Posts Tagged ‘Echolab liquidation’

As Rumored, Blackmagic Announces Purchase of Echolab Assets

broadcast industry technology trends, broadcast industry trends, Broadcast technology channel strategy, broadcast technology market research | Posted by Joe Zaller
Aug 12 2010

As predicted here last month, Blackmagic Designs announced today 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.

Devoncroft Digest for the w/e May 21, 2010 – Echolab Liquidates, Earnings Season Continues, Bankers on Broadcast, Google Gets into TV

broadcast industry technology trends, broadcast industry trends, broadcast technology market research, Broadcast technology vendor financials | Posted by Joe Zaller
May 23 2010

Devoncroft Digest – Recap of the week ending May 21 2010

It was a busy week in the broadcast & digital media world.  Echolab was forced to liquidate, multiple companies reported their quarterly earnings (which were mainly positive), two investment banking houses published notes on the broadcast industry, and Google made a little announcement about their plans to transform the TV viewing experience.

Here’s a recap of some of the things that caught my attention this week

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Echolab goes into liquidation

Long-established broadcast production switcher vendor Echolab announced via email this week that the company has been put into liquidation by its owner.  Echolab, which has been in business since 1974, had been on the ascendance recently under the leadership of company CEO Nigel Spratling.   

Spratling revamped the company’s product line-up, which culminated in the launch of the Atem production switcher family.  At NAB 2010 Echolab announced that it had signed an OEM deal for the Atem line with the broadcast communications division of Harris (who has now removed the press release about the deal from their website). 

The email from Spratling said the company’s primary investor was no longer prepared to fund the company, and that the news was a great show to everyone.  

Read the full text of Spratling’s email.

 

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Viewcast losses narrow

Streaming technology provider Viewcast announced their results for the first quarter of FY’10. The company’s reported that their losses narrowed. Revenue for the quarter was up slightly versus the previous quarter, but down 13% versus the same period a year ago.  The company also filed an 8K with the SEC this week, detailing the compensation plans of their CEO and CFO.

 

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More Broadcast M&A — Tektronix acquires Mixed Signals 

Test & measurement leader Tektronix announced this week that it is acquiring Mixed Signals, a provider of digital content monitoring including digital services, transport streams, ad insertion, switched digital video and interactive content.

According to said Eben Jenkins, General Manager of the Tektronix Video Business, “The acquisition of Mixed Signals, Inc. brings to Tektronix a strong team that has delivered leading innovation to the video monitoring market. The combination of Mixed Signals and Tektronix accelerates our ability to provide unmatched next-generation video test and monitoring solutions to our customers.”

 

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Continued growth for Ross Video

Privately held Ross Video said in a press release Ross Video that the company had achieved 7% growth in the first half of its fiscal year.  Although private, Ross has been vocal about their success in the face of the economic downturn of the past 18 months.  During the IBC show last September, company CEO David Ross told the IBC Daily News that the company had continued to grow during the recession.  In the most recent press release, Ross says “We continue to buck the downward trend and have enjoyed some record months.”

 

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Vizrt posts operating profit on big revenue gains

Broadcast graphics and asset management vendor Vizrt reported that their revenue grew by 38% in the first quarter of 2010 versus the same period, but fell 9% versus the previous quarter.  The company made an operating profit of $200K during the quarter, versus a loss of 2.4m during the same period a year ago. Company CEO Martin Burkhalter issued an upbeat statement saying that “broadcast markets are slowly recovering and … that CAPEX budgets and discretionary spending are being restored.”  Burkhalter, who recently stepped into the role of CEO after the death of Bjarne Berg concluded by saying “In terms of revenues, we believe that we are heading back towards the levels we achieved prior to the global downturn and anticipate to reach these levels in the coming nine to twelve months.  With this recovery, we expect our profitability to improve as well.”

 

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Autodesk M&E revenue declines by 4%

3D animation leader Autodesk (the parent company of Discreet and others) posted strong revenues for the first quarter of 2010.  In the earnings press release, which breaks out financials by industry segment, the company revealed that revenue for its Media & Entertainment group was $46m in the quarter.  This is basically flat with the previous quarter and represents a 4% decline versus same period a year ago

 

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Trouble at JVC Kenwood

The Wall Street Journal also reported that JVC Kenwood Holdings fell 21% to Y38 on heavy volume after the company’s Friday announcement of its plan to submit a resolution for 1-for-10 reverse stock split at its upcoming shareholders meeting. One brokerage manager, citing past reverse stock split scenarios, said that without fundamental business improvements, it would be hard to expect the company’s stock to show long-term appreciation.

 

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DG FastChannel added to S&P SmallCap 600 index

Standard & Poor’s announced this week that it is adding DG FastChannel to its S&P SmallCap 600 Index.  DG FastChannel, who recently raised $100m in a secondary public offering, has been on a tear recently.  The company’s stock has more than doubled in the last eight months, and it recently reported record results for its first quarter based on increased advertising revenue. 

 

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Ascent Media CEO dies at age 44

Ascent Media this week announced the sad news that Jose Royo, the CEO of the company’s AMG subsidiary had died at age 44.  “José was a thoughtful and caring business leader, mentor, partner, and friend,” said William Fitzgerald, Chief Executive Officer of Ascent Media Corporation. “José played a significant role in the media services industry, where he left an indelible mark. He was truly passionate about Ascent, its customers, and its people. José was a wonderfully devoted husband to his beloved wife, and father to his two young children. Our thoughts and prayers are with them at this difficult time. José will be missed.”

 

 

Google, coming to a TV near you soon?

As covered extensively this week, Google has unveiled a strategy which it believes will transform the TV viewing experience by combining it with the web. The company has partnered with Sony, Intel and Logitech to create a new type of TV experience.  Watch this space.

 

 

TiVo and Technicolor Team Up to Offer Integrated PVR Solution

I have been a big fan of Tivo since buying their very first PVR in 1999 (which still works great, and in my opinion provides a significantly better experience than the alternative from my pay TV provider), so I was interested to see that the company has teamed up with Technicolor (formerly Thomson) for a new set-top box solution.  You can read the details here…

 

 

Two Investment bankers weight in on NAB 2010 and the broadcast space

Two boutique investment banks, Silverwood Partners and Pharus Advisors have recently published notes to clients detailing their impressions of the NAB 2010 show.  Both companies gave me permission to re-publish them here.

Silverwood has been involved in a number of broadcast M&A deals includingBlackmagic / DaVinci and Avid / Euphonix. Prior to the 2010 NAB show the company published, which is worth reading to get their full perspective on the broadcast market.  

Pharus has also been involved in a number of industry transactions including Neural and Virgin Media / Two Way Media. The company published their post-NAB thoughts in their industry newsletter, which also includes a summary of recent M&A transactions in the digital media space, and a comparison of publicly traded companies.

More info on this here…

 

 

3D news

Broadband TV News reports that UK satellite broadcaster BSkyB is bullish on 3D.  An article on the website says that Sky says there could be up to 1m 3D screens in UK by

Speaking of 3D, the Schubin Café website posted a link to an article which says that watching 3D can make you sick. 

 

 

Market Research Note of the Week:

What factors most influence the purchase of broadcast technology products?

Regardless of “how” broadcast technology products are purchased, what many in the industry want to know is “why” they are bought — i.e. what are the most important factors that influence the decision to buy one product over another.

When it comes to selling broadcast technology, there are several strategies that vendors have adopted. This includes positioning their offerings as having the best technology, the best feature set, the lowest cost, the best value, the best service, the most recommended etc.

But which factor is the most important to the most buyers?

To find out we asked several thousand broadcast professionals around the world what is most important to them when buying broadcast technology products.

You can see the results, including a chart that ranks 10 different factors that influence the purchase of broadcast technology products here…

Echolab Goes into Liquidation

Broadcast technology vendor financials | Posted by Joe Zaller
May 20 2010

Long-established broadcast production switcher vendor Echolab announced via email today that the company has been put into liquidation.   

Echolab, which has been in business since 1974, had been on the ascendance recently under the leadership of company CEO Nigel Spratling.   

Spratling revamped the company’s product line-up, which culminated in the launch of the Atem production switcher family.  At NAB 2010 Echolab announced that it had signed an OEM deal for the Atem line with the broadcast communications division of Harris (who has now removed the press release about the deal from their website). 

The email from Spratling said the company’s primary investor was no longer prepared to fund the company, and that the news was a great show to everyone.  

The full text of Spratling’s email is below:   


    

From:Nigel Spratling [mailto:nspratling@echolab.com]
Sent: Thursday, May 20, 2010
Subject:Echolab closureDear all (distribution list concealed for privacy),   

It is with much sadness that I have to tell you that yesterday (May 19th) Echolab was put into liquidation. Our primary investor who had negotiated the recent agreement with Harris was no longer prepared to fund the company through the transition and decided that this was his only course of action; it was a great shock to us all.    

I am truly sorry that this action leaves many unemployed, suppliers with unpaid bills and customers with unsupported products. The recent introduction of an expanded Atem switcher family look set to take us into growth and profit as the market reception was excellent and our sales funnel had grown by $2M as a result. We had been sustaining a run rate of about $5M and the addition of Atem was set to double that.    

I truly believe that our small team had created the very best of breed in small and medium sized production switchers and at a price point that provided exceptional value and margin, facing the loss of these efforts is difficult for everyone involved.    

The liquidation company will be trying to sell the companies assets, product IP and inventory in order to pay creditors over the next few weeks. Hopefully they will be successful in their efforts.    

Naturally there are now some good people looking for jobs (including me), so if anyone is hiring please let me know.    

Best regards,

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