full-power DTV broadcasters and low-power television channels, including compensating broadcasters for their lost over-the-air audience or alternately paying to migrate the estimated 10 million over-the-air only households to a basic pay TV services. According to the author, the report is based on two underlying assumptions: First, the vast majority of TV programming from over-the-air broadcasters is viewed via pay TV service, and second, over-the-air transmission “is becoming less economically relevant to broadcasters.”

“The fact is we need more spectrum to continue to fulfill spiraling consumer demand,” said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association, in an online press statement announcing the report’s submission. “We do have swaths of underutilized or inefficiently used spectrum.”

However, the head of the organization did not go so far as to endorse the study’s conclusions. Rather, the association presented the commission with the report as an approach to the kind of analysis the FCC should consider, he said.

Responding to the study, NAB executive VP Dennis Wharton said in an online press statement that the CEA-funded study fails to assign a value to the “immeasurable public benefit” of broadcast television, such as reliable, lifeline service during emergency circumstances.

Noting that in completing the DTV transition broadcasters returned a third of their spectrum to the government, Wharton said “as the FCC’s process to recommend a National Broadband Plan moves forward, NAB believes it is imperative that policy makers explore spectrum efficiency choices that don’t limit consumer access to the full potential of digital broadcasting.”

The NAB and Association for Maximum Service Television also filed comments with the commission offering the perspective of broadcasters on spectrum allocation for future broadband needs.

Broadband Technology Opportunities Program

The Rural Utilities Service (RUS) within the U.S. Department of Agriculture has kicked off its Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP) using funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. On July 1, 2009, the RUS released the first notice of funds availability.

This program is part of a larger initiative named the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP), a collaboration of Congress, the White House, the USDA, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the FCC. About $4 billion of program–level funding was allocated to the initial round by the RUS and NTIA. Up to $2.4 billion of the BIP money will be awarded through the first round of funding. A total estimated $7 billion to $9 billion will be allocated in the combined programs. Respondents for the money must demonstrate the ability to create jobs and stimulate economic growth. The RUS will make loans, loan guarantees and outright grants to groups looking to participate in the program.

Some additional insight into the government’s intentions:

  • Some $28 million has been applied for by all 50 states for broadband mapping and planning. Grants have already been given to Indiana, Vermont, California and North Carolina.
  • Up to $1.2 billion is earmarked for last-mile projects, those that will extend broadband outright to users who have little or no current access.
  • Up to $800 million is allocated for loans or loan and grant combinations for middle-mile projects, those intended to provide for underserved urban markets.
  • Similar to every land rush, the government received $28 billion in requests for its $4 billion. Another $3 billion to $5 billion in funding will become available in a second round.

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    INDUSTRY NEWS

    Recession-led downturn will be followed by recovery: IABM

    The latest edition of the IABM's global market study into the broadcast and electronic media product and services market reveals that the global economic crisis had a major impact on the industry in the first half of 2009. Since then there are signs that the situation is stabilising, and the size of the industry is forecast to return to 2008 levels by 2012.

    The survey of a limited number of vendors revealed that virtually all suppliers had suffered a drop in revenues in the first half of 2009 compared with the same period in 2008, with more than two-thirds reporting a contraction of 15% or more. But the forecast for the full year 2009 is for a fall of just 9.5%, suggesting some recovery is already happening. Looking forward, in general terms growth will be flat in 2010, with a gentle improvement through 2011 and 2012, by which time the market will be broadly back to 2008 revenue levels.

    The actual value of the market in 2008 was $25 billion, within 1% of the forecast figure in last year's edition of this study.

    "It is important to remember that not all of this fall is due to market contraction because of the recession," said Roger Crumpton, director of IABM. "First, the industry has a natural four year cycle and 2008 was a peak, with major events such as the Olympics, the European football championships and the US election. Taken together with major infrastructure completions like the digital switchover in the USA, it is natural that there would be weakness in 2009 anyway."

    "The other important consideration is that the report converts all global revenues to US dollars," he continued. "This is vital to enable us to compare markets and historic data, but the actual dollar denominated market is less than 50% of the total, so in a time of dramatic shifts in international currency exchange rates this can appear to distort growth rates - positive or negative."

    The dip in broadcast and media market revenues of 9.5% in 2009 almost precisely matches the global GDP fall, predicted to be 9.6% year on year. The global figures conceal regional differences. In the Americas, dominated by the advertising-driven US market, the impact will be felt more keenly, with a 12% reduction in 2009 and recovery held back by advertising revenues, expected to be 26% down in 2010 compared with their 2006 high.

    In Europe the greater importance of the largely recession-proof pay TV market will cushion the blow significantly, and rapid growth in the Middle East, an African World Cup in 2010 and a European Olympics in 2012 suggest strong prospects. The market in Asia-Pacific is complex as could be expected in such a diverse region. China is now the biggest market for this industry's technology and will have 50% of the region's market by 2012.

    Gray Television

    Gray Television, Inc. announced results from operations for the three-month period (the "third quarter") and nine-month period ended September 30, 2009 as compared to the three-month and nine-month periods ended September 30, 2008.

    "Our stations and the television broadcast industry as a whole continued to deal with the challenges of the current economic recession and increased competition from internet advertising through the nine-month period ended September 30, 2009. We remain committed to operating our stations in a manner that generates maximum revenue while minimizing operating expenses during these difficult times.

    Our results for the third quarter were positively impacted by our entry into an agreement with Young Broadcasting Inc. This agreement was effective August 10, 2009. Under its terms we will provide consulting services and receive an annual payment of $2.2 million. We expect to provide these consulting services through December 31, 2012.

    Earlier this year we renegotiated many of our cable distribution contracts, which has resulted in increased retransmission consent revenue through the nine-month period ended September 30, 2009. We continue to integrate new strategies into our stations' websites to generate revenue. We continue to experiment with new technologies such as mobile television in order to lay the ground work for new revenue streams in the future. Although our operating results are down compared to the prior year, we believe that our recent operating results compare favorably to other television broadcast companies.

    Total net revenue decreased $16.2 million, or 20%, to $66.4 million due primarily to decreased local, national and political advertising revenue and decreased production and other revenue. These decreases were partially offset by increased retransmission consent revenue and increased consulting revenue in the third quarter. Retransmission consent revenue reflects the more profitable terms of our recently renewed contracts. Consulting revenue increased to $0.3 million due to the agreement with Young Broadcasting Inc. Local and national advertising revenue decreased due to reduced spending by advertisers as a result of the current economic recession. Historically, our industry's largest advertiser category has been the automotive industry. The recession has significantly reduced the automotive industry's advertising expenditures. Our third quarter automotive advertising revenue decreased approximately 33% compared to the prior year. In addition, during the 2008 three-month period we earned a total of $3.4 million of net revenue from local and national advertisers during the broadcast of the 2008 Summer Olympics on our ten NBC stations. There are no Olympic Game broadcasts during 2009. Political advertising revenue decreased, reflecting decreased advertising from political candidates during the "off year" of the two-year political advertising cycle.

    Total net revenue decreased $39.5 million, or 17%, to $192.9 million due primarily to decreased local, national, political and internet advertising revenue, decreased network compensation revenue and decreased production and other revenue. These decreases were partially offset by increased retransmission consent revenue and consulting revenue in the 2009 nine-month period. Retransmission consent revenue reflects the more profitable terms of our recently renewed contracts.

    Consulting revenue increased to $0.3 million for the 2009 nine-month period due to a new agreement for consulting services with Young Broadcasting, Inc. Local and national advertising revenue for the 2009 nine-month period decreased due to reduced spending by advertisers in the current economic recession."

    Comcast beats Street

    Comcast Corp's quarterly profit rose a better-than-expected 22 percent, as it sold more phone and Internet subscriptions, helping to fight competition from phone and satellite companies.

    But the largest U.S. cable company, which sources have said is in talks to take control of NBC Universal, suffered from a lack of corresponding gains in revenue received from each customer, due to promotional discounting to woo or retain subscribers.

    "While third quarter unit growth showed some cause for cautious fundamental optimism, we are wary of increased competition and maturation," said Standard & Poor's Equity Research analyst Tuna Amobi, who rates Comcast shares at "strong sell."

    The Philadelphia-based company reported 361,000 new high-speed Internet customers and 375,000 new digital phone subscribers in the third quarter, offsetting the net loss of 132,000 basic video subscribers.

    On a conference call with analysts, Brian Roberts, Comcast's chief executive, addressed reports about NBC Universal talks. But he shed little light on the existence of a potential deal.

    "While we can't comment on rumors, I would like to reinforce that we only look at opportunities in our core businesses that potentially can accelerate growth, make those businesses more profitable and differentiated and give them the benefits of scale," he said on a conference call.

    According to Reuters, Comcast would inject $4 billion to $6 billion of cash and its cable networks into a joint venture with NBC Universal's parent General Electric Co (GE.N), creating a content powerhouse spanning broadcast and cable TV, movies and theme parks.

    The company's third-quarter net profit rose to $944 million, or 33 cents a share, from $771 million, or 26 cents a share, a year earlier Excluding special items, including income tax benefits and financing expenses, the profit was 28 cents a share, outpacing analysts expectations of 25 cents a share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

    Revenue rose 3 percent to $8.80 billion, just shy of analysts view of $8.85 billion.

    CBS TV Q3 Revenue Up 9%

    CBS TV revenues increased in 9 percent for the company’s third quarter ending Sept. 30. Television revenues totaled $2.27 billion compared to $2.08 billion for 3Q08. The increase was attributed to higher TV license fees and affiliate revenues, though partially offset by softer ad revenues.

    Ad sales yielded more than $1 billion for the segment--44 percent of the total and down from 51 percent of it a year ago.

    Syndication fees were $799.1 million or 35 percent of total TV revenues. Syndication brought in $585.5 million last year. This year’s total grew on the strength of first-cycle sales of “Medium,” “Criminal Minds,” “Ghost Whisperer,” “Everybody Hates Chris” and “Numb3rs”

    Affiliates contributed $335.1 million, or 15 percent, compared to $300.6 million last year. Subscription and rate-increases at Showtime and CBS Sports College Network were cited.

    TV operating income was $440.6 million versus an operating loss of $7.58 billion for the same prior-year period, which included an impairment charge of $7.94 billion to reduce the carrying value of goodwill and intangible assets.

    “Going forward, we have many reasons for optimism as we look to 2010: In the new fall season, we are not only again the No. 1 television network, we have also grown our audience year-over-year,” said Les Moonves, CBS president and CEO. “...We’ve sold five series into domestic syndication this year, and global demand for our programming continues to grow. And on the local front, pacing continues rising steadily for TV, radio and outdoor, and we expect that with our new streamlined cost structure, margins will improve significantly going forward as well.”

    Consolidated revenues for the third quarter of 2009 totaled $3.35 billion compared to $3.38 billion last year. Net earnings were $207.6 million versus a net loss of $12.46 billion last year

    Diluted earnings per share were 30 cents, in 2009 compared to a loss of $18.58 per diluted share in 2008. The Street pegged 3Q09 EPS at 22 cents.

    Results for 3Q09 included a pre-tax non-cash impairment charge of $31.7 million; the 2008 quarter included a $14.12 billion impairment.

    Free cash flow for the third quarter of 2009 was a net cash outflow of $23.6 million versus a net cash outflow of $38.1 million for the third quarter of 2008. Cash and equivalents totaled $473.8 million as of Sept. 30; long-term debt was $6.96 billion.

    In a separate announcement, CBS said it secured a $2 billion revolving credit facility, replacing one it had not drawn on that was due to expire December 2010. The new credit line will be used to support commercial paper borrowings and for general corporate purposes.

    Cablevision profit triples, shares rise

    Cablevision Systems Corp posted a higher-than-expected profit on growth in Internet subscribers and advertising and cost-cutting, and said its Madison Square Garden spin-off should be completed by year-end.

    Shares of the New York cable operator rose more than 2 percent after it said profit more than tripled to $98.9 million, or 33 cents a share. Last year it earned $30.9 million, or 11 cents per share.

    Revenue grew 5.3 percent to $1.84 billion, also beating Wall Street estimates.

    Analysts on average had been expecting profit of 26 cents a share on revenue of $1.82 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

    Cablevision Chief Executive James Dolan said the company is "moving forward" with its planned spin-off of the Madison Square Garden business, and expects to get the deal done by the end of this year.

    Layoffs Come To AETN After Lifetime Merger

    Layoffs that were expected as a result of Lifetime's integration into A&E Television Networks began last week and are expected to reduce about 100 jobs out of a combined 1,100 employees.

    Disney-ABC TV, Hearst and NBC Universal last month completed merging the programming entities into AETN, under CEO Abbe Raven. An A&E spokesman confirmed the company is making a 10% reduction in the employee base, mostly in support areas like legal, accounting finance and public relations.

    Executive staffs of both A&E and Lifetime will remain with the merged entity, including Lifetime CEO Andrea Wong, who reports to Raven; JoAnn Alfano, Lifetime executive vice president of entertainment, and vice president of distribution Lori Conkling, who will work alongside AETN vice president of distribution David Zagin, a spokesman said.

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    COMPANY NEWS

    Comcast and GE Agree on $30B for NBC

    Comcast’s bid to buy NBC Universal from GE has cleared another hurdle — the price point. The two parties have agreed to a $30 billion price tag for the TV and movie company, sources familiar with the matter tell The Wall Street Journal and Reuters.

    The deal would give the cable network a 51 percent stake in the newly combined venture. And the deal could include a stipulation that over the following seven years, GE would sell all or part of its remaining stake in the company to Comcast.

    One variable to closing this deal is French media company Vivendi, which has a 20 percent stake in NBCU. Vivendi has been talking about selling its stake for a while, but it’s not clear whether the company has agreed to the deal being negotiated between Comcast and GE.

    Comcast is expected to contribute between $4 billion and $6 billion to the venture, but the cash payment would depend on how well NBC performs financially. If NBCU’s financials get worse between the signing of the deal and final closing, Comcast could wind up paying less.

    The Journal reports that the final details are being worked out, and we could get an announcement by the end of this week. (We’ve heard that one before.) Getting the regulatory approvals is expected to take eight to 12 months.

    New Frontier Media Net Income up 22%

    New Frontier Media, Inc., a provider of transactional television and the international distribution of independent general motion picture entertainment, reported its results for the fiscal 2010 second quarter and six month period ended September 30, 2009.

    "New Frontier Media improved net income by 22% during the second quarter of fiscal year 2010 as compared to the first quarter results in the same fiscal year," said Michael Weiner, chief executive officer of New Frontier Media, Inc. "Although our second quarter net income is lower by $0.3 million as compared to the same prior year quarter, we are continuing to gain momentum with our Transactional TV segment's international distribution initiative, and our Film Production segment has identified new opportunities due to our ability to react quickly, leverage our customer relationships and fund productions with existing cash on hand, giving us a strong pipeline of large production deals."

    Mr. Weiner continued, "We had approximately $17.3 million in cash and investments as of September 30, 2009, and the Company generated cash flow from operations during the first half of the fiscal year of $2.2 million after spending $2.0 million of cash for the Film Production segment's producer-for-hire services which we expect to recover later in the current fiscal year. New Frontier Media continues to generate solid results and pursue new opportunities for growth. Overall, the Company is executing upon its long-term objectives. We are growing our distribution in a number of countries outside the U.S. using the same business model that has proven successful in the U.S., and at the same time diversifying into the distribution of mainstream content domestically. We expect these efforts will provide a stable and long-term growth path for the Company."

    Ross Video teams up with Eurocom Broadcast

    Ross Video has teamed up with Spanish supplier, Eurocom Broadcast to develop turn key projects for television and radio.

    This agreement will extend Eurocom's product portfolio, offering the Ross Vision series of production switchers, XPression 3D Generator, OverDrive Automated Production Control System, openGear and SoftMetal Video Servers.

    "This agreement will be beneficial to both Ross Video and Eurocom," said Francisco Menchen, CEO of Eurocom. "Eurocom's product offerings will be expanded to include Ross products, which in turn will expand Ross Video's presence in Europe."

    Sharon Quigley, sales manager EAIME region, said: "We were extremely impressed with Eurocom's dynamic, modern approach to doing business in the broadcast sector and we are confident that they will make a big impact on our Spanish sales."

    Google Acquires AdMob for $750 Million in Stock

    Business Insider is reporting that Google have acquired mobile advertising giant AdMob for $750 million in stock. AdMob is a mobile advertising marketplace that connects advertisers with mobile publishers. They allow advertisers to create ads, choose landing pages and target their ads with plenty of detail. Ads can be targeted to locations.

    Sprint Nextel Layoff over 2,000

    Sprint Nextel Corp. announced that the company will take actions in the fourth quarter of 2009 to reduce internal and external labor costs by at least $350 million on an annualized basis. The actions include the elimination of 2,000 to 2,500 positions within the company. The impact on geographic locations will vary, and many impacted positions will be eliminated by December 31, 2009.

    Sprint will provide severance benefits and outplacement services for impacted employees. The company expects to recognize a charge of approximately $60 million to $80 million during the fourth quarter of 2009 for severance and related costs associated with the reduction.

    Vizrt opens office in Manila

    To serve their Filipino clients , November 2nd, Vizrt opened a new office in Manila, Philippines. To start with the Vizrt office in Manila is manned with 3 new employees, in addition to personnel from existing offices who help the team with establishing and maintaining customer relations.

    The main objective of the new office is to give a boost to creative services in the region as well as strengthen Vizrt support and service on the Philippines.

    The new office in Manila is part of Vizrt's world wide strategy to establish local teams that act as creative "hotspots".

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    PRODUCT NEWS

    Panasonic Professional Broadcast and GlobeCast Join Forces

    Panasonic Professional Broadcast and IT Systems (PBITS) and GlobeCast have formalised a technology partnership to integrate Panasonic's P2 broadcast workflow and production technology with GlobeCast's Media Sharing Platforms (MSP). The agreement will result in strong compatibility between the technology, software and media asset management platforms that facilitate the seamless exchange of content among broadcast professionals.

    This global partnership will drive the development of specialised players and new interfaces between Panasonic's P2-enabled hardware and GlobeCast's software and MSP, allowing major broadcast clients to benefit from a unified technology environment. In the newsgathering field, for example, the product synergy resulting from the companies' agreement will allow P2 camcorder users in the field to ingest footage directly to a GlobeCast distribution platform at the TV studio. Continued development of this technology partnership will empower users further, with GlobeCast's MSP reading and extracting the metadata wrapped in a P2 file in order to populate an intelligent database and automatically reference the associated video content. The result will be a streamlined workflow from acquisition through worldwide distribution and archiving.

    Jaume Rey, director of Panasonic PBITS, said: "85% of broadcasters in Europe who have expressed an interest in migrating to a tapeless solution have selected Panasonic's P2 technology over other alternatives. In pursuing this partnership with a global content management company such as GlobeCast, we will continue to reinforce the value of P2 as a true IT-based solution which eliminates the need for tape and enhances the speed and efficiency of the production process."

    Christian Pinon, GlobeCast's chairman and CEO, said: "The integration of Panasonic's innovative P2 technology with the GlobeCast MSP, including NETIA's robust digital media asset management software, supports a workflow-oriented, end-to-end delivery concept tailored to the specific requirements of broadcasters and production houses. By enabling a high degree of flexibility in managing media across this workflow, our technology partnership simplifies operations, enhances access to and handling of media, and significantly speeds time to air or market."

    Adobe Debuts Photoshop.com Mobile for Android

    Adobe Systems introduced the Photoshop.com Mobile for Android™ software, extending Adobe® digital imaging technology to users of the Google Mobile™ operating system. The release comes less than a month after the launch of Photoshop.com Mobile for iPhone, which quickly established itself as one of the “Top Free” applications on the Apple mobile platform. The Android application equips consumers with quick and easy image-editing tools, color adjustments and instant photo-sharing capabilities. Photoshop.com Mobile optimizes the camera-phone experience by allowing users to browse for their photos online and on their phone, directly from the application. The application is free and available today at the Android Market.

    “Adobe is excited to extend its digital imaging capabilities to Android phone users so they can take control of their growing collections of mobile photos,” said Doug Mack, vice president and general manager of Consumer and Hosted Solutions at Adobe. “Photoshop.com Mobile is a great resource to edit, upload and share photos in a few short moments. It’s the perfect complement to the mobile phone cameras found on Android devices.”

    The Adobe Photoshop.com Mobile for Android application is available as a free download from the Android Market. More information on Photoshop.com Mobile for Android can be found at http://mobile.photoshop.com/android. The application is currently available in the U.S. and Canada only.

    Matrox Ships MXO2 LE

    Matrox® Video Products Group announced that Matrox MXO2 LE , an HDMI, SDI, and analog I/O device for the Mac, is now available from authorized dealers worldwide. Matrox MXO2 LE streamlines editing with Apple Final Cut Studio on Mac Pros and MacBook Pros. It provides all the features of an I/O card in a sturdy, portable breakout box with professional audio and video connectivity. Matrox MXO2 LE is also available with Matrox MAX technology for faster than realtime H.264 file creation using professional application such as Apple Compressor and Telestream Episode.

    “Matrox MXO2 LE is more than just an I/O device,” said Alberto Cieri, Matrox senior sales and marketing director. “Not only does it meet content creators needs for input, output, and monitoring, it also speeds up delivery to today’s digital formats. Creating Blu-ray discs and video for the web and mobile devices is much faster than ever before with Matrox MAX H.264 encoding technology.”

    “Matrox MXO2 LE is ideal for mobile journalists and freelance editors who need to take their toolboxes with them wherever they go,” said Wayne Andrews, Matrox product manager. “It’s easy to connect to towers and laptops and supports efficient workflows in any format required – in the studio, on set, and on the road.”

    Matrox MXO2 LE is priced at $995 and Matrox MXO2 LE with the MAX option is priced at $1,395 not including shipping and local taxes. Each unit comes with the customer's choice of either an ExpressCard /34 laptop adapter or a PCIe desktop adapter. Additional adapters may be purchased separately at $99 each. Matrox MXO2 LE is available now through a worldwide network of authorized dealers.

    RESEARCH NEWS

    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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