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

w/e November 3, 2009 SCRI International, Inc © 1984 - 2009


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Project Canvas expected to rival IPTV, cable and satellite

Project Canvas is expected to be a serious rival to existing IPTV, cable and satellite by 2014, according to Screen Digest.

With the platform set to offer free broadband content alongside broadcast content, on digital TV, it isn’t surprising that it is expected to be a big hit with consumers.

Screen Digest forecasts that Canvas could be in 3.5 million homes by 2014, although this is just speculation at the moment as the platform still hasn’t been approved by regulators.

Concern that Canvas could destabilise the UK pay TV market could be a key factor in whether the platform is approved.

Ofcom is currently pushing for the wholesale price of BSkyB’s content to be restricted, bringing Sky’s premium sports and movie channels within the reach of Virgin Media and other rivals.

A major concern about Project Canvas is that Sky could potentially use the platform to sidestep the proposed wholesale regulations.

European Commission Call for Accelerated DTV Transition

The European Commission is urging member states to accelerate plans for switching off analog signals ahead of the 2012 deadline, arguing that with the freed-up spectrum, the launch of new services, from wireless Internet to HD channels, could give the region's economy a boost of between 20 billion euros and 50 billion euros.

The Commission has devised plans for the coordinated distribution of spectrum in order to boost investment and competition in the provision of wireless broadband, mobile telephony and interactive and HD services. Properly allocated, the Commission says, the spectrum would deliver a "digital dividend" to the EU.

"The digital dividend is a once in a lifetime opportunity to make 'broadband for all' a reality all over Europe and boost some of the most innovative sectors of our economy," said Viviane Reding, the EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media. "Europe will only make the most of the digital dividend if we work together on a common plan. The Commission cooperated closely with EU countries, the European Parliament, industry and consumers' representatives to prepare such a plan. I call on EU countries to speed up the move to digital TV and to make it happen by 1 January 2012. I also urge national authorities to use the digital dividend in a pro-competitive way to open up the market for new operators and new services, maximizing the impact on the economy. Only this will ensure the digital dividend is used to bring wireless broadband to parts of the EU where high-speed internet cannot be provided efficiently by other technologies."

In addition to urging member states to speed up the DTV transition (which is already complete in Finland, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Sweden), the Commission proposes that one part of the freed-up spectrum (the 790-862 MHz sub-band) be set aside for new wireless services like 3G and 4G mobile phone services. The Commission also said it would harmonize the technical conditions for using the 790-862 MHz sub-band. In the first half of 2010, the Commission will seek the European Parliament's and Council's support on its spectrum roadmap.

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Broadcast Growth Projected in 2010

Broadcast media can look forward to 6 percent growth next year according to media investment bank M.C. Alcamo & Co., which analyzed recovery data in the sector from 2002. In the year following the 2001 recession, revenue growth in ad-supported media “over-responded” to underlying gross domestic product growth by a factor of as much as 3-to-1, the firm said

“Data from 2002-03 clearly illustrate a multiplier effect for ad-supported broadcast media,” said Michael Alcamo, the investment firm’s president. “In that recovery, broadcasters saw revenue growth rates that were up to three times the growth rate of underlying GDP. We believe the industry will experience similarly outsized growth rates in 2010-12.

“The consensus forecast for 2010 GDP growth is 2.8 percent. We therefore expect broadcast revenue to grow at 5.6 to 6 percent. Moreover, after the cost cutting of the last 20 months, most of that incremental revenue should be margin.”

The analysis suggested next year’s recovery could exceed the 2002 recovery. The 2001 recession lasted nine months, with unemployment peaking at 6.3 percent. Expectations are for the current unemployment level to peak at 10.5 percent. The strength of a recovery typically reflects the extremity of the downturn, the bank noted.

Several reasons were given for the expected outsized recovery of the broadcast sector as compared to GDP growth.

“First, in the ‘green shoots’ phase of the recovery, advertisers in industrial or consumer retail categories will see outsized gains in EBITDA--in the downturn, firms tightened their cost structure by over-firing employees and reducing cost of goods sold. With greater visibility for continued profits, managers then become more enthusiastic about investing in advertising.

“Secondly, broadcasters themselves have cut costs--through significant cutbacks in newsgathering, JSAs with other firms, and sales of non-core assets. Incremental revenue during the post-recession phase is thus highly profitable. Essentially, the only cost-of-goods-sold on this revenue are sales commissions and other sales costs.

“Finally, during a recovery, advertisers are enterprising and are competitive; ad inventory, however, is finite. To hold and expand market share during the coming cycle, advertisers invest in advertising to mark out territory and block competitors.”

Consequently, television broadcasters and other ad-supported media companies experience “revenue and EBITDA growth rates far higher than underlying GDP growth rates,” Alcamo said.

Economy Returns to Growth After Deep Slump

According to a recent Reuters report, the U.S. economy grew in the third quarter for the first time in more than a year as government stimulus helped lift consumer spending and home building, fueling an unexpectedly strong advance.

Signaling the end of the worst recession in 70 years, the Commerce Department on Thursday said the economy expanded at an annual rate of 3.5 percent in the July-September period, snapping four down quarters with its fastest growth pace since the third quarter of 2007.

The report buoyed global stock markets, which were also cheered by improving third-quarter corporate earnings, including higher-than-expected profits from consumer product giants Procter & Gamble Co and Colgate-Palmolive Co.

It raised hopes for further improvement in corporate profits and sent stocks on Wall Street rallying after four days of losses. The Dow Jones industrial average and the Standard & Poor's 500 Index notched their biggest percentage gains since July 23.

. "The economy has emerged with gusto from the deepest recession since World War Two," said Harm Bandholz, economist at UniCredit Markets and Investment Banking in New York. "The short-term prospects for the economy remain good."

Economists polled last week had expected a 3.3 percent GDP gain, but many had cut those estimates in the past couple days. As it turned out, growth was fairly broad-based with solid gains in consumer spending, exports and home construction.

But it was also driven by emergency government programs like the popular "cash for clunkers" incentive for new auto purchases and an $8,000 tax credit for first-time home buyers.

The auto discount program ended in August and the home tax credit is due to expire next month, although Congress is working on a plan to extend it.

Stripping out auto output, the economy would have expanded at only a 1.9 percent rate in the third quarter.

In the absence of government support, there are fears the brisk growth pace will not extend into coming quarters, with rampant unemployment also inflicting damage.

"The economy is entirely dependent on federal deficit spending at the moment. But the stimulus will not fade right away ... that means we can rely on solid growth continuing through the first quarter of next year," said Chris Low, chief economist at FTN Financial in New York.

"Once the government steps aside, growth is likely to fall back to a 1 to 2 percent rate of growth."

The United States is entering recovery following in the footsteps of major economies like China and the euro zone.

CBS Expected to Hit Q3 Estimates

Wells Fargo analysts say CBS is likely to hit its third-quarter estimates, with an upside for next year.

“Given various positive comments made by management coupled with a healthier-than-expected scatter market, we anticipate CBS to at least meet--and potentially exceed--Q3 expectations of 22 cents,” Wells Fargo’s Marci Ryvicker said, noting both her firm’s and consensus for earnings per share. “Full year OIBDA [operating income before depreciation and amortization] guidance should remain intact, at $1.725 billion to $1.925 billion--we are currently forecasting $1.753 billion while consensus is at $1.768 billion. Bottom line: We expect another positive conference call, which is likely to boost the stock and move street numbers up for 2010.”

LIN TV Beats Street

LIN TV posted third-quarter results that beat Wall Streets expectations for the pure-play broadcast company. LIN’s 3Q09 revenues totaled $81.4 million, down nearly 18 percent from a year ago, but exceeding the Street’s estimate of $76.4 million, or down nearly 23 percent.

Political and local ad revenues were key, coming in better than expected. Political was $3 million versus the $1.3 million forecast; local was down 8 percent versus the predicted 13 percent decline.

Net loss was $875,000, compared to a profit of $10.2 million during the year-ago quarter, affected by a $2 million impairment charge ($1.2 million after-tax) on a joint venture with NBC Universal. LIN also acquired Red McCombs Media for $7.9 million during the quarter.

Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization were $21 million, down 37 percent but above the Street’s estimate of $17 million, down 49 percent.

Retransmission revenues were up 36 percent compared to last year. The dollar amount is combined with digital revenues, which totaled $10.4 million compared to $8.1 million last year.

Looking ahead, LIN said it expects 4Q09 revenues to be down between 8.8 and 14.6 percent--$9.2 million to $15.2 million--from the $104.2 million reported 4Q08, when LIN had nearly $21 million in political revenues. The Street predicts $84 million, down 19 percent.

For the full year, LIN expects net revenues to decline between 16.6 and 18.1 percent--$66.4 million to $72.4 million--from $399.8 million for 2008.

“Looking ahead, the pace of economic growth and recovery remains uncertain, however, we are experiencing modest improvement in advertising demand,” said Vince Sandusky, LIN president and CEO. “We believe our productivity gains, continued growth in our digital business and the return of political advertising will result in significant cash flow growth in 2010.”

WFUM-TV Sold to CMU for $1 Million

WFUM-TV, a public station in Southeast Michigan, is being acquired for $1 million, The Morning Sun reports. The board of trustees of Central Michigan University approved the acquisition on Tuesday during a special meeting. The University of Michigan now runs WFUM, which is said to serve around 8 million viewers. The acquisition will give CMU the largest footprint of any public broadcast operation in the state, the Sun said.

Acquiring WFUM will also give CMU first-time exposure on Dish Network and DirecTV in the Flint, Saginaw and Bay City, Mich. markets. Ed Grant, general manager of CMU public broadcasting said transmitting the current signals by fiber would cost around $20,000, plus a microwave link and another transmitter.

The University of Michigan decided to sell the station last April. CMU is paying for it out of “university reserves” that are expected to be repaid through public broadcast coffers. An interim management agreement will be proffered by mid-November, Grant said, adding that CMU wants to take over the programming “very quickly.”

The FCC must approve of the change in ownership.

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Harmonic Q3 results miss estimates

Harmonic Inc posted a quarterly profit that missed market estimates, hurt by lower sales in the United States, and forecast fourth-quarter revenue below expectations.

"We continue to see cautious customer spending compared to last year," Chief Executive Patrick Harshman said in a statement.

The company, which provides fiber optics products that enable video-on-demand services, forecast fourth-quarter revenue at between $80 million and $86 million.

Analysts on average were expecting fourth-quarter revenue of $90.2 million, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Net income for the third quarter ended Oct. 2, was $2.6 million, or 3 cents a share, compared with net income of $12 million, or 12 cents a share, a year ago.

Excluding special items, the company earned 5 cents a share, below analysts' estimates of 6 cents a share.

Revenue fell 8 percent to $83.9 million, missing analysts' expectations of $85.8 million.

Revenue from the United States fell 28 percent to $40.3 million.

Miranda Q3 Sales & Profits Down

Miranda Technologies reported results for the third quarter ended September 30, 2009. Third Quarter Highlights: Q3 2009/2008
  • Sales of $31.8 million, versus $37.6 million in 2008
  • Net income of $1.1 million, or 5 cents per fully diluted share, compared to net income of $7.7 million and 32 cents per share last year

    Revenues strengthened slightly over Q2 this year, increasing 2% to $31.8M. Compared to last year, markets remained soft, with revenues declining 16%. Net income came in at $1.1 million, versus $7.7 million in 2008. Quarterly results were impacted by a restructuring charge of $0.4 million related to on-going productivity measures. Excluding this, net income was $1.3 million.

    Quarterly revenues totalled $31.8 million, down 16% from last year. Excluding foreign exchange, quarterly sales volumes were down 18% from 2008, although they were up 7% compared with Q2 this year. On a regional basis, revenues in the United States and Canada were down 43% and 27% respectively versus last year. Other Countries fared better, increasing 27% over 2008. Canada, the United States and Other Countries generated 5%, 39% and 56% of quarterly sales respectively.

    “While, markets remain well below last year’s levels, we are beginning to see an increase in sales activity,” commented Mr. Goodship. “However, it is still too early to predict a market recovery and we remain cautious about our short term growth expectations. Nevertheless, supported by a solid balance sheet and a strengthening product portfolio, we will continue to position ourselves for growth, targeting acquisition opportunities, investing strategically and maintaining disciplined cost controls.”

    Belden Q3 Revenue Down 32%

    Belden reported third quarter 2009 revenue of $355.2 million and operating income of $18.4 million, compared to revenue and operating income of $520.5 million and $47.7 million in the third quarter of 2008, respectively. The Company reported a net loss of $7.5 million, or ($0.16) per diluted share, down from net income of $31.5 million, or $0.67 per diluted share, in the prior year period. Revenue in the most recent quarter included $7.7 million of unfavorable currency translation as compared to the prior year third quarter. Cash flow from operations was $50.6 million during the quarter, and net of capital expenditures was $42.8 million.

    "Though the world economy remains weakened, our results reflect stabilizing demand in most of our major markets, with improving levels in Asia. Further, we continue to see the benefits from our Lean approach, which forms the basis for disciplined cost control and strong cash flow generation despite this challenging economic environment," said John Stroup, President and Chief Executive Officer of Belden. "Our focus on customers, cost and cash flow, coupled with the dedication and skill of our worldwide associates, allows the Company to perform well in these uncertain times and positions us to excel when recovery re-ignites demand."

    Stroup continued, "We are especially pleased with our third quarter free cash flow of $42.8 million. This brings our year-to-date free cash flow generation to $93.8 million and a cash balance in excess of $310 million."

    The Company expects adjusted fourth quarter revenue and EPS to be between $365 million and $375 million and $0.27 and $0.32 per share, respectively, excluding the impact of the deferral of revenues and cost of goods sold with respect to its wireless segment and the impact of charges associated with already announced restructuring actions.

    Stroup remarked, "Despite a competitive environment we expect our fourth quarter results to benefit from slightly improved demand, seasonality and continued contributions from our global restructuring efforts."

    Chyron Q3 Conference Call

    Chyron announced plans to release its third quarter 2009 results on Thursday, November 5, 2009 before market open. A conference call to review those results will be held on Thursday, November 5 2009, at 10:00 A.M. Eastern Time. Participants who wish to participate over the Internet may access the call at or Web participants are encouraged to go to either website at least 15 minutes prior to the start of the call to register, download, and install any necessary audio software. Participants who wish to participate using the telephone may go to to pre-register.

    Cisco to Consider Dropping Tandberg Purchase

    According to Bloomberg News, Cisco Systems Inc. may drop its 17.2 billion-krone ($3.04 billion) offer for Tandberg ASA as shareholders owning 24 percent of the Norwegian company press for a higher offer, said a person familiar with the transaction.

    If Cisco is unable to get investors with 90 percent of Tandberg to approve its 153.50 kroner-a-share offer, it would strongly consider walking away, said the person who declined to be identified. Investors have until Nov. 9 to accept the offer.

    “I think it’s quite unlikely that they’ll drop their offer, everything points to them buying Tandberg,” said Martin Hoff, an Arctic Securities ASA analyst with a “buy” rating on the stock. “It’s probably smart of them to send some signals to scare the shareholders into accepting the offer.”

    Cisco, the world’s largest maker of networking equipment, made its bid for Tandberg on Oct. 1 to expand its videoconferencing business. SEB AB’s SEB Enskilda unit in Norway canvassed shareholders and found 21 owners who wouldn’t sell “at the current offer terms,” according to an Oct. 15 statement issued by the bank.

    Tandberg, the world’s second-largest maker of videoconferencing equipment by sales, fell as much as 10.5 kroner, or 6.7 percent, today before its shares were halted by the Oslo stock exchange. The shares closed 1.8 percent lower at 153.7 kroner. Cisco fell 3 percent to $22.81 at 4 p.m. New York time on the Nasdaq Stock Market. Tandberg’s larger rival Polycom Inc. fell 20 cents to $21.47.

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    Chrysler to Offer Live Mobile TV

    Starting in late December, Chrysler, Jeep®, Dodge Car and Ram Truck customers may watch many of their favorite TV programs with a dealer-installed mobile TV option from Mopar®.

    Chrysler Group LLC is the first automaker in the United States to offer live mobile TV to consumers with the capacity for as many as 20 channels through FLO TV(TM) Auto Entertainment. The system offers something for everyone: college and professional sports, breaking news, children's shows, primetime sitcoms, reality TV and daytime dramas.

    Mopar will showcase FLO TV(TM) Auto Entertainment at the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show in Las Vegas next week.

    Cisco Debuts 'Blue' IPTV Guide For Cable

    Cisco Systems has crafted a guide for IPTV set-tops based on a Web-browser -- dubbed Cisco Blue -- aimed at cable operators pondering the eventual switch from traditional RF video delivery."Cable's transition to IPTV is clearly center-stage," said John Morrow, vice president of strategy and business development for Cisco's Service Provider Video Technology Group.

    Cisco Blue provides Internet-enabled widgets, which can dynamically pull in data and video from any source, as well as usual guide functions like grid listings and DVR support. The new IPG "leverages the expertise" the company has from years of developing the Scientific Atlanta Residential Application (SARA) guide, according to Morrow.

    In a demo here at Cable-Tec Expo 2009, Cisco has set up an IPTV set-top (model CIS430) connected to a DPC3010 DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem, capable of delivering 300 Mbps downloads with support for eight downstream channels. The Cisco's uBR 100012 CMTS is delivering MPEG-4 HD multicast video to the IPTV box.

    The Blue IPG demo features widgets to connect to Yahoo News, Twitter, Flickr as well as weather and stock info. A widget for sends a search query to the e-commerce site based on the program information for the program currently playing.

    All the creative elements of Cisco Blue were developed in-house, including the graphical design, menu layout, colors and fonts. Cisco licensed the underlying Web browser code from a third-party firm, which it declined to identify.

    IPTV, once dismissed by cable as a telco-specific architecture, is now accepted as the industry's inevitable destination. "IP video distribution will have economic advantages over the distribution we have today," said Charter Communications chief technology officer Marwan Fawaz during the show's opening-session discussion panel Wednesday.

    Underscoring that point, John Schanz, executive vice president of national engineering and technical operations, said in his keynote that IP is as widespread as fresh water. "You can laugh," he said, but "there's nothing on the Earth as ubiquitous now as air, water and IP."

    Cisco's Morrow, though, noted that different operators will have different deployment cases for IPTV. "It's not a one-size-fits-all world," he said.

    Today, Cisco's biggest IPTV customers are telcos, including AT&T, Deutsche Telekom and Swisscom.

    JVC XV-BP11 Blu-ray Player

    JVC this week rolled out a new “entry-level” Blu-ray player for less than $200.

    The JVC XV-BP11 plays back of high-definition Blu-ray discs as well as AVCHD format, the high-definition format widely used for HD camcorders, including JVC’s HD Everio line. Other playable formats include WMV, JPEG, MP3, WMA, Dolby Digital and Digital plus, Dolby True HD, DTS and DTS Master Audio/Essential.

    The XV-BP11 has multiformat connections, including HDMI V1.3 and composite for video; and analog L/R, coax and HDMI V1.3 for audio, plus a front-panel USB host. The XV-BP11 is priced at $199.95.

    Media 100 Suite Version 1.1

    Media 100 announced that Media 100 Suite Version 1.1 is now available. Media 100 Suite v1.1 adds support for Blackmagic Design's Intensity Pro, DeckLink SDI, DeckLink Studio, and DeckLink HD Extreme video cards.

    Released in August 2009, Media 100 Suite reportedly brings fast, high-quality editing and compositing to Mac OS X. Offering a unique combination of ease-of-use, ease-of-learning, and consistent professional results, Media 100 Suite takes advantage of many QuickTime codecs including DVCPRO HD and Apple ProRes 422. Apple Final Cut Studio and Adobe After Effects integration lets users share projects amongst Final Cut Pro, Color, and Media 100 and export timelines from Media 100 to After Effects. Editors can export legacy Media 100 projects to Final Cut Pro for further editing and revisions, export Final Cut Pro sequences into Media 100, or export a Media 100 sequence to Color for advanced color grading.

    In addition to Blackmagic Design video I/O cards, Media 100 Suite supports Matrox MXO2, AJA video I/O cards, Media 100 HDx hardware, FireWire I/O, and Panasonic P2 acquisition. Boris RED is included for integrated 3D compositing, titling, and effects.

    Media 100 Suite v1.x customers can download the v1.1 update free of charge from the Media 100 web site. A full-functioning 14-day trial version of Media 100 Suite is available for free download.



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    InfoComm International Economic Snapshot Survey Results

    As aleading resource for AV market research and news, InfoComm regularly conducts in-depth market and industry studies to keep its members informed on all aspects of their markets. One such effort is the InfoComm International Economic Snapshot Survey. This periodic survey examines the overall “economic health” of the AV industry, and brings into focus the issues, factors and trends affecting business performance on an international scale.

    The October 2009 version of the survey collected data from 185 AV providers and 35 AV end-users spanning 24 countries. Major results are summarized below, with detailed tables presented in the Research Results section of this report. Sample

    Systems integrators comprise the largest portion of the AV provider sample (37.8%). Manufacturers, rental and staging companies and independent design consultants are also well-represented, with each comprising at least 10% of the sample. While the sample is global, nearly 80% of the respondents are located in the U.S. The U.S. portion of the sample spans 32 states. A large majority (87%) of the respondents are InfoComm members.

    The decline in the InfoComm Performance Index© has continued, with the IPI reaching a new low for the past six months. The nascent upturn forecast by the July 2009 respondents is not reflected in the October 2009 IPI, with the Index remaining in the “Fair” range (value of 57.1 out of a possible 100).

    But the respondents continue to be optimistic about the future — the IPI for the next six months is expected to increase to 63.8, putting it close to the level seen in January 2009. This expected 6.7 point increase in the IPI is the strongest variation measured to date, suggesting that the respondents truly see an upturn on the horizon.

    A plurality report that demand has declined for six vertical markets/venues, and that demand has remained the same for the remaining seven vertical markets/venues. Still, there are some bright spots, most notably the education markets. More than 35% of the respondents say demand has increased in both the higher education and K-12 markets over the past six months. The government/military and airport/transit facility markets also show heightened demand, with between 20.6% and 24.6% reporting increased demand in these markets.

    The softest demand is seen in the finance/insurance and retail/shopping center markets, with 55% or more saying demand has decreased over the past six months. Similar reports are offered for the performance venues/hotels/convention centers, manufacturing/ industrial and home/residential/consumer markets.

    The number of respondents reporting staff layoffs has fallen from July 2009, but still remains at a significant level — 31.9% of the October 2009 respondents report that their company has laid off or let staff go. Impacts on salary continue to be seen: 26.5% report cuts in salaries or benefits; 36.2% have delayed or decreased planned pay increases. In short, the “human toll” seen in the previous Snapshot survey continues to affect the industry.

    A new topic explored in the October 2009 survey centers on the severity of staff cutbacks. Those whose company has laid off staff were asked to indicate the percentage of staff lost, and which staff categories were most affected. The responses show that staff cuts are typically small — the most popular response is that staff cuts trimmed the total company size by 5% or less.

    Still, more significant cuts are not uncommon — 28.8% of the respondents who reported staff cuts say that their company personnel count has shrunk by more than 15% due to these cuts. The segments most affected by staff cuts are the rental and staging companies, those with gross revenues of $10 million or more and those located in the North Central region, with 50% or more in each segment stating that their company has laid off staff.

    Similar to the InfoComm Performance Index© (IPI), the InfoComm Demand Index© (IDI) seeks to measure the overall demand among the end-users for AV products and services. The IDI for the past six months is 45.3, the lowest level seen to date, and a confirmation of the forecast of declining demand offered by the July 2009 respondents. Demand is expected to increase over the next six months by a minor amount (increase of 2.1 points to 47.4). Among those in the education sector, demand is expected to continue to drop by a small amount.

    As in the July 2009 survey, those reporting or forecasting low AV demand point to budget and funding cutbacks as the critical factors holding back AV expenditures. Few expect this to change in the near term, with the situation compounded in the education sector by declining enrollments.

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