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Insider Report

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

w/e October 5, 2008 SCRI International, Inc © 1984 - 2008


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US DTV transition awareness rises

Consumer awareness of the transition to digital television (DTV) has grown 12 percentage points to 86 per cent since the first of the year, according to new market research released today by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA). This growth can be attributed to the ongoing joint educational efforts of government and private sector entities.

CEA also released new survey results that predict the continued success of the National Telecommunication and Information Administration (NTIA)’s converter box coupon program. With five months remaining before the transition date, almost one-third (32 per cent) of households using an antenna on at least one television have already applied for their converter box coupon. Another 37 per cent of antenna households plan to request their coupon within the year, while 21 per cent don’t plan to request a coupon at all. This data suggests that antenna households will request an additional 14 million converter box coupons in the coming months, well within the available number of coupons remaining in NTIA’s programme

US looks to mobile for entertainment

A recent survey of US mobile phone users by Artificial Life has revealed that 46 per cent use their devices for entertainment purposes, illustrating evolution of the mobile phone as a prominent communication tool to a must-have, multi-purpose consumer gadget.

The survey of 200 respondents shows that 33 per cent of individuals use their phone for entertainment over any other purpose, including email, GPS and Internet browsing. In addition, 87.5 per cent of those that own smartphones access entertainment content, such as music, games and video. Validating the continued development of the mobile entertainment industry, survey results also show that 56 per cent of people who do not own a smartphone desire the advanced types of features available on higher-end phones. One fourth of this group reported they want a phone with music, gaming and video capabilities

DISH gets HD boost with satellite launch

DISH Network Corp's plan to roll out more high-definition video channels received a boost after the successful launch of the company's EchoStar XI broadcast satellite.

DISH, the second-largest U.S. satellite TV operator, needs to roll out more HD channels to be able to compete with larger rival DirecTV Group as well as cable and phone companies' video services.

The Denver-based company's HD plans were set back in March when a satellite launch by SES Americom failed to reach its intended orbit. The SES Americom satellite was entirely contracted by DISH affiliate EchoStar Corp.

DISH said earlier this month that it would add another 17 national HD channels, bringing its total to 100 ahead of its original year-end target. DirecTV has said it will have 150 HD channels by the year-end.

DISH also said it would introduce TurboHD, an all-HD programming package.

The satellite operators are aggressively pushing HD as a way of differentiating themselves from cable operators. Although cable companies are also launching HD channels at a rapid pace, they are still behind the satellite operators on average.

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Studios sue RealNetworks over DVD copying

RealNetworks and major film studios are off in a legal battle over a new product allowing consumers to make computer copies of DVDs that the studios claim is illegal.

"RealNetworks' RealDVD should be called StealDVD," said Greg Goeckner, executive vice president and general counsel for the MPAA. "RealNetworks knows its product violates the law and undermines the hard-won trust that has been growing between America's movie makers and the technology community."

But the company argues RealDVD has built-in encryption to prevent saved copies of DVDs from being shared or stolen. "We are disappointed that the movie industry is following in the footsteps of the music industry and trying to shut down advances in technology rather than embracing changes that provide consumers with more value and flexibility for their purchases," RealNetworks said

Broadcom to Acquire Digital TV Business from AMD

Broadcom Corporation announced that the companies have entered into a definitive agreement for Broadcom to acquire AMD's digital TV (DTV) business.

The acquisition of AMD's DTV business is expected to enable Broadcom to immediately scale its DTV business, and, in conjunction with its existing products, to offer a complete product line that covers all segments of the DTV market ranging from low-end value and mid-range quality to high-end interactive platforms and panel processors. The acquisition also is intended to expand Broadcom's existing tier one customer base, which includes the top DTV brands worldwide. This deal aims to enhance and strengthen Broadcom's innovative DTV system solution offerings while delivering the scale and focus needed to forge a market-leading DTV business.

In connection with the transaction, approximately 530 members of AMD's dedicated DTV team, in addition to certain employees directly supporting this team, located in six primary design centers around the world, will be invited to join Broadcom. AMD's DTV product line includes all Xilleon(TM) integrated DTV processors and complete turnkey reference designs, as well as NXT receiver ICs, the Theater(TM) 300 DTV processor, and a line of panel processors that perform advanced motion compensation, frame rate conversion and scaling.

"The acquisition of AMD's DTV business, which will become the core of Broadcom's DTV line of business, will enable us to significantly scale and accelerate the completion of our digital TV product portfolio while also expanding our tier one customer base and positions us to achieve leadership and long-term growth in this important market segment," said Daniel Marotta, Senior Vice President & General Manager of Broadcom's Broadband Communications Group. "We believe our combined DTV team will be in an excellent position to grow and thrive in this burgeoning market by bringing best-in-class people, technology, solutions and support to our customers."

"AMD is executing a strategic plan to transform the company, becoming leaner and more focused while seeking to create a business model to deliver sustainable profitability," said Dirk Meyer, President and Chief Executive Officer of AMD. "The sale of our DTV business is a key step in AMD's transformation, helping to strengthen our balance sheet, lower our breakeven point, and hone our focus in order to take full advantage of our position as a leader in both microprocessors and graphics technology. Broadcom will be a great fit for our talented DTV employees and the DTV products they have created."

DirecTV posts solid quarter

US satellite broadcaster DirecTV Group posted solid revenue gains from selling high-definition programming and avoided the subscriber losses that hit rival Dish in the second quarter.

The outfit, of which Liberty Media owns a controlling interest, reported earnings of $455 million on second-quarter revenue of $4.8 billion. DirecTV’s revenue jumped 16 per cent from the $4.1 billion it recorded in the second quarter of 2007, though quarterly profits grew only 2 per cent from the $448 million from a year ago.

DirecTV added 129,000 new customers in the quarter, reaching 17.2 million subscribers in the US.

EchoStar signs for tru2way

Pay-TV technology and service provider EchoStar Technologies has reinforced its commitment to providing products and technologies to the cable industry by signing a the tru2way Host Device Licence Agreement with CableLabs.

This agreement grants EchoStar the rights required to implement OpenCable Application Platform (OCAP) middleware and the CableCARD interface on devices using tru2way technology, allowing users to take full advantage of two-way, interactive cable services.

Tru2way is a national software platform that enables cable's interactive services to be delivered to two-way plug and play TVs, set-top boxes, and other devices. Tru2way also creates a national footprint for the creators of interactive services to develop products that work on cable systems in nearly every US market. Major cable operators have committed to support the tru2way platform on systems covering more than 90 million US homes by the end of 2008.

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Matsushita Electric Becomes Panasonic Corporation

Effective October 1, 2008, Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd. has become Panasonic Corporation, and its ticker symbol on the New York Stock Exchange has been changed from MC to PC. The name change also took effect for some of the group companies that used the names Matsushita or National. Along with the name change, Panasonic is working on the brand changeover from National to Panasonic in Japan, aiming to complete the transition by the end of March 2010.

When it was first established in 1918, the company was known as Matsushita Electric Housewares Manufacturing Works, which was changed to Matsushita Electric Manufacturing Works in 1929. The company used the name Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd. after its incorporation as a joint stock corporation in 1935. While the company used the National and Panasonic brand names over a long period, it decided in 2003 to position Panasonic as its global brand with the slogan "Panasonic ideas for life".

With this company name change and brand unification, the company has renewed its commitment to bringing the achievements accumulated through the three different names of Matsushita, National, and Panasonic under the single name of Panasonic to enhance its brand value.

Panasonic Corporation will maintain and put its management philosophy into practice throughout the world. The company will inherit and further develop the corporate culture cultivated by the Matsushita Group. Panasonic employees across the world will unite their efforts under the common management philosophy, pursuing together the common goal of making Panasonic Corporation a globally excellent company. Inc. remained as the company’s sole Board member

Focus Enhancements Q2 Revenue Down

Brett Moyer, president and CEO of Focus Enhancements, stated “During 2008, we are implementing a three-prong strategy to improve the company’s position strategically and financially as we wait for the ultra wideband (UWB) market to materialize. First, we are investing in technologies with quick time-to-market revenue opportunities, like our ProxSys® technology alliance with Sony Electronics and our digital wireless audio (DWA) technology acquired at the beginning of July. Second, we further lowered our costs in July by deferring certain non-critical engineering expenses and reducing our overall headcount. Since the beginning of the year, excluding the hiring of six employees to work on our DWA technology, we have reduced our headcount by 35 and cut our annual payroll by approximately $2.2 million a year or $550,000 a quarter. Third, we are rationalizing our UWB investments to coincide with the market’s delay. As the UWB industry lags in its launch, we have deferred our expenses in semiconductor research and development (R&D) for the next generation of products and redeployed resources to reflect the re-positioning our existing UWB chip with A/V applications made possible by our new DWA technology.”

“Already, we have demonstrated or discussed our DWA approach with over 25 potential customers, including some of the largest consumer electronic (CE) companies in the world. We have received positive feedback to our proposed implementations of this technology and the timeline for product introductions. We are on track to tape out the DWA chip during the third quarter, provide samples to customers in the fourth quarter, and secure customer design commitments prior to the Consumer Electronics Show in early January, 2009.”

Moyer continued, “The economics for this business are very strong. According to Consumer Electronics Association market data, there are approximately 5 million home theater systems sold per year. If we sold only 350,000 DWA chip sets to CE manufacturers, our Semiconductor Business revenues would increase from an annual rate of approximately $4 million to approximately $18 million with UWB revenue adding to the revenue stream. We believe our DWA and UWB technologies, combined with our existing customer base, make this an achievable first step in building up the business.

“Second quarter revenue was $4.0 million, increasing from $3.9 million in the first quarter of 2008. We remain disappointed with revenue performance, which continued to be impacted by lower than expected Direct To Edit® (DTE) disk recorder sales. However, we began shipments during the last week of June of our fifth generation DTE disk recorder, the FS-5 under the Focus Enhancements brand. In the third quarter, we expect revenue to increase as we begin shipments of ProxSys and FS-5 under OEM agreements with three different partners.”

Optibase Announces Delisting from Stock Exchange

Optibase Ltd. announced that following its resolution to delist its Ordinary Shares from trade on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, the delisting of the Company's ordinary shares from trade on the TASE shall be effective on September 28, 2008. The last day for trading of the Company's ordinary shares on the TASE is September 24, 2008. The ordinary shares of the Company will continue to be listed on the Nasdaq Global Market.

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Video server markets to reach $1.5 billion

The broadcast, cable, and telco TV segments of worldwide video server markets are all growing at a healthy pace, and total revenues are expected to reach $1.5 billion in 2013. Of the three, the telco TV market is showing the strongest growth, with a compound annual growth rate of 28 per cent over 2007-2013. Cable will experience a CAGR of about 13.5 per cent, while broadcast markets show the slowest growth at eight per cent.

“Cable, broadcast and telco TV are all highly competitive markets for video servers,” noted ABI Research industry analyst Zippy Aima. “Cable and broadcast are the more traditional modes of entertainment for consumers, but cable providers and telcos have been quicker to adapt to market trends and to offer innovative consumer services. But to remain competitive, even the broadcast segment has tried its hand at hybrid deployments and similar initiatives.”

ABI suggests in its study - Video Server Market Analysis - that after a slow start in North America, telco TV is now growing quickly there as it is in the rest of the industrialised world. As the latecomer to the television distribution game, telco TV has the advantage of employing the most current technology and the least legacy infrastructure. This, in part, explains the stronger growth in this segment. The hardware side of the equation is largely commoditised; vendors aim for differentiation via the accompanying software applications.

According to ABI, most video server vendors address at least two out of these three markets, and increasingly their goal is to offer an end-to-end platform. This plays to the advantage of some of the newer, larger, entrants to the market, such as Cisco, Sun, Motorola and Arris. They have the resources to fit these servers into larger, more comprehensive solutions. However Aima notes that, “even the smaller, more specialised video server vendors are doing well in this buoyant market.”

Canon Intros New Additions to VIXIA HD Camcorder Line-up

Canon U.S.A. announced the VIXIA HF11 Dual Flash Memory Camcorder, and the VIXIA HG21 and VIXIA HG20 Hard Disk Drive camcorders, providing greater internal storage capacity, enhanced High-Definition image quality and added versatility.

The newest members to the VIXIA HD camcorder family incorporate Canon’s core expertise in optics and image processing, and further raise the bar of High-Definition image quality by offering 24Mbps bit rate recording – the highest possible bit rate in the AVCHD format. The 24Mbps recording provides consumers enhanced detail, finer tonal gradation and improved reproduction of moving subjects. What’s more, the new camcorders have higher internal memory capacity. The VIXIA HF11 Dual Flash Memory camcorder can record up to 12 hours of High-Definition video to a 32GB internal Flash drive, as well as record directly to a removable SDHC card for expanded recording time. The VIXIA HG21 and VIXIA HG20 camcorders feature 120GB and 60GB Hard Disk Drives, respectively, for recording up to 45 or 22 hours of HD video, and also offer the ability to record directly to an SDHC card.

“The upgrade to 24Mbps enables consumers to capture the highest quality of video in the market today, providing the best High-Definition experience on an HDTV” said Yuichi Ishizuka, senior vice president and general manager, Consumer Imaging Group, Canon U.S.A. “This increase, as well as dual recording options on all three VIXIA camcorders, is just another example of Canon’s commitment to understanding the marketplace and helping to lay the groundwork to lead the market for the current and next generation of High-Definition camcorders.”

Available in September, the Canon VIXIA HF11 Dual Flash Memory Camcorder, and VIXIA HG21 and VIXIA HG20 Hard Disk Drive camcorders will have a suggested selling price of $1199, $1299, and $949, respectively. All models come bundled with Pixela ImageMixer 3SE video editing software, which now supports Blu-Ray disk burning.

Fast Forward Video Launches Q HD™ Digital Video Recorder

Fast Forward Video (FFV) announced the launch of the Q HD™ — the first board-level high-definition digital video recorder (DVR) based on the JPEG 2000 (J2K) compression codec for recording HD SDI video signals. The Q HD is designed to be embedded in HD video recording applications that demand the absolute highest image quality, such as high-end surveillance, law enforcement, military, and medical systems.

The Q HD provides the board-level DVR technology used in FFV's cutting-edge Elite HD™ and Omega HD™ DVR systems, with J2K compression ensuring virtually no loss in signal quality at 1080i, 720p, and 480i. The Q HD records at data rates of 100Mbits/s, offering 4:2:2 sampling and a full 10-bit quantization. High-definition recordings are full resolution — 1920 x 1080 (1080i) or 1280 x 720 (720p). The Q HD also provides HD-SDI I/O capabilities and features RS-422 control using Sony, Odetics, and FFV serial protocols.

With its broadcast-level image quality, the Q HD is currently being embedded in a diverse array of HD recording applications. One leading provider of broadcast remote control solutions has licensed the Q HD for use in a high-end video camera and recording system to be mounted on law enforcement helicopters. Another FFV OEM is developing next-generation photo finish video recording equipment for horse racing based on the Q HD.

"Now that HD technology has become accepted and widespread for broadcasting, it's rapidly being adopted for many other applications that rely on high-quality video output," said Mark Playdon, FFV's director of sales. "This increased demand for applications outside the pure broadcasting production realm represents a large opportunity for us, and we've responded by delivering to the market the first board-level HD recording solution to feature J2K compression."

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  • Broadcast/Pro Video Product Sales Top $10 billion -- read more

  • 2008 - 2009 Broadcast/Pro Video Product Reports
  • 2008-09 Broadcast/Pro Video Macro Industry Overview Report
  • 2008-09 Broadcast/Pro Video Micro Quantitative Product Data Report
  • HDTV / Digital Trends Report
  • IPTV / Mobile TV Report

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