Insider Reporter


Insider Report

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

w/e October 25, 2009 SCRI International, Inc © 1984 - 2009

INDEX

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

TECHNOLOGY NEWS

FCC: closed nets damaging US broadband

A reluctance to force telecoms and cable operators to open their networks to competitors has led to the country being overtaken in rankings of broadband penetration and affordability, according to a study for the Federal Communications Commission.

The study could strengthen expectations of change in the stance held by the FCC for much of this decade, which contrasted with countries from the Netherlands to South Korea that have "open access" policies. It notes that open access has been "a closed issue in US policy debates" since 2002.

The report’s authors said their "most surprising and significant finding" was that unbundling, wholesaling and functional separation had played core roles in the transition to first-generation broadband access in most high-performing countries."

Pushing incumbent telecoms providers to restructure and open networks was playing an equally central role in planning for the next generation of high speeds and ubiquitous access, it said. The FCC is not bound by the study and has asked for comments on it, but its publication has been seen as a sign of possible changes under Julius Genachowski, who was confirmed in June as its new chairman.

Telecoms, technology and content industries are also awaiting the outcome of an FCC meeting planned for October 22nd, to decide how it will implement "net neutrality" rules aimed at preventing network owners from favouring some content providers over others.

DTVs Compete with Computers

"DTVs are competing with computers to be the entertainment hub of the home," says Brian O’Rourke, In-Stat analyst. "Sets with Internet connectivity are already commercially available in the US, Europe, and Japan. Models from Hitachi, LG Electronics, Mitsubishi, Panasonic, Samsung, Sharp, and Sony can connect directly to the Internet without a home computer."

Research by In-Stat found the following:

  • 36 per cent of digital sets sold in 2013 will be network-enabled.
  • DTV Revenue in Asia-Pacific will see a 6.3 per cent Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) from 2008 to 2013, the fastest growth among the major regions, except for Rest-of-World.
  • DTVs are now the only TVs available in most of North America, Western Europe, and Japan.
  • Silicon TV tuners capable of demodulating both analogue and digital television signals in a single chipset are beginning to replace Can TV tuners in high-end models.

    US mobile digital TV standard approved

    The Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) has confirmed the approval of A/153 ATSC Mobile DTV Standard. The ATSC Mobile DTV Standard defines the technical specifications necessary for broadcasters to provide new services to mobile and handheld devices using their digital television (DTV) transmissions.

    "Development and adoption of the ATSC Mobile DTV Standard is a major milestone in the ongoing evolution of digital television," said ATSC President Mark Richer. The ATSC Mobile DTV Standard will enable broadcasters to provide new compelling services to consumers utilising a wide array of wireless receiving devices including mobile phones, small handheld DTVs, laptop computers and in-vehicle entertainment systems.

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    INDUSTRY NEWS

    NBCU sales down, earnings up

    NBCU had a lopsided Q3, as earnings grew 13 per cent to $732 million even as revenues dropped 20 per cent to $4 billion from $5 billion.

    NBCU’s troubles are attributed to its declining broadcast business, which offsets gains on the cable side. There is much speculation parent GE is about to do a deal to buy out Vivendi and then sell to Comcast, others say they may form a JV.

    Warner On Demand for Japan

    Warner Entertainment Japan has unveiled plans to launch Warner On Demand, a portal allowing Japanese consumers to rent or buy Warner Bros films and TV series for the first time ever directly from the Studio via VOD and download to own on their PCs and mobile phones. Warner Bros aims to make the service available at the end of November.

    To buy content through Warner On Demand, consumers will purchase a series of points, which will be exchanged per transaction for Warner Bros films or TV content. Consumers will have access to a wide range of Warner Bros content from classic catalogue titles through to the latest features, including a number of titles never before released on DVD.

    CBS Announces Public Offering

    CBS Corporation announced the pricing of an underwritten public offering of 26,040,909 shares of the Company's Class B Common Stock sold by NAIRI, Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of National Amusements, Inc. and a controlling stockholder of Company, at a public offering price of $12.00 per share.

    CBS Corporation is not selling any securities in connection with this offering and will receive no proceeds.

    The offering is expected to close on or about October 20, 2009, subject to customary closing conditions. NAIRI has also granted the underwriters a 30-day option to purchase up to an aggregate of 2,604,091 additional shares of Class B Common Stock to cover over-allotments, if any.

    NEP Broadcasting Debuts 'Super B'

    This week NEP Broadcasting sent out a brand new Mobile Television Production Support Truck to help Major League Baseball broadcast the American League Championship Series and the World Series. This support truck, called Super B, offers the flexibility to pair with any NEP Mobile Television Production Truck and provide additional space and capacity to any production.

    Through innovative design, each of Super B's four workspaces can be adapted to fit increased need for graphics, tape, cameras, audio, or any other area of a production. NEP Chief Technology Officer George Hoover says, "NEP's Super B unit was designed to marry up with any one of our single units and increase the number of cameras by up to 14, with up to 6 more EVS, 20 more VTRs, a dozen additional operator positions. Essentially, Super B takes a single-truck unit and super sizes it into a twin."

    Fully equipped with a Grass Valley Trinix Video Router, Super B is wired for 20 VTRs, five 6-channel EVS Servers, 14 cameras, four graphics devices and a submix audio board. In addition, it offers 100 audio and video DAs and seven Lance Cobranet frames for distribution. NEP has future plans to install a 64 port ADAM intercom system that will be capable of BUSS expanding to another truck. After its debut at the Major League Baseball playoffs, Super B is slated to cover a variety of sports and entertainment events. For more information, visit www.nepinc.com .

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    COMPANY NEWS

    Pixelworks Reports 18% Q3 Revenue Growth

    Pixelworks, Inc., a rovider of video and pixel processing technology, announced financial results for the third quarter ended September 30, 2009.

    Third quarter 2009 revenue was $16.7 million, at the high end of the range of management guidance. Revenue for the third quarter increased 18% sequentially from $14.2 million in the second quarter of 2009 and was down 22% from $21.5 million in the third quarter of 2008. P> Third quarter 2009 GAAP gross profit margin was 43.9%, compared with 47.7% in the second quarter of 2009 and 53.3% in the third quarter of 2008. Third quarter 2009 non-GAAP gross profit margin was 47.7%, compared with 52.0% in the second quarter of 2009 and 56.6% in the third quarter of 2008. Both GAAP and non-GAAP gross profit margin in the third quarter of 2009 were above the mid-range of guidance provided by management. P> Operating expenses in the third quarter of 2009 were lower than management’s original estimate on both a GAAP and non-GAAP basis. Third quarter 2009 GAAP operating expenses were $8.0 million, compared with $7.9 million in the second quarter of 2009 and $11.0 million in the third quarter of 2008. Non-GAAP operating expenses were $7.7 million in the third quarter of 2009, compared with $7.7 million in the second quarter of 2009 and $10.5 million in the third quarter of 2008. Lower operating expenses in the 2009 periods are primarily the result of close management of expenses during the year, as well as savings on development projects during the second and third quarters. P> “Q3 was another solid quarter of progress for Pixelworks, as we experienced a broad recovery across our customer base,” said Bruce Walicek, President and CEO of Pixelworks. “Strong revenue performance was driven by a 46% increase in new product sales compared with the first quarter of this year and new products represented over 20% of total revenue for the third consecutive quarter. This momentum is a result of continued new product execution and validates our strategy of providing innovative high quality video solutions.”

    AJA Video moves to new manufacturing facility

    AJA Video Systems, a manufacturer of professional video interface and conversion solutions, has moved into its new corporate campus, custom-built to the company’s specifications in the heart of Grass Valley, CA.

    AJA, founded in 1993, worked closely with local architects Jeff Gold and Associates for two years to design the new purpose-built 44,000sq-ft main building, which includes manufacturing on the lower floor, with corporate, sales and administrative offices on the main floor. A second 22,000sq-ft custom building houses the engineering, QA and technical support teams.

    "It was important for AJA to stay in Grass Valley. Most of our employees live in the area, and with these new buildings we're able to accommodate the growth we anticipate in the coming years with expanded product lines and new markets," said John Abt, founder and CEO, AJA Video Systems.

    The new buildings are designed to centralize and streamline all processes of the company so that functional groups are put into certain areas based on their interactions with other departments within the organization, according to Nick Rashby, president, AJA Video Systems.

    Each of the buildings is designed with sophisticated IT and video infrastructures to support current and future technology needs. AJA moves into its new offices on the heels of shipping its Ki Pro portable digital disk recorder and introducing the new KUMO line of compact SDI routers, which won a Pick Hit Award at IBC 2009 from Broadcast Engineering magazine.

    Apple to sync movies across multiple devices

    Apple have filed a patent application entitled Synchronisation of Media State Across Multiple Devices, which appears to combine local iPod and iPhone synchronisation with MobileMe and cloud-computing services.

    The patent, if implemented, would note where you had stopped watching a video on any connected device, and would automatically set that as the start time on a different device. The patent also includes various forms of distance tracking, allowing for various sync operations to occur when two devices come within wireless range of each other. Apple specifically describes an Apple TV device detecting an iPhone coming within range, and then picking up the latest data from a central server

    Belden Announces Datesfor Q3 Conference Call

    Belden plans to release its results for the third quarter ended September 27, 2009, on Wednesday, October 28. Management will discuss the results of the quarter during a conference call at 10:30 a.m. Eastern Time, which Belden will broadcast live via the Internet.

    The live listen-only audio of the conference call will be broadcast in its entirety. To listen to the call, go to http://investor.belden.com. The dial-in number is 913-312-6650 or 866-304-1238. A replay of this conference call will be archived for a limited time on the web site as well.

    Belden will host a meeting with investors and equity analysts on Wednesday, December 9, at Le Parker Meridien Hotel in New York, NY. John Stroup, President and Chief Executive Officer of Belden, along with other members of senior management, will discuss the Company's strategic plan and will present an overview of the business.

    Harmonic Announces Q3 Reporting Date

    Harmonic Inc. announced that it plans to report its third quarter results after market close on October 28, 2009.

    Harmonic will host a conference call to discuss its financial results at 2:00 P.M. Pacific (5:00 P.M. Eastern) on October 28, 2009. The conference call can be accessed on the Company’s website at www.harmonicinc.com or by calling +1.706.634.9047 (conference identification code 32354964). The replay will be available after 6:00 P.M. Pacific at the same website address or by calling +1.706.645.9291 (conference identification code 32354964).

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    PRODUCT NEWS

    Broadcast HD Camera Survey Results

    The following results are from an online survey by HD Camera Guide.

  • Do you buy camera accessories separately or as a package?
  • Separately - 50%
  • Depends - 36.8%
  • As a package - 13.2%

  • What’s the most important attribute you look for in a camera?
  • Image quality - 63.4%
  • Features - 10.8%
  • Price - 9.7%
  • Workflow - 8.6%
  • Recording system - 5.4%
  • Weight - 2.2%

  • How do you find your purchasing information?
  • Online - 80.3%
  • Word-of-mouth - 13.1%
  • Magazines - 6.6%

  • What do you look for most in an HD Camera?
  • Features - 54.2%
  • Design - 18.1%
  • Lens options - 18.1%
  • Support - 9.6%

    What make/model camera do you currently own?

  • Sony model - 49.5%
  • Panasonic model- 23.1%
  • JVC model - 8.8%
  • Red model - 7.7%
  • Ikegami model - 7.7%
  • Hitachi model - 2.2%
  • Thomson Grass Valley model- 1.1%

  • What type of camera do you plan to purchase next?
  • Solid State - 59.7%
  • Hybrid disc/solid-state - 16.4%
  • Disc-based - 13.4%
  • Tape-based - 10.4%

    New version of Avid iNEWS

    Avid iNEWS Instinct now includes MPEG-4 proxies of HD material that allows journalists to build stories shot in higher resolutions in a lower resolution file, reducing bandwidth demands and providing users with increased flexibility and opportunity for collaboration.

    Offering increased speed, control and creativity in the creation of voice-overs and voice-over sound on tape (VOSOTs), Avid announced a new version of its iNEW Instinct (version 2.5). The new software also enables streamlined editing workflows and improved time to air of news stories with MPEG-4 proxy support.

    Version 2.5 also includes enhanced audio capabilities, an expanded video format support — including MPEG-4 proxies of HD material that allows journalists to build stories shot in higher resolutions in a lower resolution file, reducing bandwidth demands and providing users with increased flexibility and opportunity for collaboration.

    Jim Rogers, senior director of production and resources for the English Network of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation/Société Radio-Canada (CBC/Radio-Canada), has beta tested the iNEWS Instinct 2.5 solution, and commented that his organization is “looking forward to the improvements in Instinct that will allow journalists greater flexibility in news editing.”

    Avid iNEWS Instinct 2.5 is available now as a free upgrade for existing customers with a current Avid Support contract.

    Broadcast equipment review in tough times

    This article appears in Broadcast Engineering online and is by Michael Grotticelli

    Broadcast equipment vendors continue to navigate the challenging waters of the economic environment with new and existing technology to help broadcasters improve efficiency, create new revenue streams and reduce the costs of operations. The latter seemed utmost on everyone’s minds at last week’s HD World conference in New York City.

    Many of those companies exhibiting products and systems (Grass Valley and Panasonic were absent) reported that sales were increasing slowly as broadcasters that held off spending are now getting the capital they need to proceed with the migration to full HD production on all levels. This includes the move to 1080p broadcasting and, as BSkyB and DIRECTV have announced, new 24/7 3-D channels to launch early next year.

    The HD World show itself has shaped up to be a relatively small but vibrant gathering event for New York area broadcasters, where all of the major networks are headquartered. Many production employees were in attendance — at the technical sessions as well as to see new technology — as were representatives from major station groups and single stations from across the East Coast.

    On the exhibit floor, there were many signs of product advancement, albeit evolutionary in nature, which showed that despite sluggish sales, manufactures are moving forward with their technology and building what customers need to meet budgetary limitations.

    Ikegami showed a 2/3in CMOS 1080p/60 camera (model HDK 79EC) with a new high-speed option and new WiFi connectivity software for its GFCam camera to speed the logging process in the field. The HDK-79EC camera offers high-speed sensor readout of 1080/120i and 720/120p for super slow motion video capture, and high-speed readout of 1080/60p.

    Perhaps showing that the company sees a brighter future for its broadcast cameras and other technology, Ikegami is building a new facility for camera R&D and manufacturing on its existing campus in Japan, which will be finished by the end of the year.

    Utah Scientific showed a new master control board that fits into its 400 series router frames, to bring those two tasks under the control of a single operator. It’s a two-channel box that includes routing, logo and commercial insertion, EAS capability and more. The product is said to be ideal for webcasting channels and other types of hyperlocal services, although there are several station groups (including Max Media in Montana) that are using multiple 2RU boxes for HD centralcasting of several over-the-air channels simultaneously with success.

    Speaking of hyperlocal, Snell exhibited its Mozart system, which ties its Kahuna switcher, an audio board and other peripherals together with special control software (developed by Mozart Medialab, in Norway) to allow a single operator to run an entire newscast. Snell has sold a few to stations in Europe, but none so far in the United States. (Sinclair Broadcast Group, which has purchased several Kahuna switchers for its stations is said to be in negotiations to set up a system in a major southern market.) Snell is pitching the Mozart newscast automation system as an as ideal tool for digital subchannels that can include hyperlocal content not found on the main TV channel.

    Since the announced merger of Pro-Bel and Snell in March, the combining of product lines is evolving, although at a slow pace, with many of the modular products from Snell existing iQ inventory now under the control of Pro-Bel routing switchers. More integration, and some product elimination, is due next year.

    Sony continues on its course of offering both optical disc (XDCAM) and solid-state (EX/SxS) production systems, and at HD World it showed an existing PDWHR1 XCDAM deck with a new removable flash media option that holds two SxS cards. The new solid-state option is — due for official introduction at NAB 2010 — ideal for stations that have XDCAM cameras and are adding affordable EX3 cameras for additional videographers in the field. Of note, material on SxS cards can be read and transferred to an editing system at a much faster transfer rate than optical disc.

    Making its North American debut, Harris showed its new X50 frame synchronizer/converter, a single-channel, 1RU frame designed for small stations and mobile production trucks as well as for production studios and networks. It features up-, down- and crossconversion, eight analog and four AES inputs and outputs, and 16 channels of embedded audio processing. Standard features include color correction, closed-caption/teletext capabilities, control and monitoring via a built-in Web server, support for Active Format Description and two fully controllable aspect ratio converters.

    The X50 supports SD and HD formats‚ including optional 3Gb/s 1080p Level A and Level B processing for hybrid television and production systems. It can be used to process analog and digital baseband video and audio. Fiber input and output is available as a plug-in option.

    TANDBERG Television presented a demonstration of its new CE-XH42 MPEG-4 encoder that allows users of contribution-level content to send high-quality 4:2:2 material in less bandwidth than that required of MPEG-2. The company’s RX8200 decoder sits at the receive end.

    The demo showed a side-by-side comparison of 1080i material “transmitted” as an MPEG-2 stream at 60Mb/s next to an MPEG-4 stream at 40Mb/s, and the quality was virtually identical. A company rep said the box can support three 1080i HD channels at 20Mb/s each. Saving bandwidth means less transmission costs, and there’s no apparent compromise in quality. Broadcasters need for these high-quality links between live events and the studio or from studio to studio. NBC will use dozen of the new encoders for the upcoming Winter Olympics from Canada this February, although at 4:2:0 processing.

    Along with its ProHD camera lineup that has sold well to midmarket stations across the country, (although the economy has slowed things down a bit), JVC showed a new 42in 3-D monitor it said can be used in post production for editing and stereoscopic processing preview, using low-cost glasses for viewing. The monitor will also be available to consumers this Christmas season. The one product category seeing a steady increase in business throughout the downturn is fiber-optic cabling that can handle full 3Gb/s signals. Companies like MultiDyne and Telecast Fiber Systems both reported brisk sales, in light of the desire among some customers to produce HD events in the bandwidth-hungry 1080p/60 format and for 3-D TV telecasts.

    NewTek's NewvMiniature Live TV HD Production Vehicle Tour

    NewTek Inc., manufacturer of video and 3D animation products, announced the NewTek TriCasts™ America Tour, sponsored by Canon U.S.A., Inc. and TodoCast™. From October 27 through November 17, 2009, NewTek is traveling cross-country in one of the first, and smallest, live TV high definition (HD) production vehicles showcasing the small footprint, portability and ease of use of NewTek products. From Los Angeles to New York City, NewTek is hosting 10 live events inviting audiences to see the TriCaster™ XD300 HD portable live production system and the customized MINI Cooper® in action.

    “NewTek is redefining HD portable live production,” said Michael Kornet, chief marketing officer, NewTek. “We chose a MINI Cooper because it is the ideal vehicle to illustrate the small footprint of NewTek network-quality products. We invite everyone to participate in these elaborate events at exciting venues to see history in the making as we shatter the barriers to HD live production and delivery.”

    This miniature HD studio-on-wheels includes a multi-camera switcher, network-style virtual sets, full HD streaming, slow motion replay system, titling station, audio mixer, three camera ISO recorder, video editing, 3D motion graphics system and more. For the NewTek TriCasts America Tour, all HD cameras are provided by Canon and the satellite system for streaming distribution is provided by TodoCast.

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    PEOPLE IN THE NEWS

    Tim Thorsteinson Leaving Harris Broadcast

    Harris Broadcast Communications President Tim Thorsteinson has announced plans to retire from the company effective Oct. 31, 2009, to pursue other interests. Harris has begun reviewing both internal and external candidates for his successor. Thorsteinson joined Harris four years ago as part of the Leitch Technology acquisition.

    “Tim has been instrumental in driving our broadcast business’ global expansion, entry into new product and market segments and cost reduction and operations initiatives,” said Howard Lance, chairman, president and CEO of Harris.

    Tim Thorsteinson was named president of Harris Broadcast Communications Division July 1, 2006. He was previously president of the Leitch Technology business unit of the Broadcast Communications Division. Thorsteinson joined the company in October 2005 following Harris’ acquisition of Leitch.

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    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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