Insider Reporter


Insider Report

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

w/e October 14, 2007 SCRI International, Inc © 1984 - 2007

INDEX

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

TECHNOLOGY NEWS

Industry Execs: HD Sets Lacking Picture Quality

This report is by Phillip Swann, publisher of SCRI's online parnter, TV Predicitions.

Several industry officials said that the average HDTV owner is not getting the best possible picture on his set.

At a panel discussion at the HD World conference in New York, officials from Scientific-Atlanta, Discovery, Motorola and SES Americom said the high-def signal gets diluted during the transmission process.

The corruption in image quality can be blamed on everything from the HD network's decision on how to transmit the signal to the consumer's often faulty display choices, the officials said.

Consequently, they added, the HD picture diminishes in quality once it's displayed on the consumer's home screen.

"Good HD quality -- I believe that people have never really seen it," Brian Morris, vice president of digital media for cable set-top maker Scientific-Atlanta, told HD World attendees. "But what we're seeing today is not good HD quality."

Charles Myers, vice president of distribution and technology for Discovery Communications, compared the high-def transmission process to a "meat grinder," meaning the signal is chopped up along the way.

The panelists cited the following reasons for the HD picture to lose quality after it's originally recorded and/or transmitted from the studio:

1. Network's Transmission
Some networks decide to send the high-def signal at a quality rate lower than necessary for a variety of reasons, including cost savings.

2. TV Providers Compress the Signal
Likewise, cable, satellite and telco providers often reduce the signal strength once they receive the transmission to save system space, thereby allowing them to offer more channels.

3. High-Definition Display Issues
Panelists said LCD and Plasma flat-panel sets often exhibit motion artifacts and "noise" on-screen. Although the occasions are rare, it's a disruption in an otherwise complete picture.

4. Consumer Error
"Consumers will sometimes simply set the wrong format on their cable or satellite set-top," said Bryan McGuirk, president of media and enterprises services for SES Americom. "If the native resolution for their set is 720p, and they set it for 1080i, the set will upconvert the picture and it won't look as good."

Morris expressed optimism that the home HD picture will improve "over time...We have people who are doing nothing but optimizing video."

But he added: "The eco system is the real problem. It comes down all the way from the beginning to the end."

IPTV World Forum Asia 2007

The continuing IPTV evolution in Asia – subscriber figures are up by 50% in the last year alone to over two million* – is helping to attract record levels of interest for this years’ IPTV World Forum Asia. Now in its third year, Asia’s leading IPTV event is set to be the most successful, with an expected attendance of over 4,000 visitors and 150 exhibitors.

The event is being held at the Suntec International Convention and Exhibition Centre in Singapore from the 5th to 7th December 2007 and will run parallel with The Connected Home Asia, and TV Over Net Asia conferences (www.tvover-net.com/asia , www.connected-home-asia.com). The show will explore the major issues of 2007, particularly the transformation and evolution of IP services, the entry into a new phase in IPTV development and setting the media and communications agenda for the future.

Exhibitors will include Cisco, Microsoft Mediaroom; Harris and TANDBERG television, with key note speakers from some of the leading figures within the telecommunications industry including Stephen Kim, Senior Managing Director of Hanaromedia; Low Ka Hoe, Director of mio TV & Content for Singtel; Paul Berriman, CTO for PCCW; and Italo Milanese, Senior Project Leader for Telecom Italia.

“With the ever growing demand for triple and quad play services, this event will play a pivotal role in shaping the role of IPTV in Asia in 2008” said Ian Johnson, Managing Director of Junction. “With attendance figures set to exceed all other years, we are advising people to sign up early to avoid disappointment”.

IPTV reaches 8m subscribers

Statistics, prepared for the DSL Forum by industry analyst Point Topic, have shown that the number of people using IPTV services increased by 179 per cent in the 12 months to 30 June 2007. In broadband access DSL continues to dominate with almost 66 per cent of subscribers connected.

Over eight million people are now connected to IPTV services. Europe added over three million subscribers in the 12 months to 30 June 2007, making it the strongest market both in terms of growth (231 per cent in 12 months) and total subscriber numbers (almost five million by 30 June 2007).

"Top markets like France (2,550,000 customers) and Hong Kong (938,000 customers) show that IPTV can be deployed rapidly to large numbers of subscribers, if the market conditions are right," said Point Topic Senior Analyst John Bosnell. "On the demand side, competitive and clear bundle pricing and content deals will help to attract customers to IPTV services, while on the supply side, making IPTV easier to install and develop will help to deliver IPTV services to a wider subscriber base. Developing and agreeing standards will help to simplify the delivery process and drive higher take-up in other markets too."

Demand for Mobile TV Will Outpace Wireless Infrastructure Bandwidth

The latest trend in video is called “placeshifting” – the ability to watch video content anywhere from any device including cell phones and PDAs – and it’s a driving factor in the market for wireless video. But according to Rod Tiede, CEO of Broadcast International, a leading video technology innovator, the market will be stifled, despite strong user demand, by an inadequate infrastructure. This is especially true in the U.S. where much of the wireless infrastructure is still analog.

“Applications such as placeshifting and mobile social networking are very much in demand by users. The problem is too little available bandwidth. It simply won’t support the pricing models, the image quality nor the raw quantity of video required without a major change in video compression technology or a multi-billion dollar infrastructure overhaul,” said Tiede.

In the executive overview of an April 2007 report by Multimedia Research Group titled “Mobile TV: Global Standards Review & Forecast for Infrastructure and Handsets,” it was reported that 60-85% of participants in a study were keen to purchase a video-enabled handset when they were shown the high-quality video service possible on the devices. A press release on the same report predicted that over 240 million TV-enabled hand-sets would be sold by 2011. Cell phone makers and operators are anxious to tap into this enormous market, but the infrastructure needs to be able to deliver the quantity and quality required.

“The market for video-enabled cell phones is poised to explode, but the infrastructure for delivering high-quality video to those small screens needs to change,” said Tiede. “Video is extremely bandwidth-intensive; right now, the chokepoint in the infrastructure is video compression technology. Currently, video viewing over wireless devices requires at least 300K in bandwidth. That number needs to come down by close to 80% in order to make video delivery to cell phones practical and cost-effective for large numbers of viewers.”

Broadcast International’s CodecSys video compression technology can reduce bandwidth needs for video from 300 to as low as 60 Kbps over the current wireless infrastructure in the U.S. “That will go a long way toward alleviating the near-term bandwidth crisis in the wireless video market. It will also make the pricing models work much better for consumers and providers,” said Tiede.

According to Tiede, the bandwidth crunch in the wireless infrastructure is just another example of a looming bandwidth crisis in other markets such as cable, IPTV and even Internet video, brought about by the explosive user demand for high-quality video. The bandwidth crisis is particularly troublesome in the U.S., which has dropped from fourth to 15th place on the broadband ranking kept by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. In an Oct. 1st editorial in the San Francisco Chronicle titled “Our Fraying Internet Infrastructure,” Michael Kleeman, a senior fellow at the Annenberg Center for Communication at USC, cited video compression as a technology critical to the resolution of the bandwidth crisis.

But Tiede cautions providers against choosing expedient solutions that won’t adapt to change. “Infrastructure providers need to make sure that they are choosing the right strategy for the long haul, not just one that meets short-term demand. Long-term, they need an open, scalable solution that is easily upgradeable as standards change, and one that is capable of handling rapid increases in volume.”

BI’s patented video compression software, CodecSys, reduces bandwidth needs by more than 80% for HD-quality video over satellite, cable, IP and wireless networks. CodecSys achieves its breakthrough performance through an open, patented architecture that uses artificial intelligence to analyze a video stream and select the codec best suited to a particular video frame or sequence from an entire library of codecs. By selecting the best codec for the job, CodecSys is able to offer performance several times higher than competitive products, which rely on a single codec for every type of video stream. Its open software architecture enables new codecs or video compression standards to be easily accommodated when they emerge, virtually “future-proofing” the technology.

At IBC in Amsterdam last month, Broadcast International and IBM debuted the first public demonstration of a jointly developed video compression solution. The demo featured BI’s patented CodecSys video compression software running on IBM’s BladeCenter QS20 “Cell Blade” multi-core processor. The new video compression solution is highly scalable, allowing customers to easily add additional processing power by simply adding extra processors or “blades.”

China DTV oversubscribed

Investors embraced China Digital TV Holding Co.'s IPO last week, more than doubling the value of the company's shares in the first hour of trading. After opening at a high of $37.50, well over double the IPO price of $16 per share, the stock has traded only as low as $29.04.

China Digital provides conditional access systems that allow digital television network operators in China to control their subscribers' content and services, such as on-demand viewing and pay-per-channel programming

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INDUSTRY NEWS

AT&T to buy spectrum from Aloha for $2.5 billion

AT&T Inc, the biggest U.S. mobile service, said this week that it would buy the wireless airwave licenses of privately held Aloha Partners LP for about $2.5 billion.

AT&T said the licenses have coverage for a potential 196 million customers in 281 markets, including 72 of the top 100 U.S. markets in the 700-megahertz frequency band.

Providence, Rhode Island-based Aloha had been testing the airwaves in Las Vegas for a mobile television service that could potentially compete with an offering from Qualcomm Inc unit MediaFlo USA. It had also tested wireless high-speed data services in Phoenix.

AT&T spokesman Michael Coe would not say how the acquisition might affect AT&T's decision about whether to participate in an upcoming government airwave auction.

Coe said AT&T had yet to determine what services it would run over the airwaves.

"We'll look at which option makes sense for AT&T and our customers," he said. "We'll either use the spectrum for broadcast video or two-way communication like voice, data or on-demand content."

AT&T said it anticipated receiving necessary government approvals and closing the transaction within six to nine months.

ABC News & Kamera Partner

ABC International Television and Internet and mobile TV specialist aggregator Kamera have closed an agreement to distribute news video content from ABC News. The deal will enable Kamera to market ABC News’ portfolio of news content to mobile operators and online platforms worldwide, excluding North America. Kamera will distribute, pitch and package ABC News content to its existing global network of customers, comprising of 35 mobile operators and more than 40 online customers, as well as creating products and services for mobile and online

NBC buys Oxygen TV

NBC Universal has agreed to pay $925 million for Oxygen Media, the independent cable television channel for women launched seven years ago by talk-show host Oprah Winfrey. It marks NBC’s latest move to tap into the cable sector. Executives hope they can cross-promote NBC's traditional broadcast network, cable services and Internet portals, and believe the combination will appeal to advertisers seeking multi-media packages.

NBC plans to sell two of its Spanish-language television stations, including KWHY-TV Channel 22 in Los Angeles and another in Puerto Rico, to help finance the transaction.

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COMPANY NEWS

Harmonic Q3 Reporting Date

Harmonic Inc. announced that it plans to report its results for the third quarter of 2007 after market close on October 23, 2007.

Harmonic will host a conference call to discuss its financial results at 2:00 P.M. Pacific (5:00 P.M. Eastern) on October 23, 2007. A listen-only broadcast of the conference call can be accessed on the Company’s website at www.harmonicinc.com or by calling +1.706.634.9047 (conference ID number 19970165). The replay will be available after 6:00 P.M. (Pacific) at the same website address or by calling +1.706.645.9291 (conference ID number 19970165).

Harmonic intends to discuss financial and other statistical information on this conference call. This information will also be available on the Company’s website at www.harmonicinc.com either in the press release related to the above broadcast, by accessing the listen-only broadcast described above or by accessing the replay of the broadcast described above.

Sinclair Q3 Results

Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc. will report its third quarter 2007 earnings results at 7:30 a.m. ET on Wednesday, October 31, 2007, followed by a conference call to discuss the results at 8:30 a.m. ET.

The dial-in number for the earnings call is 877-407-9205. If you plan to participate on the conference call, please call two minutes prior to the start time and tell the conference operator that the subject of the conference is the "Sinclair Earnings Conference Call."

If you cannot participate in the live conference call, a replay of the call will be available on Sinclair Broadcast Group's web site at http://www.sbgi.net/ Investor Information . This will be the only venue through which a replay will be available. The earnings release can be viewed at http://www.sbgi.net/ News Releases .

TANDBERG Q3 Webcast/Conference Call

TANDBERG® , a global leader in telepresence, high-definition videoconferencing and mobile video solutions, has scheduled a live webcast/conference call October 15, 2007 at 11:00 AM (Eastern Time) or 5:00 PM (Central European Time) to discuss fiscal third quarter 2007 results. A PowerPoint presentation will accompany the webcast/conference call. To participate via internet: https://tandbergevents.webex.com

To participate via telephone: +1.800.203.4167 (U.S. callers); +1.617.614.3931 (international); Passcode: TANDBERG

Participants are encouraged to download the streaming media software required for the Internet broadcast in advance of the call. An online archive of the broadcast will be available within one business day.

Avid & Microsoft Present ''Make Your Mark'' Seminar in LA

Avid and Microsoft are collaborating to sponsor the “Make Your Mark” event series - a four city U.S. tour open to aspiring filmmakers, music producers, animators and game designers interested in learning from industry professionals about what it takes to break into the competitive world of film, music, gaming and animation. Attendees will also have the opportunity to learn more about the tools professionals are using to make their creative mark.

WHEN: Saturday, October 20, 2007 - 12 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
WHERE: Los Angeles Film School

The Los Angeles event will kick off with an interactive panel session, moderated by Ben Bajarin, consumer technology and digital media analyst/strategist of Creative Strategies. The panel will cover tips and tricks for getting noticed and getting ahead in film, TV, music and 3D. Panelists include: Louis Black, founder and judge, SXSW Film Conference and Festival; John Norris, director of Artists and Directors Cooperative, Film Animation; Producer, Mixer, Programmer and two-time Grammy nominee Carmen Rizzo; and Music Industry Talent Scout, Tim Sweeney, founder of Sweeney and Associates;

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PRODUCT NEWS

Brightcove Turns On Broadcast-Quality Internet TV

Brightcove Inc. announced a new service for delivering broadcast-quality Internet TV. Extending their Internet TV platform, the new service, Brightcove Show, will give content publishers the ability to deliver instant-on, broadcast-quality streaming video to their viewers.

Brightcove Show takes advantage of new advances in the Adobe Flash Player technology, high-quality video encoding, and content delivery acceleration technology from BitTorrent, to enable full-screen video playback of broadcast- quality content streamed through the Internet.

"In the last two years, Internet TV has transformed the Web by bringing the storytelling power of video directly into sites, but contextual and viral video clips are only the beginning," said Jeremy Allaire, chairman and chief executive officer of Brightcove. "Now the industry is ready for the next major leap in the evolution of Internet TV, and that's gracefully extending from short video clips on sites into full-length programs and movies delivered via the Internet to PCs."

Brightcove Show is available now through a pilot program to selected customers. The company said they plan to launch the product for general availability in 2008.

Dolby Gets First FIPS Level 3 Certification for Digital Cinema

Dolby Laboratories, Inc. announced that the Dolby® Digital Cinema server has officially earned its Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS) 140-2 Level 3 validation certificate. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), a nonregulatory federal agency within the US Department of Commerce, awarded the certificate.

The Dolby Digital Cinema server is the first digital cinema server to achieve the highest level of content protection security specified by the Digital Cinema Initiative (DCI). All Dolby Digital Cinema servers, currently in over 400 cinemas worldwide, meet the FIPS Level 3 requirements, which is a major step toward achieving DCI compliance.

“We are proud to reach this important milestone, as our team has been diligent in its efforts to make Dolby Digital Cinema DCI compliant to the fullest extent possible,” said Tim Partridge, Executive Vice President, Products and Technology, Dolby Laboratories. “To be the first company awarded the FIPS Level 3 certification in digital cinema validates our engineering approach. Studios and exhibitors alike can be reassured that Dolby has their best interests in mind by committing to the highest levels of content security specified by DCI in every location.”

FIPS 140-2 are security standards adopted by DCI and cover detailed requirements for physical security, software, interfaces, key management, and cryptographic algorithms. To earn the certification, the Dolby Digital Cinema server underwent a rigorous testing process by InfoGard Laboratories, an accredited cryptographic module testing laboratory, which performed extensive analysis of the design and construction of the unit. InfoGard submitted its test report to NIST, which issued the FIPS 140-2 Level 3 validation certificate.

“Due to the specialized design and documentation requirements combined with the rigorous validation testing, FIPS 140-2 Level 3 is one of the toughest objectives for DCI server manufacturers to meet,” said Thomas Caddy, General Manager and Laboratory Director of InfoGard Laboratories. “We congratulate Dolby for achieving this significant milestone.”

The official Dolby Digital Cinema FIPS 140-2 NIST certificate is number 842.

Sony Unveils 4X Blu-ray Disc Writer Drive

Sony Electronics announced its second generation internal Blu-ray Disc writer drive for the computer aftermarket, which boasts 4X BD-R and 16X DVD+R recording speeds.

The new BWU-200S model cuts BD-R burning time by half compared to the first generation model, allowing for a full 50GB BD-R disc to be recorded in about 45 minutes. It also features improved DVD burning speeds, making it a multi-format combo burner that eliminates the need for more than one drive in a system.

The drive comes with CyberLink BD Solution software that provides a comprehensive application for capturing, authoring, editing, burning and viewing high-definition personal content captured in the native HDV 1080i format from an HDV camcorder. In addition, the software supports recording on DVDs and CDs, as well as playback of DVDs recorded in the AVCHD format.

The BWU-200S drive can record up to 50GB of data for random access storage and backup on BD-R (write once) or BD-RE (rewritable) discs, or up to 230 minutes of high-definition HDV 1080i video on a BD-R/RE 50GB disc. It also supports recording on standard single layer 4.7GB DVD+R/+RW/RAM discs, 8.5GB DVD+R double/dual layer discs, and CDs.

The BWU-200S drive will be available directly from Sony at sonystyle.com next month for about $600. Pre-orders are now being accepted.

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PEOPLE IN THE NEWS

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RESEARCH NEWS

SCRI RESEARCH NEWS

  • NEW: 2007-2009 HDTV / Digital Trends Report This extensive 75 page report includes an Executive Summary, followed by an analysis, charts and tables of how the broadcast / professional video marketplace equipment endusers respond to the key HDTV / Digital Video Trends -- click to view table of contents

  • IPTV / Mobile TV Report: now available, 14 page Executive Summary and Analysis, with over 120 pages of articles and reports from online sources as well as SCRI Insider Reports. Cost is $995, or $695 for current SCRI Insider Report subscribers and clients. Contactdes_chas@scri.com for more info.

  • Broadcast/Pro Video Product Reports. Tracking purchase history (2006), purchase plans (2007 & 2008), brand shares, etc. for each of twenty five specific product types, from Camcorders to VTRs.

  • Broadcast/Pro Video Macro Industry Overview Report. Over 50 pages of analysis and information on the state-of-the-industry compiled from secondary online research sources including industry news sites, manufacturers sites, as well as SCRI's own weekly online News Briefs and Insider Reports.

  • Broadcast/Pro Video Micro Quantitative Product Data Report. 23-page report containing quantitative data tables, for all six verical end-user markets, and all of the 25 Product categories, as well as in total, with summary tables from 2002- 2008.

    OTHER RESEARCH NEWS

    Technology No Longer the Issue For Mobile TV

    As recently as 2001, some mobile communications experts were saying that mobile television might be a reality within 20 years, but would probably arrive much later because the technical problems were so difficult. Yet only half a dozen years later, according to a new study from ABI Research, successful mobile video technologies are largely in place. As questions about business models, distribution, and content are resolved, the mobile TV industry will take off in earnest.

    ABI Research director Michael Wolf says, “Just a year ago, there was a lot of discussion in the industry about whether unicast or broadcast distribution models would prevail, and it seemed possible that unicasting would soon disappear. The new research suggests that while the major top-ranked channels will follow a broadcast model, unicasting is here to stay as a conduit for the ‘long tail’ of other content that consumers will desire.”

    Unicasting also has the advantage of an unequalled intimacy between service providers, advertisers, and their “captive” audiences.

    It is a time of experimentation. Most of the formats and distribution models under consideration have both pros and cons, and the effort is to find the right mix for each type of content and each target audience. Pricing is a good example. There are at least half a dozen proposed models for pricing access to mobile video content, reflecting the medium’s origin in the collision between the entertainment and wireless communications industries. Some will find the “sweet spot” that will attract and hold consumers; others will not.

    Even recent assumptions about consumers’ likely viewing preferences are under challenge, in light of the medium’s improving quality. “Last year,” notes Wolf, “everybody was saying ‘We’re only going to have 2-minute, bite-sized morsels and mobisodes.’ Yet our latest research shows that people are actually watching mobile TV in their bedrooms, for 40 minutes at a time. So many content providers are now thinking about hour-long episodes of prime-time shows.”

    STB Sales Decline

    As revenue from standard STB (Set-top Box) sales declines along with demand in the period 2008 to 2012, STB vendors will initially rely on firmer markets for DBS (Digital Broadcast Satellite), IPTV (IP Television), and DTT (Digital Terrestrial Television) STBs. However, according to a new study from ABI Research, by the end of the decade even those sectors will be under pressure from alternative technologies being introduced to facilitate “the connected home,” and vendors will have to add new features and functions in order to revive flagging shipment numbers.

    “The development of two-way digital-cable–ready TVs, residential gateways, media centers, and even video capabilities on gaming systems will put the STB’s status at risk,” says research analyst Paulhwa Lee.

    STB manufacturers are responding in several ways. First, they are adding new features – more hard-disk space, DVD players, DVD burners, home-audio solutions, and others – to make the traditional STB more relevant to consumer demands. They are also attempting to improve electronic program guides and to incorporate more Web-based services and video gaming.

    STB vendors are also moving more aggressively into the hybrid STB market. Hybrid STBs offer a single solution to a number of possible problems caused by the multiplicity of video sources and distribution platforms.

    Lee concludes with a word of counsel for STB vendors: “No one video or television technology will be a ‘killer’ in the next few years. So as this market flattens towards the end of our forecast period in 2012, STB vendors would be well advised to incorporate as many of those technologies as possible into their products.”

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