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Insider Report

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

w/e May 29, 2008 SCRI International, Inc © 1984 - 2008


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25M homes not ready for DTV says Nielson

Almost 25 million US households have at least one television that won't work next year when the nation's broadcasters switch to digital signals, according to a report by Nielsen Media Research. Of the total, more than 10 million homes are completely unready for the transition from analogu broadcasting, which takes effect February 17th, the survey found. Nielsen bases its figures on a total of 112.8 million US households

EU digital cinema gets boost

XDC, the digital cinema service company in Europe and affiliate of EVS Broadcast Equipment, has announced the signature of non-exclusive long-term agreements with Warner Bros, Paramount Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox and Walt Disney Studios to co-finance the future deployment of maximum 8,000 DCI-compliant digital cinema installations in 22 European countries.

The roll-out period under the agreement will last for a maximum of five years while each digitised screen shall be co-financed over a period of maximum 10 years. Those agreements are co-financing more than 65 per cent of the value of digital exhibition systems made of projectors, servers, applications and services, for a maximum estimated global investment of E600 million. These agreements mark and ease the beginning of the large scale deployment of digital cinema in Europe

Online Video - over 1bn users by 2013

A new study from ABI Research forecasts the number of viewers who access video via the Web to nearly quadruple in the next few years, reaching at least one billion in 2013.

"The rapid expansion of broadband video creates opportunities across a number of market sectors," comments senior analyst Cesar Bachelet. "A wide variety of actors aim to gain a share of this fast-growing market: not only content owners such as the BBC and NBC Universal, and Internet portals such as AOL and Yahoo!, but also a range of new entrants including user-generated content sites such as YouTube and Dailymotion, broadband video sites such as CinemaNow and Lovefilm, and Internet TV providers such as Apple and Zattoo."

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DTV Opportunities for Cable

The folling is a recent Reuters report.

The U.S. cable television industry is feeling more confident going into this year's Cable Show in New Orleans, with the transition to digital television expected to pay dividends for cable operators.

By February of next year, the U.S. government will require the 18 million to 22 million homes that get their television entertainment solely from over-the-air analog broadcast signals to switch to digital televisions.

Digital televisions allow broadcast signals to be compressed, thus freeing up broadcast spectrum that can be sold by the government to media and phone companies.

Though most cable operators already offer digital video to their customers, the government-mandated transition offers a chance to win new first-time or lapsed pay-TV subscribers.

An SNL Kagan study conservatively estimates that 10 percent of those over-the-air U.S. households will opt for pay television after the transition, with cable receiving the majority of converts and satellite and phone companies splitting the remainder.

Comcast Chief Operating Officer Steve Burke said this month that the digital transition offers a "real opportunity" with the 8 million analog broadcast households in its region.

"Many of these people have analog sets and they are going to need to do something," said Burke.

Time Warner Chief Executive Glenn Britt was more conservative. He said last month he expected a modest pick-up in new subscriptions due to the digital transition.

Cable operators such as Comcast Corp (CMCSA.O: Quote, Profile, Research) and Time Warner Cable Inc (TWC.N: Quote, Profile, Research) have bounced back from the second half of 2007, when increased competition from satellite TV operators and phone companies undermined confidence and hurt shares.

After forecasting a difficult 2008, some analysts were surprised by the strong subscriber growth posted by major cable companies in the first quarter, allaying concerns about the U.S. weak economy and housing market slump.

"Cable television will do fine in a recessionary period," said Jan Woodcock, a consultant at Deloitte Consulting.

"Entertainment becomes more important in hard times and you'll go for the most reasonably priced form, which is cable."

Shares of Comcast, the largest U.S. cable TV provider, have risen 40 percent since hitting a 12-month low in January. Time Warner Cable shares have gained 38.5 percent since its year low in February. END-YEAR RUSH Analysts anticipate a surge in consumers switching to digital television late in the December holiday season, with high-definition, flat-panel TV sets acting as a catalyst. According to Frank Magid Associates, 25 percent of U.S. households now have HDTV sets and growth is accelerating. Nearly four in 10 HDTV set owners plan to purchase another HDTV set in the next 12 months. Competition between cable and satellite will heat up over the coming year as they vie to offer more high-definition content to win consumers. Comcast offers hundreds of HD movies and TV shows for free and on-demand viewing. "You've bought this $5,000 high-performance TV, it's hanging up on your wall with a new home theater system, so you want to exercise it with whatever you want to watch," said Comcast's senior vice president of video services, Derek Harrar. "HD is going to be a major topic this year," said Harrar. Cable companies are expected to show off advances in digital technology, such as new devices and services compatible with the interactive Tru2way platform, which debuted at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January. Tru2way technology enables all cable operators to deliver their services over a single platform, so that compatible TV sets and digital video recorders can receive programs and interactive services without a set-top box. Any device branded Tru2way will work with any cable operator, and will also allow 'two-way' services like video-on-demand.

OpenTV Signs Deal With NBC Universal

OpenTV Corp announced that NBC Universal has selected the OpenTV Participate solution to power, centralize and manage cross-platform interactive television applications, including Web, mobile and set-top box, for NBC Universal’s broadcast and cable networks. The programs that will feature the interactive services have not yet been announced.

This enterprise-wide deal comes one year after used the OpenTV Participate solution to successfully power live, Web (PC) based interactive services for the hit primetime series “Heroes.” The ‘two-screen’ interactive services were created, scheduled, managed and analyzed using OpenTV Participate’s production tools, and then synchronized with the “Heroes” broadcast each Monday night across all continental US time zones. Audiences were invited to interact with the broadcasts by entering live polls and offering their own predictions on the outcome of the storylines, all in real time.

OpenTV Participate is a server-based system which can process several thousand transactions per second in real time, delivering a personalized interactive experience to viewers on any platform, whether cable, satellite, terrestrial, mobile or Web. In addition to the synchronized interactive services, OpenTV Participate also allows for virtually unlimited value-added content, such as trivia, fun facts, sponsor messages and interactive advertising.

Microsoft and Chunghwa team for IPTV

Microsoft and Chunghwa Telecom, Taiwan`s top telco, will co-launch an operation called IPTV Ecosystem Development Center in Taiwan to zero in the Internet-based TV market. The operation will see Microsoft offer its Mediaroom platform for IPTVs while Chunghwa integrates systems. The operation will work with Taiwan`s set-top box makers and content providers to tap markets overseas.

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Thomson’s smart VoD vision

Media and entertainment technologist has unveiled its SmartVision video services platform for cable operators launching On Demand services. Previously available for IPTV platforms, the solution has extended its supported infrastructures to include cable. "Thomson brings to cable operators a comprehensive solution for Video On Demand that benefits from the rich feature sets and extensive deployments gained with IPTV operators over the last five years," said Patrick Montliaud Vice President of Thomson Networks and Integration Solutions, within the Systems division.

Sony to eliminate cable STBs?

Sony has signed a deal with six major cable TV operators in the US that will pave the way for digital TVs that can receive cable programmes without the need for a set-top box. The agreement, which other consumer electronics manufacturers are invited to join, is to create TVs and other devices that can provide interactive digital and HD video services, the cable television trade body NCTA said.

The six cable operators who have signed the agreement with Sony are Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cablevision, Cox Communications, Charter Communications and Bright House Networks.

The NCTA said the agreement will help establish a competitive market for "two-way" digital cable-ready products. It addresses how such products will be brought to market with interactive services like video-on-demand, digital video recording and interactive programming guides.

The companies will use the Java-based technology called Tru2way for their interactive ‘plug-and-play’ standard. Tru2way, which was formerly called OpenCable, is built into televisions, set-top boxes and other devices, and will allow companies to develop services that can be offered across all products that comply with the specification.

Motorola Joins Wireless Innovation Alliance

Motorola joined the Wireless Innovation Alliance , a group of computer and technology companies trying to get the Federal Communications Commission to open up the digital-TV-spectrum band to mobile unlicensed wireless devices .

Motorola has been working on a device that combines a database of existing channels with a sensing beacon to ensure that the devices do not interfere with DTV channels. The FCC has been testing that and other devices and has run into problems.

Motorola and the alliance have argued that those problems are simply part of the testing process of prototype devices meant to provide information for the FCC as it crafts rules and procedures for ultimately "unleashing the benefits of this currently fallow spectrum."

Motorola also argued that it "successfully demonstrated the ability to protect digital-TV viewing in a wide variety of conditions, including in the presence of strong adjacent channel signals."

Broadcasters took issue with that assertion and countered that ongoing testing problems mean that the devices aren't working and will cause interference that can impede the DTV transition. They argued that the FCC should not allow mobile unlicensed devices to share the band unless it can be sure that they will not interfere with DTV signals.

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Viasat Upgrades Chyron Fleet to Lyric PRO

Chyron announced that Viasat, a Denmark based digital broadcast satellite provider, has deployed Lyric PRO across its existing installation of HyperX graphics systems, and has further invested in a new HyperX 2 system.

This leading sports broadcaster takes advantage of the power of Lyric PRO to provide sophisticated live graphics, such as clocks and statistics for football matches and studio-based sports programmes. “Before we upgraded we used another system to run most of our sports graphics, with the Chyron HyperX systems running in the background for manually updated captions. This meant that on many productions we needed to use two systems simultaneously. Now, using Lyric PRO, and in particular its ‘persistent message’ capabilities, we can run most of the productions with a single machine. As a bonus we can also do real time 3D graphics,” commented Jonas Hermansson, Software Developer, Viasat.

Following the installation of Lyric PRO at Viasat, Hermansson created a custom plug-in based on Chyron’s LEIF SDK, he explains, “I have created an application that presents the user with a dedicated interface for the game that they are covering. This application uses Lyric PRO as the graphics engine. The advantage is that all the design and creation work can be handled within Lyric PRO, allowing for flexible design changes, right up to on air time. The data to be displayed is retrieved from our sport systems (statistics), the internet and user input.

“For Viasat the single most important feature of Lyric PRO is the persistent message function. Without that, the upgrade would never have taken place,” concluded Hermansson.

David Ward, Chyron’s VP and General Manager, EAME said, “This announcement demonstrates the flexibility of the Lyric PRO software and its LEIF SDK. Customers can develop their own custom plug-ins to improve graphics workflow, tailored to the individual needs of the facility.”

Red Giant Software Introduces Trapcode Horizon

New Updaters Released for Composite Wizard and Image Lounge DMN Newswire--2008-5-28--Red Giant Software, publisher of a line of professional digital video tools, including Magic Bullet, Knoll Light Factory, and all Trapcode products, today released Trapcode Horizon. This new Adobe After Effects plug-in is a unique mapping tool that ties the After Effects camera to a 3D world. After Effects users can use Trapcode Horizon to create photorealistic backgrounds and QuickTime VR-like experiences.

Red Giant Software also made available Composite Wizard 1.4 and Image Lounge 1.4. These new versions add support for Adobe Creative Suite 3 and Mac Intel. Each product updater is available for $49 USD.

Motorola unveils mobile live TV device

According to Reuters, Motorola Inc, which has recently lost cell phone market share, is introducing a mobile device for playing live television to expand its reach in portable consumer electronics.

Motorola said that its DH01 device, to be showcased at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas next week, will also play on-demand video clips and programs saved on digital video recorders.

It is the first foray by the world's No. 3 maker of cell phones into devices solely devoted to mobile TV, an emerging service that wireless carriers hope will boost revenue as phone call prices fall.

Motorola and rivals Nokia, Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics already offer phones with live TV. Apple Inc.'s popular iPod and iPhone let users download videos, but does not support live TV.

"I think we'll see more of these types of devices," said Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi. She said it was not yet clear whether consumers would prefer to carry a stand-alone mobile TV, along with a simpler cell phone, or an advanced device that combines both TV and calling services.

Motorola said the device, set for commercial launch this month, is expected to be sold by television broadcasters, consumer electronics retailers and wireless carriers. It did not name any specific vendors.

The DH01 has a 4.3 inch video screen, a feature that lets users pause live TV for up to five minutes and a battery supporting four hours of playback. Viewers can add memory cards storing up to 90 minutes of video.

The new device is compatible with DVBH, a broadcast technology standard for mobile devices that is backed by handset makers like Nokia and by European regulators.

Services based on DVBH are available in countries such as Italy and Finland, but it's not clear when they will launch elsewhere in Europe due to a lack of wireless airwave licenses.

"It's going to take a few years for DVBH to take off in Europe," said Oppenheimer analyst Lawrence Harris.

Harris said Motorola was likely able to develop the mobile TV device without much additional investment, as its set-top division already has video expertise.

The No. 2 U.S. mobile service provider Verizon Wireless, a venture of Verizon Communications and Vodafone, began offering services last year using MediaFlo technology, a DVBH rival that was developed by Qualcomm Inc.

Motorola also plans to unveil new television set-top boxes at CES and a device designed to connect desktop computers to services based on WiMax, an emerging wireless technology.

Wireless products have become increasingly prominent at CES, the world's premier consumer electronics show which is set to attract 140,000 attendees and showcase everything from 100-inch TVs to sophisticated car navigation systems.

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