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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


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.



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.



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.”



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.”



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.”



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



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.



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. 



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…

The broadcaster’s view of technology trends

market research | Posted by Joe Zaller
Jun 23 2009

I’ve recently been looking at how broadcast technology trends vary by geographic region, based on the research data from the 2009 Big Broadcast Survey. The examples I have shown previously look at the differences in technology trends based solely on geography. 

Now it’s time to get a bit more granular and look at how just broadcasters view these technology trends, and whether there are regional variations in their opinions.   Approximately 1,400 broadcasters participated in the study.  Each was presented with a list of 15 industry trends and asked to choose the three trends from the list (ranking them 1-3) that they feel will have the most significant impact on the way they do business over the next 2-3 years.  The chart below shows their responses, which are weighted based on how they were ranked by the respondents.  If a trend was ranked most important, its weight=3; if a trend was ranked #2, its weight=2; and if a trend was ranked #3, it is weight=1.  


The broadcaster's view of industry trends by region

The broadcaster's view of industry trends by region


In general it appears that broadcasters around the world are roughly aligned in terms of overall opinion of technology trends, but there are a few regional variations. 

Just as with the overall market, the transition to HDTV and tapeless workflows are the top trends for broadcasters, followed by multiplatform delivery and file-based workflows.  Interestingly, broadcasters in EMEA rank the move to file-based workflows higher than their counterparts in the Americas and Asia, while ranking multi-platform content delivery lower.

Otherwise, it is broadcasters in Asia  who vary from their counterparts in the Americas and EMEA. 

For example, broadcasters in Asia rank the following trends differently than their counterparts in the Americas and EMEA (although some of these are still at the low end of the range):

* IP content delivery (lower)

* automated worflows higher (higher)

* 3DTV (higher)

* Set-top box PVR (higher)

* Network PVR (higher)


Once again, some of the trends that we often read about in the trade press — e.g. the transition to 3Gbps and 3DTV — are relatively far down the list of business priorities for broadcasters (#9 and #11 respectively), which implies that broadcasters are continuing to move to HDTV operations while striving for efficiency in their operations rather than pursuing new technology. 


Here’s the full list of technology trends from the study, in the order that they were ranked by the broadcasters:

  Broadcasters — Asia Broadcasters — Americas Broadcasters — EMEA
1 Transition to HDTV Transition to HDTV Transition to HDTV
2 Tapeless workflows Tapeless workflows Tapeless workflows
3 Automated workflows Multi-platform delivery File-based workflows
4 Multi-platform delivery File-based workflows Multi-platform delivery
5 File-based workflows IP content delivery IP content delivery
6 IP content delivery Automated workflows Automated workflows
7 Advanced encoding techniques (e.g. h.264) Advanced encoding techniques (e.g. h.264) Advanced encoding techniques (e.g. h.264)
8 Video on Demand Video on Demand Video on Demand
9 Transition to 3Gbps (1080p) Transition to 3Gbps (1080p) Transition to 3Gbps (1080p)
10 3D TV On-line advertising On-line advertising
11 Set-top box PVR/DVR 3D TV 3D TV
12 On-line advertising 4K production 2K production
13 Network DVR Set-top box PVR/DVR 4K production
14 4K production 2K production Set-top box PVR/DVR
15 2K production Network DVR Network DVR

Regional Variation in Broadcast technology Trends — HDTV Still Top Trend

market research | Posted by Joe Zaller
Jun 22 2009

In a previous post about broadcast  industry trends, I looked at at a ranking of top trends in the broadcast industry and made the comment that there  is considerable variation in response when you segment data by geography and customer type.  One of the really interesting things about the data in the 2009 BBS is that is can be sliced and diced in many ways, thereby providing insight through granular analysis. 

Here’s an example of how trends can vary by geographic region:

2009 BBS trends -- regional variations

 This chart shows responses to the same question as the previous post — i.e.  “please choose from this list the top three trends that will most affect the way your company does business over the next 2-3 years” — from the point of view of people in different geographies.  Once again, a simple weighting formula was used to generate these rankings — if  a technology was ranked 1st (weight=3), 2nd (weight=2) or 3rd(weight=1).  This was done to illustrate the relative importance of  each technology trend to the respondent.  The trends in this chart are then expressed as a percentage of the total weighted votes.  As you can see, there are some interesting differences between the views of respondents in the Americas, EMEA and Asia.

While the transition to HDTV is still the top trend for all three geographies, there are differences in how important this trend is to the businesses of the respondents.  In the Americas, the transition to HDTV scores 23.79%; in EMEA is scores 21.92% and in Asia is scores 17.36%.  There are similar difference in the scores of the “file-based workflows” question.  This trend appears significantly more important to Europeans than it is to Americas and especially to respondents in Asia.

 A couple more observations:

  • Transition to HD and tapeless workflows are the top two trends in all three regions — despite the variations in importance of these trends relative to one another
  • Some of the trends that are in the news these days — e.g. transition to 3Gbps and 3DTV did not score particularly high.  Perhaps the reason we read about these trends in trade publications is that this vendors want to push the next new thing, while their customers want to complete the transition (to HD or tapeless for example) that they are in the middle of now, rather than worrying about the next new thing.
  • A few of the more “advanced” trends (multi-platform content delivery, 3D TV) scored higher in Asia than they did in the Americas or EMEA

Here’s the full list of the 15 trends from the study, ranked in order for each region.

       EMEA Americas Asia
1      Transition to HDTV Transition to HDTV Transition to HDTV
2      Tapeless Workflows Tapeless workflows Tapeless Workflows
3      File-based workflows IP content delivery Multi-platform content delivery
4      IP content delivery File-based workflows IP content delivery
5      Multi-platform content delivery Multi-platform content delivery Automated workflows
6      Automated workflows Video on Demand Advanced encoding techniques
7      Advanced encoding techniques Automated workflows Video on Demand
8      Video on Demand Advanced encoding techniques 3D TV
9      Transition to 3Gbps Transition to 3Gbps File-based workflows
10     On-line advertising On-line advertising Transition to 3Gbps
11     2K production 3D TV Set-top box PVR/DVR
12     4K production 2K production 2K production
13     Set-top box PVR/DVR 4K production On-line advertising
14     3D TV Set-top box PVR/DVR Network DVR
15     Network DVR Network DVR 4K production 
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