Posts Tagged ‘CBS’

Report: Apple Planning Online Video Launch Featuring 25 Broadcast Channels

Online Video, OTT Video | Posted by Joe Zaller
Mar 17 2015

silver-apple-logo

Just a week after the announcement that Apple will be the exclusive launch partner for the HBO Now streaming service, a Wall Street Journal article reports the company is planning to introduce an online TV service featuring up to 25 broadcast channels, including content from ABC, CBS, and Fox.

The WSJ reports that media executives they interviewed believe Apple in planning to charge $30 to $40 per month for the service, which it aims to announce in June and launch in September.

This is not the first time there have been rumors about the launch of an Apple TV service. In 2012 Jefferies & Co. analyst James Kisner said in a report that his industry contacts suggest that “at least one major North American cable system operator is working to estimate how much additional capacity may be needed for a new Apple device on their broadband data network.”

Last year the WSJ reported: “Apple was in talks with Comcast to team up on a streaming TV service that would use an Apple set-top box and get special treatment on Comcast’s cable pipes to bypass congestion on the Web. Apple had discussions since at least mid-2012 with Time Warner Cable, but those talks came to a standstill when the company became a takeover target for rival operators. Time Warner Cable struck a deal—still awaiting regulatory approval—in February 2014 to sell itself to Comcast.”

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Related Content:

WSJ Article: Apple Plans Web TV Service in Fall

HBO Reportedly Planning April 2015 Streaming Launch, Will Charge $15 per Month

Intel, Apple and Others Rethink How We Watch TV – WSJ.com

Analyst Says Apple TV Launch “Imminent,” Could Benefit Arris

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© Devoncroft Partners 2009 – 2015. All Rights Reserved.

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Top Broadcasters Debate Spectrum, 4K, IP Infrastructure, and ATSC 3.0 at 2014 HPA Tech Retreat

broadcast industry technology trends, broadcast industry trends, broadcast technology market research | Posted by Joe Zaller
Feb 27 2014

A version of this article appeared originally in TVNewsCheck

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As the saying goes: “the customer is King”, and last week the place to pay homage to some of the biggest buyers of broadcast technology was the annual Broadcaster Panel at the 2014 HPA Tech Retreat in Indian Wells, CA.

Always a highlight of the HPA conference, this unique event is a one-hour Q&A-based discussion featuring the top technology executives from major broadcast networks and TV station groups.

Deftly moderated by Ericsson SVP of Technology Matthew Goldman, this year’s panel featured Anthony Caruso, Director of New Broadcast Technology at the  Canadian Broadcasting Corporation; Bob Seidel, VP Advanced Technology at CBS;  Dave Seigler, VP Technical Operations at Cox Broadcasting, Richard Friedel, EVP and GM at FOX NE&O, Eric Wolf, VP Technology Strategy at PBS; and Mark Aitken, VP Advanced Technology at Sinclar Broadcast Group.

Despite the short one-hour timeframe, panelists debated, and sometimes disagreed about, a wide range of hot-button issues including spectrum re-packing, channel sharing, 4K/UHD acquisition & delivery, AFD, unbundling of subscription TV packages, software defined networks, IP broadcasting, and ATSC 3.0.

Siedel and Aitken at HPA 2014

Bob Siedel, CBS VP of Advanced Technology looks on as Sinclair’s Mark Aitken discusses ATSC 3.0 and the future of broadcasting

 

Spectrum Issues

Starting with the topic of spectrum repacking, sharing and multicasting, broadcasters were in general agreement that although there may be some stations that want to cash out in the auctions, it does not make sense to permanently give up spectrum that might be used later for a variety of services delivering everything from mobile to 4k/UHD.

PBS’s Wolf raised the point that although today’s encoders make channel sharing a viable option, advances in technology cannot solve the thorny contractual issues of how a for-profit station can share spectrum with a non-profit PBS station, or whether it makes commercial sense to do so at all.  “Channel sharing is a reasonable option for people to look at, but at the end of the day management has to look at this and say we can take a one-time infusion of cash from the auction and give up forever some portion of our spectrum which is our bread and butter, and forgo a lot of future options.”

Siegler agreed, saying that Cox sees surrendering spectrum as limiting the future, and that the company has “no interest” in turning over any of its spectrum.

Sinclair’s Aitken went further “No matter what happens, if the next generation of broadcasting is planned using legacy ATSC 1.0 and MPEG-2 standards, everyone will be ‘half of a broadcaster’ because what you can do within the limitations of ATSC 1.0 is only half of what broadcasters are capable of doing.” Aitken added that “any consideration of channel sharing would have to go hand-in-hand with the notion of advancing broadcasting to the next generation broadcast platform,” which he described as being all IP-based and capable of supporting both mobile and fixed services, which Sinclair believes will very important to the livelihood of broadcasters in the future.

According to Siedel, the issue comes down to quality for CBS, so channel sharing is out of the question.  The network always strives to deliver maximum quality, so until very recently CBS has used its entire 19.3 Mbit/s for HD.  Recent advances in compression have enabled CBS to lower the bitrate slightly, freeing up approximately 1.5Mbit/s for a sub-channel.

 

The Future of 4K/UHD

The industry’s top techs were also in broad agreement on 4K/UHD – delivering it over the air is not a priority.

“We’ve done a lot of testing of 4K in our labs, and you know what, it produces the best HD pictures we’ve ever seen,” said Fox NE&O’s EVP and GM Richard Friedel. “We think there is some there is some viability for 4K sets for consumers, but that’s not to suggest that we will be broadcasting 4K any time soon.”

Aitken put it more bluntly: “4K is not going to happen for broadcasting until ESPN says so.”  Said differently, unless content owners demand it or incremental revenues are available to broadcasters, 4K/UHD is not going to become a mainstream priority.

Siedel says CBS is a fan of 4K — for acquisition. He described how CBS/CW program delivery specifications include separate elements for acquisition and delivery. “On the acquisition side, our philosophy has always been that we want to maintain the highest possible quality levels so that we ensure the residual asset value of that content.” Accordingly, for the past two years the CBS/CW specifications have allowed for acquisition in 4K/UHD, although this is not mandatory today. “Having an edited 4K master on the shelf is going to add to the asset value in the future, no matter how it’s distributed.”

On the sports side, CBS and others have been using 4K for acquisition (CBS used six 4K cameras at the 2013 Super Bowl), and using this content to extract HD content, as well as for super slow-mo replays. 4K/UHD will continue to be used in this way for sports productions.

Ironically it was Dave Siegler from Cox Broadcasting (whose parent company is a cable MSO) who expressed disappointed in the downgraded signal that cable companies deliver to the home with compression, and asked rhetorically whether 4K delivered to the home look like HD should be.

 

Integer Frame Rates

The panel disagreed on several important topics. On the subject of integer frame rates, Siedel said that the industry will likely be stuck with 59.94 for many years to come due to the millions of hours of 59.94 content on the shelf and the complexity of converting back and forth from 59.94 to 60 in the plant.

Aitken disagreed, saying video content creation is exploding, and that the amount of content created in the next 10-15 years will equal all the content ever created.  Therefore it makes sense to Sinclair to move forward with all new content generated at integer frame rates, while maintaining compatibility with legacy non-integer material.

Friedel agreed with Aitken saying that Fox has been advocating that new formats (e.g. 120 fps) would be integer-based, and convert to non-integer rates for legacy compatibility.

 

Cable Unbundling

Another area of disagreement had to do with the unbundling of cable programming.

Friedel said that Fox “firmly believes that the cost of TV will go up for people if it’s unbundled. If you think about the way a show is put together an marketed, there is no possible way that popular television programming will be able to be produced and sent to consumers can be sent to consumers at the same rate they are paying today. Prices would go way, way up.”

Aitken countered saying “unbundling is inevitable and will happen naturally due to an environment of hybrid convergence of content of content across multiple platforms. If broadcasters had a decent platform, we’d be delivering a Sinclair bundle to the home. Unbundling will happen as a natural occurrence of the proliferation of platforms that can bring content into the home.”

 

IP Broadcast Infrastructures and Software Defined Networking

Moving on to what is sure to be one of the biggest technology trends over the next 5+ years, the panelists were asked how long they think it will take for broadcasters to truly move to full IP infrastructure software defined networking (SDN).

Wolf said although it will take a few more years, PBS is currently building a new disaster recovery center that’s based completely on virtualized IT systems, along with “little bits” of traditional broadcast gear.  Although this new facility is not yet based on SDN or cloud enabled, it’s the first step on the path.  DR is a great test facility so it’s a positive step along the way, “but as we look at our next big playout system, the big question on the table is whether we can go all IP for all the routing in the plant and the suspicion is that we can.”

Friedel agreed, saying that IP is “well along the way” towards becoming real. We do have IP-based routers in our plant today, and IP technology is just going to proliferate.  If you walk into any of our equipment rooms at the moment, there is almost no classic broadcast vendor anymore. Instead you’ll see rows of Hewlett Packard, IBM, and Cisco. We’re really in an all-IP world now. We’ve got huge virtualization farms already and this is coming. In five years no one will build a plant of our size that’s not based on IP concepts.”

Friedel added: “this is a pretty fun time to see where the future will go,” and encouraged the audience to learn more about the SMPTE 2022 standard, and become involved with the Joint EBU-SMPTE-VSF Task Force on Networked Media (JT-NM) which is helping to define the future of the all-IP broadcast facility. You can download December 2013 whitepaper here.

Other issues included a discussion of electronic interference, which is affecting both C-band contribution feeds and wireless microphones.  Friedel said “white space interference is a huge issue for broadcasters,” and then quipped that viewers of the 2014 Super Bowl may have noticed that either the hands of the on-air talent had gotten smaller or the microphones had gotten larger.  He explained that in order to eliminate the risk of wireless interference in the crowded Met Life Stadium, Fox had switched to new wireless microphones from Sennheiser that operate in 1.6 GHz band. Although these microphones worked perfectly, they require more power and larger batteries, making them 40% larger than traditional wireless microphones.

 

ATSC 3.0 and the Future of Broadcasting

But the most controversial topic had to do with the future of broadcasting, and the various options for the ATSC 3.0 standard.

Aitken kicked off the debate by expressing concern that “that virtually all activity and focus of the ATSC has been on high data rate delivery to a fixed receiver environment” (in other words, delivering a single channel to a single UHD display in the home).

While Aitken sees this as part of the future of broadcasting, “Sinclair has fought for 15 years to bring mobile capability to broadcasting.”

“Fifteen years ago, people looked at us cross-eyed and said ‘mobile: who’s going to do that?’” said Aitken. “Look around today and the question is: where is broadcast to mobile? There has been an avoidance [at ATSC] of moving forward any proposals that of that would take bits away from fixed service for mobile services. There may be a need to run a parallel path outside of ATSC with industry adopters bringing forward a de-facto next generation technology that then gets adopted by the broadcast community.”

According to Aitken the new broadcast standard must meet all the needs of all broadcasters, rather than perpetuating an old-world view that all broadcasting is about is television, which is what politicians in Washington DC think of when they hear the word ‘broadcasting.’

“Every broadcaster would say they want [their content] to be on every device, said Aitken.” It’s just a question of how to get there. Broadcasters should be in a position to be their own gatekeeper in getting their content and licensed content delivered to the consumer. It’s really a matter of setting off a warning bell that we’re not going to sit still and wait for another mistake to happen.”

Aitken’s comments received push-back from CBS’s Siedel who said that the ATSC 3.0 effort has solicited bids from all over the world, and there are now at least 13 proposals being considered, many of which include mobile services, including LTE broadcast, DVB-T2, and even 8K from Japan.  Siedel said the process was still at the early stage, and we still have a long way to go.

Fox’s Friedel added the final comment of the session, saying that if broadcasters are not involved in the ATSC 3.0 process, they should get involved as soon as possible.  “The key for the ATSC is a standard that is flexible and extensible, and allows the business to grow and change with the future. I can’t predict the future better than anyone else, but there is going to be a transition from big screens today to portable devices. That much is clear.”

As always the HPA broadcaster panel did not disappoint the audience. There are very few opportunities to hear from the industry’s top buyers and get their unvarnished opinions on the future of the industry.

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The annual HPA Tech Retreat is produced by the Hollywood Post Alliance.  You can find out more information about the 2014 Tech Retreat here.

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Related Content:

2014 HPA Tech Retreat Information

EBU/SMPTE/VSF Joint Task Force on Networked Media (JT-NM) Gap Analysis Report, December 2013

VSF, EBU, and SMPTE Create Joint Task Force to Define Future of Networked Media for Professional Applications

TVNewsCheck Article: Top Techs Have No Desire To Lose Spectrum

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© Devoncroft Partners 2009 – 2014. All Rights Reserved.

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Harris Broadcast Communications Profitable in Q3 as Revenue Increases Nine Percent

broadcast industry technology trends, Broadcast technology vendor financials, Quarterly Results | Posted by Joe Zaller
May 03 2011

Harris Corporation announced its results for the third quarter of its fiscal year.

On an overall basis, the company’s revenue was $1.41Bn, an increase of 6% versus the same period a year ago.  However the company’s profit fell by almost 16%.

Harris Corporation’s full results are covered elsewhere.  This post looks specifically at the results of the company’s broadcast communications business.

This is the first quarter since Harris strategically realigned its business segments, and rolled the broadcast communications business into a newly created “Integrated Network Solutions” (ISN) business unit.

Now that Harris broadcast communications business is part of ISN, its performance in the sector is somewhat more opaque than in the past, with only top level numbers disclosed by the company.

Broadcast Communications revenue was $134.1m, an increase of 9% versus the same period a year ago, (when the company posted an operating loss of $5m on revenue of $123m), and an increase of 3% versus the previous quarter.

On the company’s conference call with equity analysts, Harris Corporation CEO Howard Lance called the performance of the broadcast business a “significant year-over-year improvement.” Lance went on to say that the Harris broadcast business turned a profit during the quarter and was still on track to achieve break even performance for the full year.

In guidance issued last quarter, Lance said that the Harris expects its broadcast division to break-even on full year revenue in region of $520m – $540m, a 7-11% revenue increase versus the actual results during the previous fiscal year.

Harris broadcast received several major orders during the quarter, including a $9m contract from a central-Asian broadcaster, and a digital-out-of-home / IPTV deal with Madison Square Garden in New York that will commence this summer and be completed in time for the 2013-13 season. The company also received orders during the quarter from Gray Television, Cox Broadcasting and CBS.

The Harris broadcast business accounted for 29% of the ISN division’s $463m revenue. The ISN business unit’s revenue increased 23% year-over-year, however most of this growth came via acquisition.  On an organic basis, ISN revenue was flat year-over-year.
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Related Content:

Harris Press Release: Harris Corporation Reports Fiscal 2011 Third Quarter Results

Transcript of Harris Q3 conference call with equity analysts

Harris Says Broadcast Communications Business Improved Significantly in Q2

Harris Corporation Strategically Realigns Business Segments; Broadcast Communications Rolled into
New “Integrated Network Solutions” Unit

Harris Broadcast Business Making a Comeback Thanks to Improved Market Condition and New Opportunities in Digital-Out-of-Home

Harris Q3 2010 Results for Broadcast Communications Division

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Devoncroft Digest – August 15, 2010 – Earnings Galore, Broadcast Industry M&A Continues

broadcast industry trends, broadcast technology market research, Broadcast technology vendor financials, Devoncroft Digest, market research | Posted by Joe Zaller
Aug 15 2010

The Devoncroft Digest is a semi-regular amalgamation of news items I’ve seen recently that I think might be interesting / important for readers and clients. 

Due to my travel schedule it’s been two weeks since the last digest post.  Here are a few of the things that have caught my eye during this time.

Earnings Season Continues

We are now in the heart of earnings season, and a large number of tech vendors, platform operators, service providers and broadcasters.  For the most part these results have been generally positive, with many companies saying that they are seeing the green shoots of recovery taking hold. 

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Broadcast Technology Vendor Earnings

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Vizrt Q2 Revenue Rises 17%, CEO Says Market is Improving

Broadcast graphics and asset management provider Vizrt announced its Q2 and 1H results. Revenue for the quarter was up 17% y/y, driven by strong growth in the Americas, which was up 48% y/y.

Gross margins for the quarter were 65%, well ahead of the 58% that the company achieved during the same period a year ago. Broadcast graphics accounted for 72% of the company’s total revenues in 1H 2010.  According to the company, Vizrt’s graphics business is up 33% y/y.

Full details here.

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Chyron Q2 Losses Narrow as Revenue Jumps 20% 

Broadcast graphics provider Chyron announced its financial results for Q2 and 1H 2010.

Q2 revenue was $6.94m, up 20% versus Q2 2009.  Gross margins for the quarter were 70%, up slightly from the previous year.  Q2 product revenue was $5.4m, up 18% y/y.  Service revenue increased 29% y/y to $1.19m.  Service revenue accounted for 22% of the quarter’s total revenue. The company posted an operating loss for the quarter of $680,000, a 52% y/y improvement; and a net loss of $710,000, 35% better than a year ago.

Full Details Here

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Miranda Q2 Revenue Up 3% y/y, +11% q/q. CEO Says Market Conditions Improving

Broadcast infrastructure provider Miranda Technologies announced their Q2 2010 results.  Revenue for the quarter was C$32.1m, up 3% from the same period a year ago and up 11% versus the previous quarter.  International sales were up 11% y/y.  Sales in the US were up 10% y/y

The company’s net income jumped 173% to C$3.5m as expenses were reduced during the quarter, and EBITDA rose by 125% to C$6m versus the same period in 2009.  Gross margins were 60%, slightly down from Q2 2009, but up from 57.7% in the previous quarter.  This is a good showing in a competitive market, which the company attributes to a higher margin mix, and increased sales of routing switchers.

Full Details Here

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DivX Q2 Revenue Jumps 29%

DivX announced that its Q2 revenues were up 29% y/y and that its licensing business was up 23% y/y.  The company, which is in the process of being acquired by Sonic (who also announced their numbers recently) posted a GAAP Loss of $2.8m, and non-GAAP NI of $760K

Read the Divx earnings press release here 

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DG FastChannel Reports Record Q2

Advertising and broadcast content delivery specialist DG FastChannel reported record results for its FY2010 second quarter, blowing past the expectations of equity analysts. 

Revenue for the quarter was $60.3m, well ahead of the $55.6m consensus estimate of equity analysts.  This represents a 38% revenue increase versus the same period a year ago, and an increase of 11% from the previous quarter.  Net income for the quarter was $9m, up 150% increase versus Q2 2009 and up 12.5% versus the previous quarter.

Significantly, the company’s revenue from the delivery of HD advertising content increased 99% to $23.9 million versus the same period of 2009.

The company also that it retired all of its outstanding debt, thanks to a recent public equity offering that raised net proceeds of approximately $108m. As a result of this offering, the company reported that as of June 30, 2010, it has $79.6 million in cash and no debt.

Company Chairman & CEO Scott Ginsburg said “The Company continues to execute on its strategic business plan… revenue, margins, earnings and net debt show marked improvements during the second quarter.”

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Harris Broadcast Records $21m Operating Loss

Harris Corporation reported its Q4 and full year 2010 results.  While the company as a whole did well, the broadcast communications division continued to struggle.

For the full year, revenues from the broadcast communications division were down 17% versus the previous year.  For Q4, the company’s broadcast revenues were down just 1.9% y/y, although orders were down 12.5% versus the same period last year.

In the 4th quarter of FY 2010, Harris posted an operating loss of $21m.  According to the company, this “includes $7 million in charges related to cost-reduction actions and $6 million in inventory write-downs associated with weaker demand.”

Harris CEO Howard Lance said the following about the revenue of the broadcast division: “we continue to expect revenue in a range of $490 million to $510 million with break-even operating results. We expect to see continued operating losses in the first half of the year with profitability improving in the second half of the fiscal year.”

Full Details Here

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RealD Reports 1st Results As Public Company

3D specialist RealD announced its first results as a public company, and reported huge y/y increases in revenue and EBITDA, which were up 152% and 387% respectively.  The company announced that it has now deployed 7500 screens, significantly more than Technicolor, who announced recently that they have now deployed 250 screens, 

Read the RealD earnings press release here.

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Broadcaster & Platform Operator Earnings

DISH Network Reports Second Quarter 2010 Financial Results 

DISH Network reported total revenue of $3.17 billion for the quarter ended June 30, 2010, a 9.1 percent increase compared with $2.90 billion for the corresponding period in 2009.

DISH Network lost approximately 19,000 net subscribers during the quarter ended June 30, 2010, ending the quarter with approximately 14.318 million subscribers.

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Ascent Media Reports Lower Revenue, Higher Losses

Digital media service provider Ascent Media reported increased losses and lower revenue for the second quarter ended of 2010.  The company attributes the lower results to market volatility and lower capital spending by customers. 

Revenue for the quarter dropped 13% to $99.5m, while revenue for the first six months was off 11% to $204m.  The company said that the decline in second quarter and year-to-date revenue was driven primarily by a reduction in revenue from the Content Services segment.

Q2 losses from continuing operations before income taxes were $17.5m, compared to a loss of $12.4 million in the prior year period. Year-to-date, the loss from continuing operations before income taxes was $28.6 million compared to a loss of $23.2 million for the six months ended June 30, 2009.

 “Ascent’s year-to-date operating results have not met our expectations as uncertainty about the timing and pace of the economic recovery has led to ongoing volatility in the media marketplace,” said William Fitzgerald, Ascent’s CEO. “A consequence of the current environment is that our customers have continued to take a cautious approach to capital spending.”

Fitzgerald was more upbeat about the rest of 2010, saying “We are beginning to see positive indications of an upturn, including first half revenue improvement in our creative services business, a strengthening pipeline of feature film and other projects, and rising industry advertising estimates for the second half of 2010.”

Ascent’s full earnings press release can be found here.

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Scripps Reports Second-Quarter Results 

Scripps reported operating results for the second quarter of 2010 that showed a continuing trend of significantly improved year-over-year revenue performance in the television division – up 22 percent from last year.

You can read the Scripps earnings release here.

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Liberty Media Reports Second Quarter 2010 Financial Results

The Liberty Media press release is here.

Liberty Media investor conference call transcript here.

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DIRECTV Q2 Rev Up 12%, Net Income up 33% Buys Back Stock 

DTH satellite operator DirecTV announced that it grew revenues by 12% to $5.85Bn and Net Income 33% to $543 Million.

DirecTV Q2 Press Release Here

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Cablevision Systems Corporation Reports Second Quarter 2010 Results 

Cablevision’s Q2 profits fell by 30% but its revenues were up 5.8% to $1.802 billion versus the same period a year ago, which the company says reflects solid revenue growth in Telecommunications Services and Rainbow, offset slightly by a decline at Newsday. Consolidated adjusted operating cash flow grew 9.0% to $677.6 million and consolidated operating income grew 23.0% to $416.8 million, both compared to the prior year period.

You can read the Cablevision press release here

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WSJ.com – Net Rises at Time Warner Cable, Falls at Cablevision

According to a Wall Street Journal article, Time Warner’s second-quarter earnings rose 8.2% on solid revenue growth, but the nation’s second-biggest cable-television provider saw the same weakness in subscriber additions in July felt by its larger cable counterpart, Comcast Corp.

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News Corp Reports Q4 and Full year Results – TV Station Operating Income up 13%

News Corp’s Q4 revenue increased by 6% and it hauled in Net Income of $875m.  Significantly, the company’s TV Operating Income was up 13% versus the same period last year, driven by an improved TV station advertising market.

Here’s the full News Corp press release 

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CBS 2Q TV Station Revenue Climbs 31%

According to leading industry website TV News Check, TV station revenue at CBS jumped by 31%. The company also realized a 17% increase in local broadcasting revenue (TV stations plus CBS Radio) to $678.2 million from $579.5 million in the year-ago quarter. Sumner Redstone, the company’s executive chairman called the results “Terrific”

Full story from TV News Check

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Sinclair Broadcast Group Reports Q2 Results.

Sinclair Broadcast Group, one of the largest US TV station groups reported that its net broadcast Q2 revenues from continuing operations were up 19.3% versus the prior year.  The company had net income of $17.3 million versus $2.8 million in the prior year period.  Local net broadcast revenues, which include local time sales, retransmission revenues and other broadcast revenues, were up 16.6% in the second quarter 2010 while national net broadcast revenues, which include national time sales and other national broadcast revenues, were up 27.7% versus the second quarter 2009.

Full story from TV News Check

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WSJ.com – Discovery Turns In 40% Decline in Profit 

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, Discovery Communications posted a 40% drop in its second-quarter profit, hurt in part by costs related to its recent $3 billion debt refinancing. Still, the cable-network operator showed revenue and operating-profit growth, and announced a $1 billion share repurchasing program.

Full article from the Wall Street Journal

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Barrington Sees 14% Jump In 2Q Revenue

Barrington Broadcasting Group announced that gross revenues for the quarter ended June 30 increased 13.6% to $32.7 million from $28.8 million for the same period a year earlier. The company said the increase was primarily due to 16.7% increase in national revenues, a 4.7% increase in local revenues, and an increase in political revenues of $900,000 to $1 million.

Full Story from TV News Check

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Gray Beats Street

According to TVB, Gray Television came in ahead of analyst expectations for the second quarter. The pure-play TV group posted revenues of $75.6 million for the 36 stations, up 16 percent from a year earlier. Net income was $534,000 compared to a loss of $6.6 million a year ago. After payment of $6.4 million in dividends, net loss to common stockholders was $5.9 million, or 11 cents a share.

Full Story from TVB

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Broadcast Industry M&A Continues

Blackmagic Buys Assets of Echolab

As predicted here last month, Blackmagic Designs announced that it has acquired “all the assets of Echolab,” putting Blackmagic in the production switcher business.

Echolab was forced into liquidation a few months ago when its primary shareholder stopped funding its operations.  The company had been in business for more than 35 years, specializing in low-end production switchers.

Blackmagic is buying Echolab for the latter’s ATEM product line, which was introduced about two years ago and has been continuously upgraded since under Echolab’s former CEO Nigel Spratling, who apparently not part of the Blackmagic deal and has now joined Ross Video in a marketing role.

This is great news for the affected Echolab employees, who were left jobless in an instant when the company shut its doors in mid-May.  It’s also good news for the industry, because the ATEM switcher product line, which looks like a pretty good product, will continue to be available through Blackmagic.  In fact, Blackmagic has said that it is adding to the engineering team responsible for ATEM.

It will be interesting to see how Blackmagic approaches the production switcher market, which is different than the company’s core post production market.  The part of the production switcher market where Echolab is active has considerable competition. In addition to Echolab, Sony, Panasonic, JVC, For-A and Ross Video are all very active players in this space.   

In addition to the competitive aspects of the deal, it seems to me that selling production switchers is a bit of a departure business-wise for Blackmagic.  Production switchers are a “high-touch” product category.  They are mission critical elements of the live production workflow, and as such they can require extensive demonstrations and training.  The majority of Blackmagic’s products are plug-in cards or stand-alone units, which are sold primarily through third-party dealers.  

At this point, I am unsure whether Blackmagic’s all-dealer sales approach is a positive or a negative for Echolab.  On the plus side, the compact HD production switcher market is a large and somewhat amorphous, running the gamut from broadcasters to corporation, to churches to education –  so it requires a large dealer network, which Blackmagic already has in place.  On the other hand production switchers require a specialized sales approach. Every buyer wants a demonstration, which typically involves shipping equipment and people, thereby increasing the cost of each sale.  Blackmagic will probably have to augment their approach somewhat in order to be successful selling production switchers.

Still if they can get the distribution right, Blackmagic may have a good chance of making their purchase of Echolab a success.  Blackmagic most likely paid very little for Echolab’s assets, and since it’s buying the assets and not the company, it gets a brand new HD switcher line, but not 35 years of legacy products that need support.  And Blackmagic does have experience buying distressed “traditional” vendors and changing their approach.  Last year, Blackmagic acquired leading color grading vendor Da Vinci Systems, and proceeded to radically change Da Vinci’s market approach, not to mention its pricing, turning a $200,000 hardware product into a sub-$1000 product according to TVB Europe.

Arguably however, Da Vinci’s color grading products (which are used off-line in post production) were easier to port to software platforms – and they still require a very expensive hardware controller.  Live production switchers are a different kettle of fish than off-line color grading systems for post production.  They are the key element of any live broadcast production, and they are still a relatively expensive hardware platform that requires specialist sales and support.

Blackmagic CEO Grant Petty is obviously familiar with this.  In the company’s press release that announced the deal he said: “I have been using live production switchers since I was in school where we covered local theater, sports, racing and bands. I think it’s the most exciting way to do production because it’s all live and thousands of people are watching what you are doing! Production switchers need to be powerful while also being familiar and easy to operate.”

Petty also said that “Since the acquisition, we have already dramatically expanded the engineering team working on ATEM. This fresh engineering team, which is a combination of new as well as experienced EchoLab staff, will allow us to move faster in adding new features to the ATEM product.”

Blackmagic will be displaying the ATEM on its booth at the IBC show next month. 

Here is a link to the full press release announcing the deal.

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Transcoding Consolidation — Telestream to Acquire Anystream

Over at his always informative Business of Video blog, Streaming Media’s Dan Rayburn writes that Telestream is to Acquire fellow transcoding provider Anystream from parent Gab Networks.  This is a deal has long been rumored, and according to Rayburn has now been confirmed by the management of both companies.

There’s been quite a lot of activity in the transcoding space recently.  Ripcode was sold to RGB networks and Elemental Technologies announced other week that it had raised $7.5m of new venture money, bringing its total to $14m

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Other Broadcast Technology Vendor News

Chyron Appoints New Chief Commercial Officer 

Chyron has appointed Susan Brazer as its new Chief Commercial Officer.  According to the company’s press release, Brazer has a big job, taking responsibility for “commercial strategy and all product and services revenues, directing its worldwide sales network of direct sales, resellers/systems integrators and joint ventures in Europe, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.”

This is the second C-Level appointment recently.  The company previously announced that it had appointed Bonnie Barclay as VP and Chief Marketing Officer.

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New COO at Vizrt

Vizrt has appointed François Laborie as its new Chief Commercial Officer. Laborie replaces David Zerah who left Vizrt to become managing director of gaming firm Dragonfish.

Laborie joined Vizrt at the beginning of 2006 as the Company’s Executive Vice President Marketing. At the beginning of 2010, he took on the additional role of Regional President for the EMEA region.

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3D News

Technicolor announced this week that it has now installed its 3D system at 250 screens – good progress, but far less than clear leader RealD’s 7,500.

 

Mobile TV News

 According to an article in TVB,  Broadcast and WiFi Take Wind Out of FLO TV Sales 

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Other News

The Financial Times reports that News Corp has refused to refuses to raise its offer for BSkyB 

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Also in the FT, the BBC is under fire over Canvas project 

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Market Research Note of the Week:

Who are the Most Important Decision Makers in Broadcast Technology?  Vendors Predict Shift Towards Operations and IT

In a recent article, “Broadcast Industry’s Largest Market Study Reveals Most Important Technology Trends,” the move toward file-based, tapeless workflows was highlighted as one of the most important issues to broadcasters today.

But how will this shift affect how broadcast technology products are purchased, not to mention who buys them? Traditionally, these products have been purchased primarily by engineers. Will this be the same for products that are increasingly IT-based, or will there be a new set of buyers? Broadcast vendors need to know this because a new set of buyers may require a new market approach.

To find out, we asked the nearly 800 broadcast technology vendors who responded to the 2010 Big Broadcast Survey who they feel is currently the most important decision maker in the sales process, and who they feel will be most important in two to three years.

Let’s start with the most important buyers today. Respondents were asked, “When selling your products/services, which category of customer is typically the most important decision maker today?” According to responses, broadcast tech vendors see engineering staff as their most important customers, followed by operations, IT and finance personnel. Engineers are clearly seen as the most important decision makers, with operations staff a distant second.

But what about the future?

To read the full article, including four charts that break down the results, click here.

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