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Time & Synchronization Standards SOught by EBU & SMPTE
The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) and the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) have announced the creation of a Joint Task Force to examine and standardize future needs for timing and synchronization in moving picture and related industries.
Lieven Vermaele, newly appointed Technical Director of EBU said "The focus on user requirements is the key element to ensure new solutions that will meet the needs of our members and other organizations around the world."
Gavin Schutz, SMPTE Engineering Vice President, added that the partnership with EBU “has always been important and productive; we look forward to applying the talents of both organizations to these issues."
Current methods of timing and synchronization for television, audio and other moving picture signals rely on standards that have been in place for over 30 years. While these standards have proven to be robust solutions that served the industry well for some time, they are predicated on technologies that are becoming increasingly inappropriate for the digital age. For example, networked content sharing or higher frame rate HDTV image formats now impose unacceptable limitations for the future.
The task force will begin by focusing on user requirements. Based on the input to be received from broadcasters, the media and entertainment industries, the task force will publish one or more Requests for Technology (RFT). The industry's responses to these RFT will then be evaluated against the known user requirements. The outcome of this process will be a set of specifications and then passed to the appropriate SMPTE technology committees for due process standardization.
The task force will be chaired jointly by Dr. Hans Hoffmann of the EBU Technical Department, and Peter Symes, SMPTE Director of Standards & Engineering. It will adhere to an aggressive time schedule intended to publish the final specification by the end of 2008.
The first meeting of the task force will be held in New York on November 5 – 6, 2007.
IEEE Launches Internet Television
IEEE announced the launch of IEEE.tv – an Internet-based television network that features targeted programming on technology and engineering produced by IEEE members. Featuring a variety of programming options including hot topics in technology, conference highlights and interviews with industry experts, IEEE.tv can be viewed at www.ieee.org/ieeetv.
First launched as a Beta site in August 2006, IEEE.tv is a collaborative effort of IEEE volunteers, members and staff. Improved features include “flash” video format, a list of “most viewed” and “recently added” videos and different options for RSS feeds, enabling Internet syndication. Additional features available only to IEEE members include downloadable videos and personalization options.
Currently 30 programs are available for viewing, including videos on wind power, biomedical engineering, and recycling computer and electronic products. New programs, recorded in high-definition, will be added monthly.
“IEEE.tv is truly a collaborative, IEEE member-produced initiative that is strongly in accordance with IEEE’s mission of educating the public on important technology and engineering issues,” said Pedro Ray, vice president, IEEE Regional Activities. “The IEEE.tv viewer can also be launched from any Web site, allowing us a greater opportunity to syndicate the network.”
IPTV Infrastructure Not Ready for Prime Time
IPTV was the talk of the major international broadcasting conference, IBC, in Amsterdam earlier this month. But according to Broadcast International, the infrastructure for delivering on the promise of IPTV – HD-quality video delivered on an IP broadband network, wherever and whenever users want it – is not yet ready for prime time. The weak spot in the delivery chain is inadequate video compression technology, which is necessary for providing the quantity and quality of video that users will demand, according to Rod Tiede, CEO of Broadcast International, a leading video technology innovator.
As new video content sources proliferate – from traditional broadcast media, to portal players such as Yahoo! and Google, to YouTube-style user-generated content – bandwidth will be devoured at unprecedented levels, precipitating a “crisis in bandwidth.” Even new fiber initiatives such as those from Verizon and AT&T will be challenged to deliver HD-quality, according to Tiede.
“Experience has shown us that as broadband adoption has increased, so have consumers’ appetites for ways to use that extra bandwidth. IPTV will test those limits,” said Tiede. “Right now, most video compression solutions are not up to the challenge of dealing with the avalanche of video content that will accompany the emergence of IPTV, and certainly not with anything approaching HD quality. At best, most offer a 25 percent reduction in bandwidth, with compromised picture quality, which is nowhere near that required for IPTV.”
According to Tiede, a video compression solution that is capable of dealing with the content requirements for IPTV must offer closer to a 90 percent reduction in bandwidth for both live and pre-recorded video and deliver an HD quality experience.
“In order for IPTV to live up to its promise, the user experience must be at least as good as that delivered by traditional broadcast media; and in fact, it should exceed it. But the existing infrastructure is just not up to that standard without a major change in video compression technology,” said Tiede.
According to Tiede, an IPTV-ready video compression solution must be based on an open software architecture so that it can be easily upgraded as new standards such as H.264 emerge, and as new specialized codecs come onto the market. A scalable underlying hardware architecture is also required so that additional processing power can be readily added to accommodate the predicted surges in video consumption brought about by IPTV.
“Right now,” said Tiede, “there are billions of dollars in video compression infrastructure that will have to be literally thrown away when new standards emerge because the software and hardware on these ‘encoders’ are so tightly coupled. That’s like having to throw out your whole computer every time Microsoft releases a new version of software. It’s just a bad model that has been rejected in nearly every other segment of the technology industry, but somehow persists in the encoder market.”
BI’s patented video compression software, CodecSys, reduces bandwidth needs by more than 80 percent 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, 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.”
SMPTE Explores What’s Next for 3D
The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) unveiled a stellar roster of technology leaders spanning a number of industries from 3D, online, film, broadcast, satellite, and cable, next-generation image acquisition, networking and delivery systems, for the annual SMPTE Technical Conference & Exhibition, October 24-27, 2007 in Brooklyn, New York.
Bran Ferren, Co-Chairman and Chief Creative Officer, Applied Minds, will open the conference with a keynote, followed by a top engineering executive panel. The Panel, titled “Next Generation Media: Engineering the Multi-Platform Future,” will host industry thought-leaders who will discuss and underscore strategies of the new challenges in creating, managing, and developing the multiple platforms of the future.
Additional technical topics to be addressed at the conference include advanced image acquisition, maintaining quality of HDTV, content protection and anti-piracy, advances in film/digital technologies, metadata management, hybrid AV/IT systems, audio advancements, digital intermediate, digital asset management and archive, advanced imaging, content distribution, and IPTV technology.
A special program, “Education Day,” scheduled for Friday, October 26, will focus on educating faculty and students on technical updates in the motion imaging industry. Wendy Aylsworth, Vice President of Technology, Warner Bros. Technical Operations, will keynote the Education Day Luncheon. The Day will close with the “Honors and Awards Reception and Ceremony” hosted by Daniel Sieberg, Science and Technology Correspondent, CBS News.
As the premier event for the motion imaging industry, the SMPTE Technical Conference & Exhibition brings together technology thought-leaders from the post-production, filmmaking, broadcast and cable industries for four days of technical sessions, a high-tech exhibition hall and unparalleled networking opportunities.
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AT&T Offered to Buy EchoStar
AT&T has offered to buy EchoStar, the nation's second largest satellite TV service, according to a report from TheStreet.com.
The web site reports that AT&T has offered $55 a share, while the satcaster may be holding out for $65 a share.
The deal would seem to make sense for both companies.
EchoStar is under pressure to increase spending on several initiatives, including High-Definition TV, to keep pace with rival DIRECTV and the cable operators. AT&T could supply the financing, for instance, for EchoStar to launch new satellite to expand high-def capacity.
Meanwhile, AT&T's TV service, u-Verse, has failed to reach 50,000 subscribers after more than two years. Buying EchoStar would give the telco more than 13 million video subscribers overnight.
TheStreet.com says Oppenheimer analyst Tom Eagan has raised his rating on EchoStar in anticipation of a AT&T deal. He believes AT&T would likely pay about $56 a share for the satcaster.
Both companies declined to comment on Thursday, TheStreet.com reports
Echostar to buy Slingbox, and split?
EchoStar Communications has agreed to acquire Sling Media in a deal that values the maker of the Slingbox device at $380 million. The price is payable in cash and EchoStar options.
Slingbox devices allow users to watch their home TV signals on any Internet-connected computer."As an early investor in Sling Media, EchoStar has been pleased with the progress and commitment the company has made establishing Sling Media and the Slingbox as powerful and beloved digital media brands," EchoStar Chief Executive Charlie Ergen said.
Sling Media CEO Blake Krikorian said the deal would help Sling Media expand. "We have worked closely with EchoStar for more than two years and have come to realize that both companies have similar entrepreneurial cultures and mutual dedication and passion for creating empowering experiences that benefit the consumer and the media industry."
Meanwhile, EchoStar said it is considering separating into two publicly traded companies. This would involve EchoStar's technology and infrastructure assets - including its set-top box design and manufacturing business and international operations - being spun off from the DISH Network US consumer pay-TV business. Current shareholders would have separate ownership interests in each company. EchoStar Chairman and Chief Executive Charlie Ergen would remain as chairman and CEO of DISH Network, while filling the same roles at the new business.
U.S. Advertising Spending Down, but Internet Ad Spending Up
The Nielsen Company reported
that advertising spending for the first half of 2007 was down 0.5% over the
same period last year, with Internet spending showing the strongest
performance (+23.2%) of any category.
According to preliminary figures from Nielsen Monitor-Plus, the leading
provider of competitive advertising information, advertising spending was
mixed across media with gains in some categories and declines in others. In
addition to Internet advertising, other categories that showed an increase
during the first half of this year were: National Magazines (8.4%),
National Sunday Supplements (6.5%), Outdoor (5.1%) and Spot TV Markets
"Even in this soft market outdoor ad spending continues to show
strength. This traditional medium has embraced technology and is offering
more and more digital and interactive advertising opportunities," said
Brian Lane, Senior Vice President of Client Strategy & Product Development
for Nielsen Monitor- Plus. "National magazine ad spending is also on an
upswing with increased rate card ad revenue reported for the first half of
Advertising spending across monitored media for the top 10 companies in
the first half of 2007 reached $8.3 million, down 7.3% from the same time
period in 2006. Seven out of the ten advertisers decreased budgets. General
Motors continues to show the largest decline, cutting advertising for some
truck brands, although they did increase spending
Vonage Guilty In Sprint Patent Suit
Vonage suffered another legal blow when a Federal jury in Kansas ordered the VoIP provider to pay $69.5 million to Sprint for patent infringement.
The suit, while not as high profile as Vonage's court battles with Verizon, may nonetheless prove costly for the embattled VoIP provider. The jury verdict represents five percent of Vonage's revenues over the period in which it was found to be infringing on six of Sprint's patents.
Vonage said it would "seek to develop technological workarounds that don't infringe on Sprint's patents" as it has done with Verizon's patents
"We are disappointed that the jury did not recognize that our technology differs from that of Sprint's patents," said Sharon O'Leary, Vonage chief legal officer, in a statement. "Vonage has already demonstrated that it can keep its focus on customers and on its core business while managing ongoing litigation."
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Chyron Reverse Stock Split
Chyron Corporation announced that its previously announced one-for-three reverse stock split will become effective as of the open of market trading tomorrow, September 20, 2007, and the Company’s shares will begin trading on a split-adjusted basis on the OTC Bulletin Board under the new trading symbol “CHYN.”
As previously announced, the split is part of the Company’s efforts to pursue a listing for its common shares on the American Stock Exchange LLC (AMEX). The Company’s AMEX listing application is pending, although there can be no assurance that the application will be approved.
The number of post-split common shares outstanding is approximately 15.2 million. The exercise price and number of common shares related to outstanding options have been adjusted automatically to reflect the reverse stock split.
Arris buys C-COR
Arris Group is to pay $730 million in a mix of cash and stock for C-COR Incorporated. Arris says with over 250 customers around the world, the companies collectively reported revenues of over $1.2 billion over the past year and the merged company will be the largest pure-play provider of equipment and solutions to the cable industry.
C-COR’s takeover price of $13.75 a share represents a 19 per cent premium to the 30 day trading average of C-COR stock and a 39 per cent premium to the closing price of C-COR common stock on September 21, 2007. The transaction is expected to close in January 2008.
Bob Stanzione, ARRIS Chairman and CEO, said, "ARRIS and C-COR have had a long standing business relationship. The complementary nature of our portfolios has led us to interact often in supporting our common customers. The combination of our two businesses will create the leading pure play solutions provider to the global cable industry offering a full suite of IP telephony, high speed data, video infrastructure and video management solutions. The combined company will be extremely well positioned to deliver cross-platform solutions aimed at key customer spending initiatives including switched digital video, next generation video on-demand and digital advertising infrastructure. The combination also enables us to build on our leadership positions in cable IP telephony, cable optical and access infrastructure and cable modem termination systems. Further, this combination will allow us to be at the forefront of innovation within our industry and will enable us to introduce products and solutions that neither company would be able to develop alone."
David Woodle, Chairman and CEO of C-COR, said, "Arris is the best strategic partner for C-COR, allowing us to better serve our worldwide customers with an extensive footprint and as a result we are extremely excited about the potential of this combined company going forward and the value creation it represents. Moreover, with the significant stock component offered in the transaction, C-COR's shareholders have a meaningful opportunity to participate in realisation of that value.
"Arris will be hoping this transaction closes without further drama – at the beginning of 2008 it announced an agreed takeover of Tandberg only to be dropped at the last moment when Ericsson topped their bid
Focus Enhancements $5.4 Million
Focus Enhancements announced it entered into agreements for $5.4 million of gross proceeds of new equity financing for the company led by an existing long-term investor.
Through two separate transactions, the company issued a total of approximately 6.1 million shares of common stock pursuant to its shelf registration at a price of $0.88 per share and 5-year warrants to purchase additional 1,534,092 shares of common stock at an exercise price of $1.05 per share, which are immediately exercisable. One transaction closed on September 17th, and in that transaction the company issued approximately 2.3 million shares of common stock and warrants to purchase additional 568,182 shares of common stock. In the second transaction that closed on September 26, the company issued 3.9 million shares of common stock and warrants to purchase an additional 965,910 shares of common stock. The company agreed to pay placement agent fees totaling eight percent of the total amount raised. The company intends to use the net proceeds from this financing of approximately $4.9 million for working capital and general corporate purposes.
Brett Moyer, CEO of Focus Enhancements, said, “We are excited about our next phase of UWB commercialization and remain optimistic our high performance UWB chip will start shipping in commercial quantities in October.”
Pixelworks Announces Share Repurchase Program
Pixelworks announced that its board of directors has approved a stock repurchase program that authorizes the Company to repurchase up to $10 million worth of the Company’s common stock over the next twelve months.
The program does not obligate Pixelworks to acquire any particular amount of common stock and may be modified or suspended at any time at the Company’s discretion. Stock repurchases under the program may be made through open market and privately negotiated transactions at the Company’s discretion, subject to market conditions and other factors.
The repurchases will be funded from available working capital. As of June 30, 2007, Pixelworks had cash, cash equivalents and short-term marketable securities of approximately $110 million and as of September 21, 2007, the Company had approximately 49.0 million shares of common stock outstanding.
Hans Olsen, President and CEO of Pixelworks, Inc., stated, “With our stock repurchase program announcement today, we reaffirm our confidence and optimism in the long term future of the company and as well our commitment to deliver value to our shareholders. We believe that at current stock price trading levels the company’s stock is undervalued, and that its repurchase at these prices is appropriate.”
SeaChange Receives NASDAQ Notice Due to Delay in Filing of Form 10-Q
SeaChange International, Inc. announced that the company has received a NASDAQ Staff Determination letter indicating that the company is not in compliance with the NASDAQ continued listing requirements set forth in Marketplace Rule 4310(c)(14). SeaChange received this Staff Determination on September 18, 2007 due to the delayed filing of the Company’s Form 10-Q for the second quarter of fiscal 2008, which ended July 31, 2007.
As previously disclosed in the company’s Current Report on Form 8-K filed on September 17, 2007, SeaChange notified The NASDAQ Stock Market LLC (“NASDAQ”) on September 17, 2007 that it would not timely file the Form 10-Q with the SEC, and therefore, the company would not be in compliance with NASDAQ’s filing requirement as set forth in NASDAQ Marketplace Rule 4310(c)(14). SeaChange has requested a hearing before a Nasdaq Listing Qualifications Panel (the “Panel”) to review the Staff Determination. There can be no assurance that the Panel will grant SeaChange’s request for continued listing.
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New Versions of Pinnacle Studio MovieBox with HDV/AVCHD Support
Pinnacle Systems announced the latest editions of Pinnacle Studio™ MovieBox® with HDV and AVCHD support. Leveraging the product’s reputation as the ultimate movie-making solution for analog and digital video, the new Pinnacle Studio MovieBox Plus and MovieBox Ultimate include a stylish, high-speed USB 2.0 video capture device and a full version of Pinnacle Studio Plus version 11 and Studio Ultimate version 11 respectively—the software that has been reaping awards for delivering robust HDV/AVCHD video editing and authoring capabilities.
By offering support for the full range of video formats and automatic Web publishing, Pinnacle Studio MovieBox Plus and Pinnacle Studio MovieBox Ultimate will appeal to home videographers/hobbyists and business users who want a single, easy-to-use solution for capturing, editing and authoring professional-looking videos from a brand they can trust.
With AVCHD support, users can capture video from the new Sony™ and Panasonic® AVCHD camcorders and can edit their content directly, in its native format—eliminating the need for time-consuming format conversions. Completed videos can then be burned to an HD DVD or AVCHD format disc using standard DVD media that can be played back by the latest HD DVD and Blu-ray players. The AVCHD standard stores the same amount of video in half the space required by the MPEG-2 format.
Like the earlier versions, the new editions of Pinnacle Studio MovieBox can also be used to capture video from analog sources such as an 8mm camcorder, a VCR, a TV or a set-top box; and from digital devices such as DV camcorders. Consumers can even unleash their creativity by mixing legacy analog tapes, DV video, high definition video and photos to create a project that will be “up-sampled” to HD resolution.
Fully compatible with Windows® Vista™, Pinnacle Studio Plus and Pinnacle Studio Ultimate feature a new, scalable interface that make the software ideal for working on widescreen monitors or adjusting the windows for close-up views. In addition to offering automatic movie creation, these next-generation applications now include the new Scorefitter™ music generator. Designed to automatically generate soundtracks from 40 source tracks and 48kHz audio samples for higher fidelity, Scorefitter provides greater accuracy than previous solutions. Pinnacle Studio Plus and Pinnacle Studio Ultimate also include hundreds of keyframeable and format-independent (SD and HD) real-time effects and transitions to give videos a unique, professional look. Consumers who want to take their videos with them wherever they go can use the special presets to conveniently send them to their Apple® iPod®, Sony™ PSP® or DivX® device.
For video editing power users, Pinnacle offers Studio MovieBox Ultimate with added features such as BIAS Inc.’s SoundSoap™ audio cleaning tools, professional-level special effects from ProDAD VitaScene, precision panning and zooming with StageTools™ MovingPicture, and a Chroma Key green screen backdrop for easy-to-achieve professional results.
Available at Best Buy, Fry’s, Amazon.com, Buy.com and other fine retail and etail stores, Pinnacle Studio MovieBox Plus and Pinnacle Studio MovieBox Ultimate with HDV/AVCHD support have MSRPs of US$119.99 and US$149.99 respectively.
Motorola Enables HD Expansion With MPEG-4 to MPEG-2 Receiver
Motorola announced a significant advance in video network delivery
solutions with the introduction of the Motorola DSR-6000 series receivers,
the first of a new generation of receiver-transcoders. The DSR-6000 series
is the first step in allowing networks to use both MPEG-4 AVC and MPEG-2
Motorola's DSR-6000 follows the success of Motorola's award-winning
DigiCipher II(R) secure content delivery systems, to enhance network
efficiency for both programmers and operators by reducing bandwidth
requirements up to 75 percent while delivering high-quality MPEG-2 or
Building on over 20 years of technology innovation in the video
industry, Motorola's DSR-6000 series makes the delivery of programming
significantly more effective for both programmers and operators by enabling
the operators to receive programming in bandwidth-efficient MPEG-4. This,
coupled with more efficient higher-order modulation technology, reduces
satellite transponder requirements by up to 75 percent, allowing
programmers to deliver additional high-quality high definition (HD) and
standard definition (SD) programming. The receiver converts content into
MPEG-2 for operators with MPEG-2 set tops.
"Programmers and operators are expanding high-definition programming
portfolios to meet the ever-growing demand from consumers for more
high-quality video," said Doug Means, corporate vice president and general
manager of Motorola's IP Video Solutions Group. "The introduction of the
Motorola DSR-6000 family of receiver-transcoders extends our video network
delivery leadership by allowing both MPEG-4 and MPEG-2 compression
technologies to work within the same network. We see strong demand from our
customers and anticipate that this innovative series of products will
accelerate the adoption of HD programming."
Using the DSR-6000 series, programmers can distribute content solely in
the MPEG-4 HD format, while enabling service providers to deliver in either
MPEG-4 or MPEG-2, and in either standard definition or high definition
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PEOPLE IN THE NEWS
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SCRI RESEARCH NEWS
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Digital Set-Top Boxes Will Peak in 2009
Annual shipment trends for DTT (Digital Terrestrial Television)–enabled STBs (Set-Top Boxes) will be uneven over the next several years as the timing of digital switchover and DTT service availability varies dramatically from country to country, according to a recent study from ABI Research. A decline in Western Europe will come as the result of an earlier switchover to digital in most countries, along with the need for consumers with analog TVs receiving OTA (Over-the-Air) signals to obtain DTT STBs or to join pay-TV services. The peak in North America in 2009 reflects the timing of the digital switchover, and highlights the need for those with free OTA service on analog TVs to make a switch.
“The spike in 2009 reflects a jump in North America and continued growth in Eastern Europe and the Middle East/Africa region,” says Stan Schatt, ABI Research vice president and research director. “After a subsequent decline, annual shipments again will increase in 2012, as the decline in annual DTT STB shipments stabilizes and annual shipments of IP STBs with DTT capabilities continue to grow.”
In 2007, there is strong market growth in Western Europe, particularly for relay stations. Asia-Pacific is picking up as well with DTT headend deployments, as telecom operators seek to partner with DTT service providers to enhance telco TV services which are not permitted to include broadcast channels.
Additionally, the slight up-tick in 2012 for Asia-Pacific reflects the start of DTT traction in China, and the steadying of shipments in Western Europe is a sign of the use of DTT in IP STBs offsetting declines in standalone DTT STBs. “The timing of DTT rollouts will depend, in part, on digital switchover dates as well as the interest of telecom operators (many of whom are getting licenses to be official DTT operators) in order to develop DTT systems to integrate into telco TV services,” adds Schatt.
US VoD two hours a day by 2012
Within the next five years, Americans will be spending more than a third of their daily TV-viewing time watching on-demand programs rather than regularly scheduled shows and events, according to a new forecast by Pike Fischer.
In a report on video-on-demand (VOD) usage, the market research firm says that the majority of households in the US will watch some form of on-demand content provided through cable, satellite TV or telephone company fibre-optic lines. And while the average monthly TV viewing time per household will remain relatively stable, the amount of that time viewing VOD will rise from 8.5 per cent at the end of 2007 to about 38 per cent by 2012, the report concludes. That translates into nearly two hours of VOD viewing per day.
According to Scott Sleek of Pike Fischer: "Cable companies in particular are identifying advertising as a key area of growth potential, since the addition of high-speed Internet and digital phone customers will eventually level off. Video on demand will enable more targeted advertising, based on user profiles and viewing habits‹the same way sites like Amazon.com operate today. That will make television an appealing marketing platform for advertisers."
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