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Insider Report

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

w/e November 17, 2009 SCRI International, Inc © 1984 - 2009

INDEX

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

TECHNOLOGY NEWS

1080p HD Is Coming to YouTube

You Tube announcement:

We're excited to say that support for watching 1080p HD videos in full resolution is on its way. Starting next week, YouTube's HD mode will add support for viewing videos in 720p or 1080p, depending on the resolution of the original source, up from our maximum output of 720p today.

As resolution of consumer cameras increases, we want to make sure YouTube is the best home on the web to showcase your content. For viewers with big monitors and a fast computer, try switching to 1080p to get the most out of the fullscreen experience.

Indian Digital cable TV approved

The Indian cabinet has approved a policy that would help digitise cable TV operations across the country. Under the so-called headend-in-the-sky (HITS) policy, cable operators will have to lease transponders on a dedicated satellite, acquire TV channels from broadcasters, uplink these to the satellite, then download and beam the signals to households in digital format.

MediaFLO technology recognised by Japan's MIC

Qualcomm has revealed that Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC) has recognised MediaFLO technology as one of two official technologies for nationwide mobile multimedia broadcasting services in Japan. This milestone signifies that MediaFLO-enabled mobile TV services may be deployed in Japan once spectrum is made available in 2011.

The only other mobile broadcast technology recognised by the MIC for this purpose is ISDB-Tmm, an evolution of Japan’s digital TV (DTV) standard, ISDB-T.

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INDUSTRY NEWS

Disney profits up 18%

Entertainment congloms have posted better-than-expected numbers this earning season, and the Disney didn't disappoint, with the last of the majors reporting an 18% jump in profits over the last three months.

Disney can thank ESPN and ABC Family for much of that coin, with higher fees collected from channels that especially air the sports cabler's programming offsetting sluggish, if not outright dismal, performances at other Mouse House divisions.

That includes the film studio, where watching the latest changes unfolding there has almost become its own fulltime sport.

Despite a slight 3% increase in revenue of $1.3 billion for the studio, it lost $13 million during the period on a decrease in DVD sales and weak performers at the box office like "Surrogates" and "G-Force," the latter of which resulted in a $50 million writedown. "Up" and "The Proposal" were cited as successes.

The poor performance of its film slate this year gives Disney prexy-CEO Robert Iger even more leverage as he initiates a complete overhaul of the film biz's top executive ranks in an effort to turn around that side of the company.

Overall, Disney reported quarterly profits of $895 million, up from $760 million a year ago, on sales of nearly $9.9 billion, up 4.5%.

Revenue at Disney's theme parks fell 4% to $2.8 billion during the period, with the recession continuing to hurt attendance levels, causing profits to drop 17% to $344 million.

Theme parks rep Disney's second-largest business, accounting for 30% of its overall revenue. The company is moving forward with plans to open a new park in Shanghai and continues to retool its California Adventure park in Anaheim, Calif., to boost earnings.

Only a month after tapping former Disney Channel topper Rich Ross as chairman of Walt Disney Studios, Iger initiated a round of musical chairs: Thomas Staggs, senior exec VP and chief financial officer of the Walt Disney Co., and Jay Rasulo, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, will switch jobs at the end of the year.

Staggs has helped oversee several acquisitions for Disney, including the takeover of Capital Cities/ABC, Pixar and Marvel Entertainment. Rasulo has recently been heading up the expansion of Disney's California Adventure and the opening of Hong Kong Disneyland.

On the TV front, profits from ABC and cablers like ESPN and Disney Channel rose 26% to $1.5 billion on a 14% gain in revenue to $4.7 billion. ESPN earned $128 million more from affiliates than it did during the quarter a year ago, and the division also posted a gain from the merger of A&E Networks with Lifetime's channels.

Despite lower ratings and ad rates, Disney's broadcasting biz posted a $2 million profit, helped by domestic and international sales of ABC Studios productions like "Grey's Anatomy" and "According to Jim."

"Although last year was a difficult one due in part to the weak global economy, I'm pleased with the way our businesses have responded to the downturn," Iger said in a statement. "We've stayed focused on our long-term strategy, efficiently managed costs and continued to invest in initiatives to deliver future growth. We also have adapted our organization to respond to and take advantage of the changes taking place in our businesses and will continue to do so as we position Disney to thrive for years to come."

Liberty Global to Acquire Unitymedia

Liberty Global announced that it has entered into a share purchase agreement with Unity Media S.C.A. to acquire all of the issued and outstanding capital stock of Unitymedia GmbH, Germany’s second largest cable operator.

Unitymedia is the largest cable television operator in the German federal states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Hesse, which are among the most prosperous and densely populated regions in Germany and Europe. The cable footprint, passing approximately 8.8 million homes, covers ten of the twenty largest cities in Germany, including Cologne, Dusseldorf, and Frankfurt. At September 30, 2009, Unitymedia reported approximately 6.4 million RGUs (as defined by Unitymedia), including 4.5 million analog and digital basic cable subscribers and 1.9 million new service RGUs (digital TV Pay, retail broadband internet, wholesale MMA internet, and telephony).

Mike Fries, President and Chief Executive Officer of Liberty Global stated, "We are excited about this transaction as it complements our existing European footprint and has significant untapped growth potential in one of the fastest growing cable markets in Europe. The addition of Unitymedia not only enhances our European presence, but adds significant scale to our global operations, as our footprint, including Unitymedia, will exceed 40 million homes."

“Unitymedia fits our strategy of operating best-in-class cable systems, bringing an experienced management team, a significantly upgraded network, and a product suite that is well-positioned to deliver superior value to its customers. We expect that Unitymedia’s growth will be meaningfully accretive to the overall profile of our European business and will benefit from substantial synergies in such areas as network operations and procurement. Adjusting for the transaction, we expect that our consolidated gross leverage would remain within our 4-5 times target range. Importantly, our free cash flow and long-term debt structure should allow us to continue our strategy of buying our own stock over time. We look forward to the addition of Unitymedia and believe it will help position us to continue delivering long-term value to our shareholders."

Motorola Announced Acquisition Of BitBand

Motorola announced that is has signed a definitive agreement to acquire BitBand, which specializes in video on demand for IPTV. The terms of the deal were not disclosed. The acquisition is expected to close in Q4 2009 and is subject to customary closing conditions. Senior vice president and general manger of Broadband Home Solutions, which is part of the Motorola Home & Networks Mobility business, John Burke said, "Motorola is committed to investing in our video infrastructure solutions as our customers evolve their networks to handle the explosion in consumer demand for video. BitBand has a leading share in IPTV video on demand and a strong base in Europe that we plan to leverage as we continue growing our infrastructure business in the EMEA region.

Belo Completes $275 Million Offering

DALLAS: Belo announced it completed the its $275 million offer of senior notes due 2016. The notes were priced last week at 8 percent interest annually due in May and November as of May 15, 2010.

Net proceeds were used to pay down its credit line, which was also amended in the process, reducing Belo’s commitment to $461 million through June 2011 and around $205 million through Dec. 31, 2012.

After several days at around $4.80, shares of Belo (NYSE: BLC) moved above $5 today on a wider surge as the market reacted to strong retail data.

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COMPANY NEWS

Harmonic Q3 Down -- No Upturn expected before 2010

The following financial report is from Harmonic:

Net sales decreased in the third quarter of 2009 compared to the same period of 2008 principally due to weaker demand from our domestic cable and satellite customers. Sales of video processing products were slightly higher in the third quarter of 2009 compared to the same period in the prior year due to revenue of $6.9 million from sales of Scopus products, which was partially offset by lower spending from domestic cable and satellite customers. The decrease in sales of the edge products line in the third quarter of 2009 compared to the same period in 2008 was primarily due to a decrease in sales of our Narrowcast Services Gateway, or NSG, product, which is used for VOD, switched digital video and M-CMTS deployments, to cable operators. The service and support revenue increase in the third quarter of 2009 compared to the same period of 2008 was primarily due to increased maintenance support contract revenue as a result of a larger customer and equipment base and the timing of renewals.

Net sales decreased in the first nine months of 2009 compared to the same period of 2008 principally due to weaker demand from our domestic cable, satellite and telco customers. Sales of video processing products were lower in the first nine months of 2009 compared to the same period in the prior year due to lower spending from domestic cable and satellite customers. The decrease in sales of the edge products line in the first nine months of 2009 compared to the same period in 2008 was primarily due to a decrease in sales of our NSG product, which is used for VOD, switched digital video and M-CMTS deployments to domestic and international cable operators. The service and support revenue increase in the first nine months of 2009 compared to the same period of 2008 was primarily due to increased maintenance support contract revenue as a result of a larger customer and equipment base and the timing of renewals. Net Sales - Geographic Harmonic's domestic and international net sales in the third quarter and first nine months of 2009 compared with the corresponding periods in 2008 are presented in the table below. Also presented are the related dollar and percentage change in domestic and international net sales in the third quarter and first nine months of 2009 compared with the corresponding periods in 2008.

The decreased U.S. sales in the third quarter of 2009 compared to the corresponding period in 2008 was principally due to weaker demand from our domestic cable and satellite customers. The decreased U.S. sales in the first nine months of 2009 compared to the corresponding period in 2008 was principally due to weaker demand from our domestic cable, satellite and telco customers. International sales in the third quarter of 2009 increased compared to the corresponding period in 2008 primarily due to increased demand in all international regions and throughout our international customer segments. International sales in the first nine months of 2009 were relatively flat compared to the corresponding periods in 2008. We expect that international sales will continue to account for a significant portion of our net sales for the foreseeable future.

On March 12, 2009, Harmonic completed the acquisition of Scopus Video Networks Ltd., or Scopus, a publicly traded company based in Israel. The purchase price, net of $23.3 million of cash acquired, was $63.1 million, which was paid from existing cash balances. Scopus engages in the development and support of digital video networking products that allow network operators to transmit, process, and manage digital video content. Scopus' primary products include encoders for broadcast contribution and distribution applications, integrated receivers/decoders and intelligent video gateways. In addition, Scopus markets multiplexers, network management systems, and other ancillary technology to its customers. The acquisition of Scopus strengthens Harmonic's technology and market leadership, particularly in the broadcast contribution and distribution markets. The acquisition also extends Harmonic's diversification strategy, providing it with an expanded international sales force and global customer base, particularly in video broadcast, contribution and distribution markets, as well as complementary video processing technology and expanded research and development capability.

Adverse economic conditions in markets in which we operate and into which we sell our products have harmed and may in the future harm our business. Recently, economic conditions in the countries in which we operate and sell products have been very weak, and global financial markets have experienced a severe downturn stemming from a multitude of factors, including adverse credit conditions, slower economic activity, concerns about inflation and deflation, increased energy costs, decreased consumer confidence, rapid changes in foreign exchange rates, reduced corporate profits and capital spending, adverse business conditions and liquidity concerns and other factors.

Economic growth in the U.S. and in many other countries slowed in the fourth quarter of 2007, remained slow during 2008 and the first nine months of 2009, and is expected to continue to be slow for the remainder of 2009 and perhaps longer in the U.S. and internationally. During challenging economic times, and in tight credit markets, many customers may delay or reduce capital expenditures. This has resulted and may in the future result in reductions in sales of our products, longer sales cycles, difficulties in collection of accounts receivable, excess and obsolete inventory, gross margin deterioration, slower adoption of new technologies, increased price competition and supplier difficulties.

For example, we believe that the recent global economic slowdown caused certain customers to reduce or delay capital spending plans in the fourth quarter of 2008 and particularly in the first quarter of 2009, and we expect that these conditions could persist throughout the remainder of 2009 and beyond. In addition, during challenging economic times, we are likely to experience increased price-based competition from our competitors, which may result in our losing sales or force us to reduce the prices of our products, which could reduce our revenues and adversely affect our gross margin.

ViewCast Q3 Revenue & Profits Down

ViewCast Corporation, a developer of solutions for the transformation, management and delivery of digital media over IP and mobile networks, reported its results for the third quarter ended September 30, 2009.

Revenues for the 2009 third quarter were $3.0 million compared to $4.7 million in the third-quarter 2008. Sales were down from the prior year period due to generally soft economic conditions and, in particular, a reduction in system integration projects during the period. Gross profit was $1.9 million, or 65 percent of revenues, in the third-quarter 2009, compared to $3.3 million, or 69 percent of revenues, in third-quarter 2008. The decline in gross profit percentage was principally due to slightly lower average selling prices and a change in revenue mix with an additional 10.5 percent of revenue coming from licenses, support and professional services related to Ancept digital asset management customers.

Operating expenses for third-quarter 2009 were $2.7 million, compared to $3.0 million for third-quarter 2008. The operating loss was $743,000, compared to operating income of $300,000 for third-quarter 2008.

Net loss for third-quarter 2009 was $782,000 compared to net income of $255,000 in the third quarter of 2008. After preferred dividends, the third-quarter 2009 net loss per share applicable to the common shareholders was $(0.03) per share on a fully diluted basis comp

ViewCast President and Chief Executive Officer Dave Stoner said, "The economic downturn has caused many clients to be conservative on their expenditures, which affects our revenue and slowed our ability to close deals. But we are optimistic that this is only temporary and, starting in the fourth quarter, we will see growth start to return and a more robust sales pipeline. We are launching a series of innovative new products and have recently seen sales of our Osprey capture card product line begin to trend up. We also believe that the entire technology sector is poised for growth. Once companies we work closely with, like Cisco and IBM, start to gain traction, we will directly benefit."

Ascent Media Q3 falls short of expectations

Ascent Media Corporation reported third quarter results for the three months ended September 30, 2009. Ascent Media is a holding company that owns Ascent Media Group (“AMG”), a leading provider of fully integrated, end-to-end services for the digital media supply chain on a worldwide basis. The Company also holds significant cash reserves and maintains a strong balance sheet with virtually no debt.

“AMG's operational performance fell short of expectations in the third quarter as the business continued to be effected by the worldwide economic slowdown and softness in global advertising and media markets,” said William Fitzgerald, Chief Executive Officer of Ascent Media Corporation. “As this difficult market environment lingers, we have been keenly focused on sharply reducing capital spending and on controlling expenses and have been successful in doing so thus far this year.”

“We are beginning to see signs of stabilization in the industry, marked by increased activity in our digital media services business,” said AMG Chief Executive Officer, Jose Royo. “This quarter, AMG was awarded several new projects with leading automotive advertisers and has made inroads on several international opportunities. We also completed the successful launch of our GMX platform, which enables entertainment content providers and distributors a unique and easy way to transact on and license content. This progress further solidifies AMG’s leadership role in a high growth market as more and more entertainment content is converted from tape to file-based for distribution electronically over numerous platforms.”

Belden Q3 Down -- announces management shakeup

Belden Inc. announced a shakeup in management Thursday. John Norman, 49, resigned as chief accounting officer, effective Jan. 1, 2010, to become vice president of finance for the company’s Europe, Middle East and Africa business segment.

The company’s board of directors named Gray Benoist, 57, chief accounting officer. He will continue to also serve as senior vice president for finance and chief financial officer.

Belden lost $7.5 million in third quarter ended Sept. 27, compared with a profit of $31.5 million a year ago, due restructuring, severance and acquisition costs.

The company reported revenue of $355.2 million in the third quarter, down 32 percent from $520.5 million a year earlier.

Over the past year, Belden has laid off 1,800 workers, or 20 percent, of its work force, as it deals with a drop in demand for its transmission products.

Clayton-based Belden , led by President and Chief Executive John Stroup, designs, manufactures and markets signal transmission products for data networking and specialty electronics applications.

Orad Q3 Report Revenue UP 18%!

Orad Hi-Tec Systems Ltd., a global developer, marketer and distributor of state-of-the-art, 3D real-time graphic solutions for the broadcasting markets, announces its results for the three months and nine months ended September 30, 2009.

Third quarter highlights Q3/2009 Vs. Q2/ 2009:

  • Revenues increased by 18% to $6,651K
  • Net profits increased by 103% to $848K
  • Gross margin improved to 71%
  • Positive cash flow of $2.4Millions
  • Cash increased to the level of $16.1Million
  • Revenues increased by 18% from $5,624K in Q2/09 to $6,651K in Q3/09. Revenues in the nine months of 2009 went down by 25% to $17,865K compared to $23,876K on the first nine months of 2008. Revenues in Q3/09 were 18% lower compared to the revenues in Q3/08 which were $8,153K.
  • Net profits increased by 103% to $848K in Q3/09 compared to net profit of $418K in Q2/09 and net loss of $238K in Q1/09. Net profits in the fist nine months of 2009 were $1,028K compared to $2,646K in the first nine months of 2008. Net profits on Q3/09 were higher by 30% compared to Q3/08 which were $650K.
  • Cash, cash equivalents and restricted cash increased to the level of US$16.1million, a cash flow positive of $2.4 million during Q3/09.
  • Gross margin increased to 71% on Q3/09 compared to 70% on Q2/09 and compared to 69% on Q3/08. In the first nine months of 2009 gross margin was 70% compared to 68% during the first nine months of 2008.

    "We are proud to present the results for the third quarter of 2009”, said Avi Sharir President and CEO of Orad and continued: “During this quarter orders income increased and revenues grew. The immediate result was a much higher profitability and very strong cash flow. The strong Orders income during Q3/09 enables us to keep the back log at the same level as was in 2008 which was a record year for us. We have good reason to believe that Q4 of 2009 is going to be even better. During IBC show we presented the first version of the "Play maker", Orad's slow motion server for sports broadcasting applications. The feedbacks that we received were very good and we already booked several orders. The server is going to be an important growing engine for 2010 ".

    Chyron Issues restricted stock units to Top Management

    On November 9, 2009, the Board of Directors of Chyron Corporation , upon recommendation of the Compensation Committee of the Board, awarded 225,000 restricted stock units ("RSUs") to certain employees of the Company, including the Company's named executive officers. The RSUs were awarded under the Company's 2008 Long-Term Incentive Plan (the "Plan") and will entitle the recipient to one share of the Company's common stock for each RSU when the applicable vesting period for that RSU is met.

    The named executive officers receiving the RSUs and the number of RSUs received are as follows: Michael Wellesley-Wesley 74,336; Jerry Kieliszak 28,959; Kevin Prince 28,959; TOTAL 132,254.

    Kudelski completes takeover of OpenTV

    Digital TV company Kudelski has purchased approximately 60 per cent of the shares in OpenTV Corp it had not already owned for $1.55 a share, taking its voting rights to 91 per cent.

    In February, Kudelski had proposed buying the remainder of OpenTV's shares for $1.35 per share, but withdrew that bid in June after a special committee set up by OpenTV's board rejected it as inadequate.

    Kudelski also announced that it has commenced a subsequent offering period to acquire all of the remaining outstanding Class A shares.

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    PRODUCT NEWS

    Sony Releases Vegas Pro 9.0c With XDCAM EX MP4 File Rendering

    Sony announced Vegas(TM) Pro 9.0c software, the latest update to its nonlinear HD video and audio editing (NLE) application. Vegas Pro 9.0c software features Sony® XDCAM® EX MP4 file rendering and the ability to Smart Render MPEG-2 video across different containers for faster, more seamless editing. New audio features, including exclusive elastique Pro timestretching and Import Stereo Audio as Dual Mono, offer provide even more professional depth to this award-winning NLE. Additional support for media filmed with the RED ONE video camera streamlines file access and efficiency for editors working with footage up to 4K resolution. Vegas Pro 9.0c software also includes additional card support for capture and output via SDI, HD-SDI and HDMI(TM).

    "This Vegas Pro update delivers a stronger, more flexible NLE to better equip video editing professionals with the necessary tools to create exceptional results in an evolving digital editing landscape," said Dave Chaimson, vice-president of global marketing for Sony Creative Software. "With significant additions to XDCAM rendering functionality, expanded RED ONE media support and all-new high quality audio tools, Vegas Pro 9.0c software nimbly handles the challenging and diverse needs of today's editors."

    The Vegas Pro 9.0c software update is free for existing registered users and is available now for download online at www.sonycreativesoftware.com. Vegas Pro 9 software is available in English, German, Spanish, Japanese, and French. Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) for Vegas Pro 9 is U.S. $699.95.

    DNF and EVS join forces

    DNF Controls, a global provider of field-proven control solutions for the broadcast and production industries, and EVS Broadcast Equipment, provider of tapeless live production (including sport slow-motion replay) and playout are joining forces to provide a high-performance server and controller combination for live production.

    According to a recent press release by the companies" "As the industry continues the transition from VTR’s to servers in the production control room, EVS has met the need with the XS, an innovative, intelligent server designed for studio applications. Though able to emulate a VTR with Sony BVW75 RS422 protocol, the XS goes beyond simple VTR replacement. The XS offers unmatched capabilities for the recording of multiple video and audio feeds, as well as for instant control and playback operations. XS is designed for flexible and reliable playout of roll-ins, graphic + key fill and other media. Built with EVS’s unique loop recording, fast-paced live productions never miss the perfect take. With the beneficial cost performance of multichannel capability and EVS’s Instant Tapeless Technology make the XS the ultimate VTR replacement solution.

    The power of the XS is fully unlocked by DNF Controls’ 2044CL Clip Instant Access Controller. The 2044CL gets clips to air fast with the touch of just one very powerful button. Load a single video clip, a fill clip/key clip combination, or six channels of clips. Use the 30 Shotbox keys to access up to 300 single clips or multiple clip combinations. The 2044CL gives you fast, simple, precise, reliable, and repeatable control over the XS in the fast-paced broadcast and production environments. Merge prerecorded video clips with live production, harness the power of monitor walls and other display systems, and load and play news segments, graphics, animations, highlights, and promos.

    The EVS XS and DNF 2044CL combination are the ideal high-performance choice for live production? sports shows, live special events, talk shows, awards shows, game shows, news and concerts.

    Upgrade For Existing Echolab SD Switchers

    Echolab, a provider of professional video production switchers and broadcast tools, announced a compelling and cost-effective way for existing customers to migrate to HD production. For a limited time, the company will replace a facility's existing Echolab Nova(TM), Opera(TM), or Overture(TM) standard-definition switcher chassis for an Echolab Atem(TM), the company's recently launched 1-M/E multidefinition switcher.

    "We hope that this upgrade offer helps mitigate some of our customers' concerns regarding their transition to HD production," said Ankit Patel, senior product manager at Echolab. "Our clients keep their familiar panel and workflow, and simply replace the chassis. Because every input in the Atem switcher accepts SD signals, it is easy to swap out the old chassis and unlock the features and power of an Atem switcher -- all at an unbeatable price."

    Atem, Echolab's paradigm-busting 1-M/E 3Gbps 1080p/60 production switcher, features the flexibility and functionality necessary to fit almost any production environment. Atem's 10 mixed-format inputs with built-in synchronization and scaling accept SD and HD signals, while two of them also accept computer signals over HDMI.

    More features include an internal 32-frame still store, two channels of clip playback, and a 10-channel multiviewer. To support sophisticated program quality, Atem incorporates four upstream and two downstream keyers, as well as Echolab's unique SuperSource(TM) crosspoint and Stinger(TM) transitions, making it possible to build a composition of as many as 12 layers.

    Echolab's offer assumes customers will keep their existing panel while the switcher chassis is replaced to afford full Atem functionality. The upgrade is available now for $14,500 USD.

    RESEARCH NEWS

    October videogame sales down 19%

    Just when it looked as if sales for the videogames biz were starting to turn around in September, they took another tumble last month, according to a Reuters report.

    Overall sales were down 19% for the games industry in October, generating $1.07 billion. It was the final month before a slew of high-profile titles hit store shelves -- titles that gamemakers hope will generate serious coin as the holiday shopping season kicks off.

    Analysts are upbeat that the industry can generate up to $21 billion this year, which would put it just below last year's haul of $21.3 billion, NPD Group said. November and December are typically the best months for gamemakers.

    But the "continued economic turmoil and, in particular, the troubling unemployment rate, is undoubtedly impacting industry sales," NPD's Anita Frazier said. "Although consumers' general opinion about the economy is improving, their outlook on their own personal situation is worsening. If consumers' personal outlook continues to erode, they could very well be much more conservative with their holiday shopping this year."

    Digital Set Top Box Market Reach 191 Million in 2009

    Worldwide digital set top box unit shipments are on track to reach 191 million in 2009, a total that highlights the importance of the set top box in today's consumer electronics industry, according to a new R&M report.

    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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