Insider Reporter


Insider Report

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

w/e November 1, 2009 SCRI International, Inc © 1984 - 2009

INDEX

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

TECHNOLOGY NEWS

Strong IPTV growth forecast for Verizon, AT&T in Q3

AT&T and Verizon are expected to post double-digit IPTV subscriber growth in their respective third quarter releases, according to Strategy Analytics. The firm estimates that Verizon’s FiOS TV customer base will grow 12 per cent in the quarter, exceeding 2.8 million total subscribers. Meanwhile, AT&T is expected to add over 250,000 new U-verse subs, implying a 17 per cent sequential growth rate.

A report by Strategy Analytics shows US IPTV growing to 15.5 million subscribers by 2013. This growth, however, will hinge upon the ability of Telcos to articulate the value of IPTV: "Telcos need to go beyond trying to simply replicate the cable experience," said Ben Piper, analyst and Director of the Strategy Analytics Multiplay Market Dynamics service. "Content does matter, but so do features. Operators able to optimise relevant feature sets for customers will ultimately succeed."

The total US Telco TV market, estimated at 4.6 million subscribers in Q3’09, will near 5.3 million subscribers by year-end, according to Strategy Analytics.

FCC Releases DTV Converter Box Test Results

The FCC has tested a total of 136 DTV converter boxes to determine their compliance with the NTIA performance standard, their ability to reject interference from other channels and their sensitivity. The testing also examined several operational issues, including the ability to handle a variety of ATSC standard format and daylight saving time changes.

Steven Martin from the FCC Laboratory presented the test results during a Friday morning session at the IEEE Broadcast Technology Society Symposium in Alexandria, Va. last week. If you’re interested in the results of the testing, download the 202 page report – DTV Converter Box Test Program – Results and Lessons Learned.

Mobile TV viewing patterns below expectations

According to In-Stat VP Frank Dickson, "the consumption of mobile TV was very, very similar to the consumption of regular TV," says the author of In-Stat's 2009 report, “Analog Mobile TV: The World's Most Widely Available Option for Mobile TV.” "People said mobile TV had to be in 10-, 15-minute increments. We're not seeing that."

Dickson's not the only one noticing this. "People argued that no one would watch long-form content on [the handset's] small screen," says Shelly Palmer, TV business critic and theme composer. "Conventional wisdom is, the smaller the screen, the shorter the sweet spot. But what you see is contrary to that. You see people with their heads bent [watching mobile TV] for 45 minutes, an hour."

Since launching its PrimeTime2Go service, Mobile video solutions company QuickPlay Media has a front-row seat to mobile TV viewing habits and has made some surprising observations.

"Viewing happens," reports QuickPlay sales and marketing VP Mark Hyland. What's interesting is the places where they view it. We expect people would watch on planes and during their commute, but people are also watching at work and at home — even in the living room where there's another screen. Even in bed, he says.

SMPTE to FOcus on Extending 1080i & 720P & DC

Extending the reach of 1080i and 720p transmissions to the local news level and the rapidly developing realm of 3D for films—and soon television—as well as addressing audio hiccups and content security in the digital age, are among the key issues on tap at the Annual Tech Conference & Expo of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers.

The three-day SMPTE meeting in Los Angeles, Oct. 27-29, assumes its yearly challenge of assembling engineers from two different, but ultimately interrelated, industries under the same roof (in this case, the Hollywood Renaissance Hotel)—industries whose technological ties have been drawn somewhat closer lately with the migration to digital technology. Conference sponsors include Sony, Warner Bros., Real-D 3D, Photo Research Inc., Mann Theatres, For-A, AZCAR and CBS.

Peter Symes, SMPTE's director of standards and practices, said the inherent differences between the film world and television is not what it was a few years ago. "It's becoming much less of an issue," he said. "There will always be differences in both media, but now you have 'digital cinema' and almost any production now destined at some point for cinema release will be ordained for [digital] television as well, or mobile phones and certainly other distribution modes. The whole focus now is on how to create [content] in a way that's suitable, that's deliverable, for many media venues."

Symes believes engineers in both industries "have come to realize that you've got to get rid of that conceptual barrier [between] broadcast and cinema. So for our conference, there will be a few things that might be of interest to film or to television people—but a vast majority of the conference program this year we think is really relevant to everybody."

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INDUSTRY NEWS

IABM Reports Market Decline

The IABM’s study takes into account actual results of selected vendors through June 2009 and adds projections through the end of 2009. It then provides an overall market forecast through to 2012 The study found that the overall broadcast technology market declined 9.5% in 2009.

There was some discrepancy between the numbers and the overall 9.5% decline for the total market. Vendors wanted to know how it’s possible that the report shows a (\mere 9.5% drop in the overall market when so many companies have seen such significant revenue drops.

According to Joe Zaller, there is much anecdotal evidence that the broadcast technology market is down much more than 9.5% for 2009. "As I posted previously (on Twitter), during IBC 2009, many vendors told me that their revenues were down by 20-40%. "

According to Zaller, here are some other interesting things / highlights of this report:

* The total market size is pegged at $25BN, with $16BN (63%) coming from product revenue, and $9BN (37%) coming from service revenue. Service revenue includes Rental/hire, transmission, managed services, systems integration, support contracts and consultancy.

* This means that service providers such as playout centers and others are counted as part of the market size. This is consistent with previous IABM reports, but perhaps not with the way most vendors count their revenues. Indeed, to a typical vendor a playout / service provider is a customer.

* Service revenues in Europe are now higher than product revenues, and (IMO) will likely continue to increase worldwide as broadcasters move to more outsourcing in order to shift cost from Capex to Opex.

* By 2012, the market size will be back to where it was at its peak in 2008

$3.3 Billion in Political Ad Spending Predicted

Political ad spending could buck a trend this year and rise 11 percent on the power of hot-button issues. Most TV stations have expected fourth-quarter political ad spending to be down from last year’s traditional windfall from a presidential election. Wells Fargo analysts say spending in the segment could $3.3 billion this year, up 11 percent from last year when many media outlets benefited from Barack Obama’s presidential race with John McCain. Broadcasters are expected to reap $2.1 billion of the total.

“In 2010, a non-presidential year, we will see the election of 37 governors, 38 senators, and every member of the House of Representatives, as well as substantial debate on hot-topic issues such as health care and taxes. Although 2010 political advertising expenditures are not predicted to reach the record level of 2006--$3.4 billion--we still expect it to be significant,” Wells Fargo researchers wrote in an update on political ad spending.

Issue advertising alone could approach $1 billion, given the fight over health care, immigration and tax reform. State ballot measures are also expected to play a key role, particularly in California. Television broadcasters with the largest exposure to California political ad spending include CBS, ABC and Entravision.

Local stations are expected to take $2 billion, or 61 percent of the total; networks, $50 million, or 2 percent. Cable TV will take $150 million--around 5 percent, for a total of 67 percent across all of TV.

Media General Reports Q3 Loss

Media General’s 18 TV stations generated $63.4 million in the third quarter, down around 20 percent from $79.4 million a year ago and just down a tick from $64.7 million in the second quarter. Retransmission revenues reached $4.2 million, compared to $1 million last year.

Media General doesn’t provide profit-loss figures for the broadcast segment any longer, having reorganized its structure into geographic regions instead of operational divisions. Consolidated revenues from the print, broadcast and online properties were $158 million compared to nearly $193 million a year ago.

MEG chief Marshall Morton said the revenue slide was slowing. “The 18 percent decline in total revenues in the third quarter represents a sequential improvement from the 20 percent decrease in the second quarter of 2009,” he said. “The improvement is made more notable when we consider that last year’s third quarter included $12.5 million in Olympics revenues as well as $6 million more in political revenues. Nonetheless, the advertising environment in the third quarter remained challenging, and we experienced lower classified, local and national revenues overall.”

“As we enter the fourth quarter, we are seeing signs of strengthening in advertiser spending,” Morton said. “While we do not expect to fully replace the $23.4 million of political revenues we generated in last year’s fourth quarter, we believe that local and national advertiser spending patterns are firming somewhat, especially on the broadcast side. September produced the smallest revenue decline we’ve seen all year, down 12 percent.”

Verizon Q3 profits fall

Verizon Communications reported revenue of $27.3 billion for the third quarter of 2009, up 10.2 per cent from a year earlier, but up only 0.6 per cent if revenue from the January acquisition of competitor AllTel is taken out.

Verizon's net income for the quarter was $2.9 billion, down from $3.2 billion in the third quarter of 2008.

Gains in the quarter were largely driven by growth in mobile customers and subscribers for Verizon's Fios fiber-based broadband and television service. Verizon CEO and Chairman Ivan Seidenberg cited free cash-flow growth that is 16 per cent higher in 2009 than in 2008 as a highlight of the quarter. Verizon added 191,000 FiOS television customers in the quarter, bringing its customer base to 2.7 million.

Disney Warns of Changing Bus. Models

Bob Iger, the Walt Disney chief executive, has warned Hollywood the film business is "changing right before our eyes" and studios must re-examine their business models.

Iger told the FT "The business model that underpins the movie business is changing. If we don’t adapt to the change there won’t be a business." He advocates a thorough re-examination of costs associated with marketing and producing movies. The solution, he said, required "research and development, risk-taking . . . real focus on changing the status quo".

Disney plans to soon unveil Keychest, a new technology that will allow digital copies of films to be stored remotely and then viewed and moved across platforms, such as smartphones, or games consoles such as Microsoft’s Xbox.

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COMPANY NEWS

Avid Q3 Revenue Down, Losses up

Avid reported revenues of $153.7 million for the three-month period ended September 30, 2009, compared to $217.1 million for the same period in 2008. The GAAP net loss for the quarter was $16.2 million, or $.43 per share, compared to a GAAP net loss of $66.4 million, or $1.80 per share, in the third quarter of 2008. The third quarter 2008 results included a non-cash impairment charge of $51.3 million or $1.39 per share.

“We continue to execute on a number of strategic initiatives to improve the overall health and efficiency of our operations,” said Gary Greenfield, Avid’s chairman and CEO. “The third quarter showed sequential improvement in revenue and expanded gross margins, resulting in another quarter of improving results.”

Revenues for the nine-month period ended September 30, 2009 were $455.9 million, compared to revenues of $638.2 million for the same period in 2008. GAAP net loss for the first nine months of 2009 was $49.4 million, or $1.33 per share, compared to GAAP net loss of $97.9 million, or $2.59 per share, for the same period in 2008. GAAP net loss for the nine-month period ended September 30, 2009 included $39.1 million of amortization, stock-based compensation, restructuring charges, loss on asset sales and related tax adjustments. Excluding these items, the non-GAAP net loss per share was $.28 for the nine-month period ended September 30, 2009. GAAP net loss for the nine-month period ended September 30, 2008 included $82.0 million of amortization, stock-based compensation, restructuring charges, impairment charges and related tax adjustments. Excluding these items, the non-GAAP net loss per share was $.42 for the first nine months of 2008.

The company’s cash balance on September 30, 2009 was $103.0 million, or approximately $2.76 per share. The company paid out approximately $4.9 million in cash in the third quarter related to restructuring activities.

Avid also announced that its Audit Committee is overseeing an investigation concerning the manner in which revenue was recognized on certain shipments of Audio products near the end of previous quarters from certain warehouses outside the United States. Based on the current progress of the investigation, Avid believes that there have been errors that affected the timing but not the amount of revenue recognized, and that correction of the errors likely will not have a material impact on its financial statements for the current or any prior period. This investigation was only recently commenced. Avid's expectations concerning the nature and materiality of these or any other errors are subject to change based on the final outcome of the investigation.

Grass Valley Sale Is Taking Longer Than Expected

French media technology and services company Thomson SA's (TMS.FR) sale of its Grass Valley unit is taking longer than initially expected due to tough market conditions, its chief financial officer said Thursday.

"The market environment is challenging," Stephane Rougeot said in a conference call with analysts.

Thomson is still talking with several interested parties about the disposal of the broadcast and TV equipment unit and the group hopes to sign the sale in the second half of the year, the group said.

In July, Thomson's Chief Executive Frederic Rose said the group planned to complete a sale by September of this year.

The company is also in the process of selling advertising unit PRN, and cinema advertising unit Screenvision, for which talks are in the final stages.

EVS Reports Revenue & Profits Down

EVS released their results for Q209 and first half of the year. Like many companies, they are feeling the impact of the weak economy and their financial results show this. Here’s how their latest results compare to Q208 (which of course was when purchasing for the Beijing Olympics and US election were underway).

  • Revenue: -45.8%
  • Operating profit: -62.5%
  • EBIT margin 44.3% versus 64% a year ago
  • EMEA: -49.2%
  • Americas: -27.2%
  • Asia: -61.9%

    Dolby Labs a Buyout Candidate?

    Yes, according to Vincent Fernando reporting on Markets, Features, Mergers And Acquisitions, Deals

    According to him, Dolby has been blowing our minds since 1965 and is one of the best known brands for sound technology. While the economic downturn may have stagnated the company's earnings growth, this brand isn't going anywhere because it is:

    A) Extremely well established as a leader.
    B) Essentially debt free.
    C) Sitting on half a billion dollars of cash. These days, when growing a new line of business is harder than ever, Dolby presents an interesting alternative for an electronics company looking to put money to work. Thing is, would Ray Dolby ever sell his controlling stake? Maybe for the right price.

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    PRODUCT NEWS

    New Sony XDCAM Models

    Sony is adding two more models to its EXCAM line, a shoulder-mount and a handheld camcorder.

    The shoulder-mount PMW-350 (left) uses three 2/3-inch Exmor CMOS sensors with 1920x1080 resolution for full HD imaging. Sensitivity is F12. The camcorder also features DVCAM recording via the CBK-DV01 option and is studio-configurable, with timecode I/O, genlock in, and HD-SDI and HDMI out. It consumes 15 watts, enabling single-battery operation. The PMW-350 will come in a body-only configuration and one with a Fujinon lens. Both will become available in January.

    SonyPMW-EX1RThe PMW-EX1R handheld (right) is the successor to the PMW-EX1, Sony’s first memory-based pro camcorder rolled out two years ago. The PMW-EX1R new features requested by users, including DVCAM recording, an HDMI output, a higher-resolution viewfinder, and one-push Auto Iris. The hand grip has been improved, and slow/quick mode operation is by a single click. It has an image-inversion option and picture cache recording of up to 15 seconds.

    Sony is launching two new media options along with the new camcorders. The 32 GB SxS-1 memory card will feature 800 Mbps data transfers and a five-year, daily-use lifespan. The MEAD-MS01 adaptor for use with Sony’s Memory Stick Pro HG Duo HX Series media will come in capacities from 4GB upwards. It was developed for use as an emergency card for production or as a cost-conscious option for entry-level videographers. Sony’s current and new XDCAM EX models will be compatible with the SxS-1 and the MEAD-MS01 through a software upgrade available in early 2010.

    In addition, a new mobile storage unit, the PXU-MS240, will be able to transfer data from SxS PRO memory cards to the unit for back-up or off-load of video clips. The unit stores up to 240 GB of content on a removable hard disk drive. It’s slated to become available this month

    Sony's "The New Economics of HD" Online Expo

    Thursday, November 19, 2009; 0:00 AM EST - 7:00 PM EST "The New Economics of HD" Online Expo will Feature:

  • Virtual Convention Center with Staffed Product Booths
  • Technology Demos
  • Networking Lounge and Group Chats
  • Product Tutorials
  • Resources - Downloadable Articles, White Papers, Presentations and More

    Quantel to release RED Rocket support

    Quantel has just released a new version of software for its eQ, iQ and Pablo systems which, among a number of other useful new features, also includes support for the RED Rocket accelerator board. RED Rocket only became available in August, and Quantel is the first manufacturer to release software that supports it, allowing Quantel users to benefit from the much reduced loading and conform times RED Rocket enables with RED-originated material.

    "The fact that we have brought the benefits of the RED Rocket to Quantel users in such a short timescale is just another example of how focused Quantel is on its customers' needs and the fantastic speed with which our engineers are able to react to new technologies," said Steve Owen, Quantel Director of Marketing. "If it matters to our customers, then it matters to us!"

    Thomson teams with Live for airline TV

    Thomson has signed a long-term contract with LiveTV for the development of a live TV broadcast system for aircraft. Based on Thomson’s pioneering IPTV-based satellite television distribution technology, the solution enables the transformation of satellite content into video-over-IP content for distribution and viewing on individual seat back screens. Thus, Thomson’s system enables LiveTV to offer hundreds of channels in digital quality, as well as providing features such as electronic program guide. Additionally, the system allows for insertion of live channels generated within the plane, such as navigation information.

    This partnership has been proven with Continental Airlines, to which LiveTV is currently supplying DIRECTV services via Thomson’s technology.

    Magic Mouse from Apple

    Apple introduced the new wireless Magic Mouse, the first mouse to use Apple’s revolutionary Multi-Touch technology. Pioneered on iPhone, iPod touch and Mac notebook trackpads, Multi-Touch allows customers to navigate using intuitive finger gestures. Instead of mechanical buttons, scroll wheels or scroll balls, the entire top of the Magic Mouse is a seamless Multi-Touch surface. Magic Mouse comes standard with the new iMac® and will be available as a Mac accessory at just $69.

    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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