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

w/e January 26, 2000 SCRI International, Inc © 2000

INDEX

Technology News | Industry News | Companies in the News | Product News | People in the News | Research News

TECHNOLOGY NEWS

First Daily Datacast of Television Web Site

DTV Plus has teamed with WRAL-HD and LG Electronics Research Center of America to develop and demonstrate digital data broadcasting applications using the digital television signal. The team is "datacasting" the WRAL Online web site ( http://www.wral-tv.com/ ) on a daily basis. Datacasting -- inserting Internet data into the digital television signal -- is envisioned as a wave of the future and source of new revenue for broadcasters. DTV Plus is making this vision a reality by datacasting the WRAL Online web site continuously.

The regular and ongoing broadcast of WRAL Online marks the first real delivery on the promise of datacasting. DTV Plus has established itself as a leader in this field and has plans to expand this service with a larger project that will begin in February. The enlarged project will include several other data types such as software, 3D animations, MP3 files and full motion video. The expanded effort will also include the launch of trials with multiple business-to-business applications.

"Digital changes everything," said Sam Matheny, DTV Plus Vice President and General Manager. "It is no longer enough for television stations to only transmit video and audio. The Internet has created an almost insatiable appetite for more and different types of information. We have laid the groundwork for a whole new era in broadcasting, one where the station is a sole source outlet for a complete media experience."

The files that make up the WRAL Online web site, which recently received NATPE's Iris Award, are inserted into WRAL-HD's digital television signal and broadcast as part of that signal. Users equipped with a computer and a DTV receive card can tune the channel and cache the data on their machine. This method of delivery bypasses the congestion of the Internet and delivers fast access to the most popular content on the WRAL Online site. The card also allows users to watch digital television on their computers.

"Datacasting the web site gives WRAL Online users fast access to our best content," said John Conway, WRAL's Director of New Media. "We are able to deliver all the interactivity of our web site directly to the end user without them needing to dial-up or 'log-on.' This truly is convergence."

DTV Plus is partnered with LG Electronics Research Center of America, Inc., (LGERCA), and is using the SkyScraper data broadcasting system developed and provided by LGERCA. The SkyScraper DataHub component enables DTV Plus to schedule and manage several concurrent file types and data rates for maximum flexibility in datacasting. The SkyScraper DataReceiver component is a PC-based DTV receiver that allows consumers to receive and play digital television programs on PCs, as well as receive data broadcasts. "We are strong believers in the data broadcast market," said Mark Simpson, president of LGERCA. "Digital TV provides a cost-effective, high-bandwidth delivery path that opens many new business opportunities for DTV stations. We are delighted to show consumer data broadcasting working with DTV Plus and WRAL-HD - the pioneers in the field of digital TV broadcasting. We are also working on business-to-business data broadcasting solutions to help DTV stations generate new revenue streams."

DTV Plus and WRAL-HD have been datacasting using the SkyScraper system since October of 1999, and began daily broadcasts of WRAL Online in December. As the nation's first experimental station, WRAL has been testing DTV capabilities since July 1996.

Voice, Data and Digital TV Over Copper Wires

mPhase Technologies has completed the first phase of beta production of its TRAVERSER(TM) Digital Video and Data Delivery System (DVDDS). As announced previously, the manufacturing of the TRAVERSER will be completed at Flextronics International Ltd.

"Beta production of the TRAVERSER is a significant next step in making the consolidated delivery of voice, data and digital television over copper wires available to telco subscribers worldwide," said Sue Cifelli, executive vice president of marketing & sales for mPhase. "We are rapidly moving toward commercial production at a time when the telco industry is desperately looking for a technological solution to respond to cable industry advances at winning away telco subscribers. The recent proposed merger between AOL and Time Warner is sending a strong message to the telecommunications industry. Convergence is going to be critical to fulfilling customer demand and ensuring telcos will thrive in a marketplace where subscribers are in the driver's seat."

New Patent For Producing Custom CDs and Videos On Demand

Musicmaker.com has been awarded broad US patent coverage for production of customized CDs and video files on demand over the Internet. This is the third patent the Company has received in the last 90 days covering custom CDs and custom videos on the Internet.

"The technology underlying the patents allows for on demand custom production of audio files and video files on a variety of media, including CDs, DVD and mini disks over the Internet," said Bob Bernardi, musicmaker.com's chairman. "The process can be used as a 'just in time' manufacturing process for customized and personalized CDs and for the emerging market for customized music videos on DVD."

The new patent issued this week by the United States Patent & Trademark Office covers various aspects of making customized compact discs and customized videos on demand. "This new patent furthers our leadership position in the digital distribution of music on the Internet and underscores the uniqueness of musicmaker.com's strategy in Internet music distribution," Mr. Bernardi added.

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INDUSTRY NEWS

ADC to Provide Rapid Broadcasting With High Power UHF Transmitter Systems

ADC has been chosen by Rapid Broadcasting to supply complete transmission systems for it's new stations in Sioux Falls and Rapid City, S.D. The total value of the systems ordered is approximately $1.3 million. Rapid Broadcasting recently acquired licenses to build two new full service stations, replacing existing low power installations in South Dakota. KAUN, Channel 36, which is licensed to Sioux Falls and will carry PaxTV programming, requires a transmitter power output of 70kW. Channel 21 will be the NBC affiliate for Rapid City, and requires a 30kW transmitter. ADC was the first manufacturer to ship a transmitter with 70kW tube amplifiers (EEV IOT8707) and has installed many air-cooled transmitters using the 30kW amplifier (IOT9303).

"We have worked with ADC's low power transmitters for many years," said Mike Morgan, director of development for Rapid Broadcasting. "We chose ADC for these high power projects based on their overall technical capabilities as well as the quality and high level of customer support we have come to expect from them over the years."

Chyron Selected for 2000 Summer Olympics

Chyron Corporation has been selected by Panasonic, the Sydney Olympic Broadcast Organization (SOBO) prime contractor, to provide television character generators for the 2000 Olympic Summer Games in Sydney, Australia. Up to 55 Chyron Max! systems, in various configurations, will be provided for use at the many venues that host the events.

The Chyron systems will be delivered to Sydney as part of a system integration effort by Panasonic on behalf of SOBO. Panasonic is providing a wide variety of services to SOBO to assure the highest quality video images will be available to the world's most prestigious broadcasters.

Motorola to Supply All Young Broadcasting TV Stations With Encoding Systems

Motorola, Inc. Broadband Communications Sector, formerly General Instrument Corporation, has been selected by Young Broadcasting Group to supply the ATSC-compliant standard-definition (SD) and high-definition (HD) MPEG-2 encoders for all of Young's 12 television stations. The announcement came after Young Broadcasting concluded a series of extensive tests among several leading encoder manufacturers to ensure the highest possible digital picture quality for their new digital television services.

The ATSC-compliant, DigiCipher(R) II encoder systems include a PC-based system controller and a Program and System Information Protocol (PSIP) generator that ensures on-air MPEG-2 bitstream compliance with FCC standards. The DigiCipher II system enables easy high-definition or standard-definition system expansion, allowing Young stations to add channels without costly equipment swap-outs or software upgrades. The DigiCipher II technology provides exceptionally powerful and sophisticated digital video compression, allowing operators to effectively add channels without sacrificing picture quality.

DigiCipher II technology is developed by Motorola's San Diego-based SBNS business unit, which provides digital television systems sending compressed video service to cable television headends, television network affiliates, corporate locations, or consumer homes. The technology compresses and multiplexes both SDTV and HDTV signals within a single integrated transmission system. It is compatible with MPEG-2 standards for transport and video syntax. The DigiCipher II system uses the Dolby(R) brand AC-3(R) audio compression system.

Hispanic TV Network Goes With SeaChange Video Server System

The Hispanic Television Network, Inc., operator of two national networks reaching over 20 million U.S. households, has chosen SeaChange International, Inc.'s Broadcast MediaCluster digital video server system to distribute its programming and advertising. The Hispanic Television Network has undertaken a strategy for aggressive growth, last week acquiring 10 television stations in major U.S. markets. Its general interest network, American Independent Network and its Hispanic network, Cadena Independiente Nacional, will soon air on a total of 60 owner-operated and affiliate broadcast and cable television stations. The broadcaster intends to acquire six additional stations early this year.

The Hispanic Television Network purchased a Broadcast MediaCluster 800, to be integrated with Sundance Digital automation at its Fort Worth, Tx. master control center, to store and deliver national ads and programs for its entire network schedules in high-quality MPEG-2 video format.

Sony Shows Digital Cinematography at Sundance

For the fifth consecutive year, Sony participated in panels and presentations at the Sundance Film Festival highlighted by the growing body of digital feature productions in high definition and other digital video formats.
    This year, those feature productions were complemented by the Sundance premiere of the first 24-frame progressive high definition camcorder, developed by Sony and supported with specially developed lenses and accessories by Panavision.
    Laurence Thorpe, vice president of acquisition systems for Sony Electronics' Broadcast and Professional Company hosted a Digital Electronic Cinematography dialogue at the New Media and Technology Center. The panelists included Panavision Senior Vice President of Technology John Galt and filmmakers Bernard Rose and David Effress.
    Discussion focussed on their recent HD feature projects (both shot by Sony's HDCAM(R) camcorder); the new 24-frame progressive high definition system; the growing role of digital video formats, including HDCAM, Digital Betacam(R), DVCAM(TM) and consumer DV, in the production of entertainment and documentary programming. These formats constitute a wide spectrum of creative and economic choices for the independent film community.

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COMPANY NEWS

Avid and Vixel Renew OEM Agreement

Vixel Corporation and Avid Technology, Inc. have entered into a multi-year OEM agreement. Vixel, a leader in Fibre Channel connectivity solutions, will supply Avid Technology, a leading provider of digital editing tools for information and entertainment applications, with Vixel Fibre Channel switches for the Avid Unity(TM) shared storage solution. Over the last year, Fibre Channel technology has fundamentally changed post-production and multi-media editing methods and productivity by enabling multiple users to simultaneously access and collaborate on virtually any stored digital medium. As a key element of the Avid Unity shared storage solution, the Vixel 8100 Fabric Switch creates the industry's most advanced post-production system by providing dedicated bandwidth, scalability and ease-of-use.

Cinebase & Kodak's PNI Mergeto Create eMotion

A new powerhouse in digital media management, eMotion, Inc., has emerged from the combined resources, technologies and management talent of Cinebase Software, Inc. and Picture Network International, Ltd. (PNI). PNI, a Kodak Company prior to the merger, is a leader in digital media commerce and hosting, supports one of the largest e-commerce websites for digital stock and royalty-free photography, and provides media management software and services to the Fortune 1000 community. For five years, Cinebase has been the leading provider of digital asset management software and services to the entertainment, government, corporate and advertising markets, specializing in the management of video and other time-based media.

Gentner Reports 41% Revenue Growth

Gentner Communications Corporation announced record results for the second quarter of fiscal year 2000. For the quarter ended December 31, 1999, Gentner reported net income of $1.1 million, or $0.12 per share, on sales of $7.4 million. This represents a 103 percent increase in net income and a 41 percent increase in sales over the same quarter last year, for which the company reported net income of $517,081 or $0.06 per share, on sales of $5.3 million.

"We are pleased to again report record sales for the company," said Fran Flood, president and chief executive officer of Gentner. "Demand for our conferencing products remains strong, and we are beginning reap the benefits of increasing our sales force on the services side."

Informix To Resell and Distribute Virage Products

Informix will resell and distribute the video indexing products of Virage, Inc., a leading provider of interactive video search products and services, to a growing number of customers in broadcast and other media intensive markets worldwide. Virage VideoLogger(TM) and AudioLogger(TM) comprise the critical video cataloging components at the front end of Informix's Media360(TM) media asset management system.

With this agreement, Informix will now be able to offer a "one-stop shopping" option to their media asset management customers who have video cataloging and search requirements. According to Pamela Vitale, director of Market Development for the Informix Media Business Unit, "Virage is widely recognized as having the best-of-breed products in their class, and we are delighted to offer their products to our Informix Media360 customers." The terms of the agreement allow Informix to resell both Virage products and services worldwide effective immediately.

Splash Media Acquired by Brandmakers

Brandmakers, Inc. has acquired a new media firm, Splash Media, Inc. and merged the company with its digital arts division, Washburn Studios. A startup company in business since 1998, Splash Media (www.splashmediainc.com ) offers Brandmakers (www.brandmakers.com ) an in-house opportunity to market and promote the company and its four divisions, expand the services of Washburn Studios and provide increased revenue through new media delivery. Geoff Williams, Brandmakers CEO states, "Putting together an award winning team to promote our company is critical to our growth. Splash with Washburn will strategically position us in our key markets."

Pinnacle Launches Internet Webcasting Business

Pinnacle Systems announced the formation of its new Webcasting Solutions Business within its Desktop Products Group, emphasizing the company's drive to introduce a suite of solutions for the burgeoning Internet media streaming market. To lead the effort, the company has appointed Greg Lowitz as Webcasting Solutions Business Director.

This announcement comes in the wake of Pinnacle Systems' recent introduction and demonstration of its new product, StreamGenie, a portable live Webcasting solution-in-a-box targeted at corporations, live-events producers and traditional broadcasters

Pinnacle Systems Reports Record Sales

Pinnacle Systems announced financial results for the second quarter of fiscal 2000, which ended December 31, 1999. Net sales for the second quarter of fiscal 2000 were a record $62,562,000 compared to $39,172,000 in the same quarter last fiscal year. The increase was the result of record quarterly sales in each of the company's three video business groups.

According to Pinnacle Systems' President and Chief Executive Officer, Mark Sanders, "We were very pleased with the results for the quarter. Net sales were a record for the tenth consecutive quarter. They increased 60% over the same quarter last fiscal year and increased 24% sequentially. The sales growth was fueled by important new products in each of our three video business groups. Net income, excluding acquisition-related charges, increased 64% over the same quarter last fiscal year and was up 27% sequentially. In addition, we also produced good balance sheet results: Both DSO's and inventory came down during the quarter, and we generated very positive cash flow from operations which added nicely to our cash and marketable securities balance."

Sanders added, "This was also an exciting quarter for new products. It was a record sales quarter for our video server group, formed when we combined Pinnacle's Thunder video server business with the Media Stream video server business acquired from Hewlett Packard in August 1999. We now have a focused team dedicated to providing traditional and Internet video broadcasters an advanced set of solutions for the storage and distribution of high-quality digital media. We also had record sales in our desktop business. This quarter we commenced shipment of DV500, which is our new dual stream, real-time, DV native editing product. In Pinnacle's consumer business, we shipped over 200,000 units, an all time quarterly record for the company. These sales were fueled by shipments of our existing consumer product line along with the new Studio DV and a USB version of Studio PCTV both of which began shipping in time for the holiday season."

SeaChange Acquires Digital Video Arts

Digital Video Arts, Ltd., a leading provider of custom digital video and interactive television software products, has been acquired by SeaChange International, Inc. Digital Video Arts, Ltd. (DVA) is a leading software expert serving companies involved in the digital set-top box industry, from independent software vendors to MSOs to technology providers. Today, DVA is recognized as one of the industry's foremost experts in the field. DVA also offers consulting, interactive application development, software engineering, and project management services.

Steeplechase Media Acquires television.com Domain

Steeplechase Media, a leader in interactive television and Web-delivered entertainment, has finalized the acquisition of the Internet domain “television.com,” in conjunction with Boston-based MarkeTVision Direct, Inc.

“We will be creating a portal for broadband content,” says Larry Namer, Steeplechase Media chairman and co-founder of E! Entertainment Television Inc., Movies USA Magazine, Comspan Communications and several other successful entertainment ventures. “television.com will be a place where the brightest minds in the Hollywood community can come to with existing projects or new development ideas, providing a support system in the areas of technology, marketing and distribution. Most of the companies that have entered the streaming video space have set up work-for-hire situations. We believe that if you really want to attract top talent to the field, you must offer the opportunity to maintain a big upside with continued ownership.”

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PRODUCT NEWS

Accom's ELSET Acquired By Orad Hi-Tec Systems

Orad Hi-Tec Systems and Accom, Inc. have finalized the sale of Accom's entire ELSET virtual set product line to Orad. Orad, based in Kfar Saba, Israel will also acquire ELSET's intellectual property, Accom's ELSET development team as well as the ELSET technical sales and marketing personnel located in Menlo Park. The transaction provides Orad with an NT based virtual studio solution that compliments its existing line of CyberSets. The acquisition represents Orad's strategy announced during its IPO in November of last year to strengthen its hold on the virtual set market.

The transaction was completed, subject to certain government approvals, on January 21, 2000. Under the agreement, Accom received four million dollars cash from Orad as well as equity interest in the form of warrants for 70,423 shares.

Orad will continue to support Accom's existing ELSET customers some of whom include: BBC, Turner Broadcasting, MBC Korea, Center TV Moscow, and TV Poland.

Leitch Introduces 50GB Fibre Channel Disk Drives

Leitch has reduced storage cost and more than doubled storage capacity for its VR400(TM) and VR300(TM) series video servers with the introduction of 50GB Fibre Channel drives. Leitch VR400(TM) and VR300(TM) server systems with 50GB drives are now available for purchase. The new FCR-302 disk arrays hold ten 50GB Fibre Channel disk drives. Combined with Fibre Channel and Leitch's exclusive RAIDsoft(TM) drive management system, these drives expand capacity to over three terabytes while giving multiple channels and users access to all video. Customers can now realize an immediate reduction in the cost of storage from (U.S.)$183.50 per Gigabyte for earlier drives to (US)$95 per Gigabyte for the new drives.

Pluto Introduces New Storage System

Pluto Technologies announced the expansion of its family of SPACE Bank(tm) archiving solutions, adding a new, very-near-line storage system dubbed AirCHIVE to its AirSPACE video server line. AirCHIVE is a RAID protected, disk-based archiving solution that expands server media storage time much as does a data-tape library system. AirCHIVE is available in 324 Gigabyte and 648 Gigabyte sizes, providing up to 24 and 48 hours of media storage respectively.

AirCHIVE can be deployed as the sole archiving solution in small to medium installations, where vaulted media storage is not needed. It provides an economical high-speed, ultra-reliable archive for frequently used bumpers, IDs, PSAs, spots and commercial inventory. In addition, AirCHIVE provides an ideal interim storage repository for topical news footage that will need to be reused for ongoing stories in installations; particularly valuable where play-to-air server space is fully utilized.

The same applications extend all the way to the largest server systems integrated with full data- tape archive systems. In this kind of environment, AirCHIVE complements data-tape by providing a 'middle zone' of media storage that is quickly accessible. Delays associated with loading and searching physical tape can be removed from the critical path by preloading media to AirCHIVE storage, making it available to servers much more quickly, and allowing intelligent management of system bandwidth and I/O capability across Pluto's SPACEnet(tm) Video Area Network.systems.

Softimage's New 'Sumatra' Enters Final Phase of Beta Testing

Softimage Co., a subsidiary of Avid Technology, started the final countdown to the launch of 'Sumatra' (code name), its much-anticipated next-generation 3-D animation solution announcing that 'Sumatra' has now entered its third and final stage of beta testing. So far beta feedback has been very positive as demonstrated by the following comment from Greg Punchatz of Janimation: "We were able to achieve looks and effects in 'Sumatra' that would have been almost impossible in any other package, and under an incredibly short deadline. We used so many new features like render tree, animation mixer, linked parameters, GAP for envelope weights, and lattices. You are creating one great program and I can't wait to see beta 3." About 'Sumatra' 'Sumatra' is the industry's first truly nonlinear animation [AU1] system. It introduces new concepts such as non-destructive animation mixing, interactive rendering, and real-time surface continuity management.

"Sumatra is a revolutionary product that is redefining many of the key paradigms of animation pioneered by Softimage over the last 10 years," explains Patrick Dumas, Softimage's Vice President of Worldwide Product Marketing. "Today, we are building upon the original concept that made Softimage(r) 3D the most productive tool in the industry. It delivers everything you'd expect for advanced character animation and then goes further, by offering interactive tools that provide a dramatic boost in flexibility and productivity while still maintaining an intuitive workflow. This translates into more creative options for animators and artists, faster turn-around on productions and greater profitability for facilities," he adds.

Sumatra's advanced performance features allow animators to work interactively, regardless of their environment and according to their particular needs. This means a superior workflow, faster iteration, and reduced production costs.

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PEOPLE IN THE NEWS

Comcast Co-Founder Join NDS Board of Directors

NDS, a leading provider of conditional access systems and interactive applications for digital television, announced that Julian Brodsky, co-founder, Director and Vice Chairman of Comcast Corporation, will join the NDS Board of Directors as an independent director.

As one of Comcast's three founding principals, Mr. Brodsky is responsible for engineering the company's hallmark conservative fiscal policies and creative uses of capital formation techniques. He also oversaw Comcast's merger and acquisition efforts, international development and expansion, as well as capital formation and accounting activities. Mr. Brodsky also serves as Chairman of Comcast Interactive Capital Group, an in-house venture capital fund that seeks and manages Internet-related investments complimentary to core Comcast activities.

Digital Access Names CEO

Digital Access, Inc., a broadband digital communications company, named Joseph W. Cece as chief executive officer. Cece will oversee all operations for Digital Access, which recently announced plans to build a high quality, digital fiber optic broadband network in four U.S. markets -- Indianapolis, Kansas City, Milwaukee and Nashville -- offering a combination of services including telephone, video and data. Cece was formerly president and chief operating officer for Suburban Cable, a wholly owned subsidiary of Lenfest Communications, Inc. (LCI).

Gentner Appoints David Wiener to Board

Gentner Communications Corporation announced that David Wiener has accepted a position on the company's board of directors. Wiener brings more than 18 years experience in design, engineering and business management to Gentner. Through David Wiener Ventures (DWV), his multi-faceted design, development, and image consulting company, Wiener has been responsible for the development of audio systems and other products including race cars, aircraft, furniture and apparel. He is currently president and chief executive officer of SoundTube Entertainment, Inc. , a subsidiary of DWV that develops and manufactures high performance audio speaker systems for commercial and consumer use.

Thomson Broadcast Names Patrick Montliaud CEO

Patrick Montliaud has been appointed Chairman and CEO of THOMSON broadcast systems. Patrick Montliaud, 41 years old, a Civil Mining Engineer, started his career with ESSO in 1982. In 1989 he came to THOMSON CSF Support and Service Division as Sales Director, Project Management Department. He joined THOMSON broadcast systems in 1995 where he held the position of Sales Vice President. In the beginning of 1999 he was appointed as Director of the "Customer Service" Business Unit at THOMSON-CSF AIRSYS ATM.

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RESEARCH NEWS

Video Game Systems Expected to Drive Broadband Services

A new report from DFC Intelligence, The State of Game Technology 2000, claims that video games and interactive entertainment are of prime strategic importance in the race to provide consumer online and broadband services. Furthermore, the upcoming fight to establish next-generation video game platforms could become the key consumer electronics battle over the next decade. "The game industry is forecasted to become a $20 billion worldwide business in the next two years," said David Cole, president of DFC Intelligence. "However the impact of the interactive entertainment industry is much greater than the revenue it generates. Game hardware systems are likely to become hybrid devices that consumers use for many forms of digital entertainment including music, movies, Web access and interactive television."

In the long term, DFC believes that video game hardware devices will be a leading provider of multiple forms of digital entertainment products and services. However, it may take five to ten years for this to occur. "Major media companies and online service providers are currently not focused on games," said Cole. "America Online and Time Warner are merging to become a complete interactive services provider. Despite this, the one thing missing from this merger is games." Cole claims that games are likely to become a major reason that consumers subscribe to broadband services. Because of this, large game software publishers, like Electronic Arts , could become key strategic players in the broadband services race.

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Sourcing for the above reports are from press releases and news wires unless otherwise indicated