May 21, 2001
Tech Note – 080
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~~ Reader Responses, Inquiries & Comments ~~

From: Stacy Siroky , Media Relations Manager, National Association of  Broadcasters 
RE: Tech-Notes #79 – NAB2001 Attendance correction 

I noticed in your "Parting Shots" article. You say that attendance was down  by 20%, but actually it was down by only 2.2% (comparing last year's final,  115,293, to this year's # of registered attendees through Mon., Apr. 23,  112,776)  Thanks! Stacy 

(Ed Note: We stand corrected and thank you


From: Rick Post, Director, Systems and Special Projects 
Subject: Tech-Notes #79 AgileVision correction 

You mentioned "It was most reassuring and gratifying to see AgileVision  receive two different magazine's "Best of Show" award for their AGV-1000  system." For the record, we received awards from THREE different magazines;  Broadcast Engineering Pick Hit, DigitalTV Editor's Pick of Show nab01, and TV  Technology Star 2001 Superior Technology Award. You know how proud we are of  our product and you had to know that we would want to point out that we are  proud of ALL of the awards that we won. Thanks again.  

(Ed Note: You have a right to be proud and we stand corrected, thank you.


From: Sharon Adcock, The Adcock Group. 
Subject: Tech-Notes #79 The Trek continues. 

“It appears that the trek between convention centers (Sands and LVCC) would  be a thing of the past this next year (2002),” (we said)   

Not quite. While the new hall will be open, there are still enough vendors to fill both the LVCC & the Sands. However, nab is trying to make it more  equitable (a lot of folk didn't even make it to the LVCC this year) & they  are assigning booth space (short of the behemoths) to get a better mixture of  traditional & new technology so that people will go to both. The trek  continues... 

(Ed Note: We sure hope she’s wrong.


Subject: 2001 SMPTE Seminar – The Cinema – Now and the Future 
By: Jim Mendrala 

The Seminar was held at the Digital Cinema Lab at the Entertainment  Technology Center which is the old Pacific Hollywood Theatre located on  Hollywood Boulevard between Wilcox and Cahuenga in the heart of Hollywood  California, USA. 

It was supposed to be a realistic look at the evolution of cinema production  and exhibition by and for the people making cinema history. A lot of the  attendees came to learn how these advances can be managed in order to obtain  the greatest quality, speed of operations and cost efficiencies.  

On Friday, May 18th, a Film and Digital screening of the film “Space Cowboys”  was run. Alternating the reels between film and digital projection. The  digital projection originated from a Spirit transfer of the IP (Inter  Positive) directly to a QuVis Qubit. The resultant file was about 30 Gbs for  the whole movie. Color timing of the movie for the digital projection was  dome by Jon Yarborough at Warner Bros.. Technicolor supplied a forth  generation “release” print for the film projection. (Original negative to a  timed IP, then to an Intermediate Negative, then to a “release” print.) This  was probably the most unique demonstration of film and digital cinema. Those  seated in the rear half of the auditorium were hard put to tell the  differences. Many turned around during the performance to see what was  running, film or digital. Those seated in the front half of the auditorium,  generally speaking, had no difficulty in detecting which was film and which  was digital. All agreed that the performance was certainly acceptable but  many said it was not as good as it could be. 

The next day Saturday, May 19th, Jerry Peirce, Senior VP of Technology at  Universal gave the keynote address titled “The Big Picture”.  His keynote  address outlined and skimmed the surface of what digital cinema is all about.  

Following Jerry Pierce was Allen Daviau, ASC who gave an introduction  to “Image Acquisition” from a cinematographer’s viewpoint. He spoke about how  the cinematographer does much more than just acquires an image and how a film  is storyboarded, photographed to create the “Look” and generally follows the  production as far as he is able so that the producer and director  get what  they want. 

After the introduction a panel of 8 well known cinematographers were seated  and after the usual introductions discussed their own ideas of where this new  technology might lead. Bob Fisher a journalist and author moderated the  panel. The panelists were: Allen Daviau, ASC, Stephen Goldblatt, ASC, John  Hora, ASC, Lazilo Kovacs, ASC Hiro Narita, ASC, Mikael Saloman, ASC, Aaron  Schneider, ASC and Nancy Schrieber, ASC. Most panelists showed some film  clips of projects they have been involved on. All were from the ASC (American  Society of Cinematographers).  

Tom Scott, VP Engineering and CTO of Ednet, Inc. and SMPTE Engineering  Director for Film gave a DC28 – SMPTE Study Group Report on Digital Cinema.  He stated that some of the study groups are requesting to become working  groups so that the process of setting up engineering guidelines, recommended  practices and standards can start to be formed. All are invited to  participate in the discussion of the various committees. 

Demonstrations in the theatre, which has a 55 foot wide screen, showed  examples of digital transfers and the “makings of” on the use of digital  techniques for film release were shown. 

The afternoon session was kicked off by Leon Silverman, Executive VP, Laser  Pacific Media Corp. He gave an overview on the Post Production Process. A  panel of three participants, Michael Fink, Senior Visual Effects Supervisor  for Cinesite, Donald Petrie, Director and Sarah Preistnall, Business  Development Director for Eastman Kodak Entertainment Imaging. The panel was  moderated by James Korris, Executive Director  and CEO of USC School of  Cinema and Television. Some interesting digitally generated film clips  showing some of the “before and after” images run through Cinesite were  shown.  

Ira Lichtman, Director, Walt Disney Imagineering – R&D, Inc. introduced the  topic of Projection. C. Chapin Cutler, President of Boston Light & Sound gave  a short talk on the PK 60 E film projector installed in the ETC/USC digital  cinema lab. The projector without the typical Maltese cross sets a new  standard for perfect picture performance. The electronic sproket drive is  precisely designed to optimize picture steadiness, focus, contrast and light  transmission to the large screen. The projector features a longer dwell time  thus allowing for a faster pull down and thus allows more light to pass through each frame.  

Bill Werner, Product Development Manager, DLP Cinema Products, Texas  Instruments, Inc. gave an overview of DLP and touched on how the digital  micromirror device (DMD) works. This was followed by a demonstration of  selected takes out of numerous films that have been presented digitally over  the past two years. 

The Seminar then went into the topic of Distribution and Exhibition. Bob  Lambert, Senior VP, New Technology& New Media Group, The Walt Disney Company,  was the moderator of a panel of 5 people involved in the motion picture  businesses. They were: J. Wayne Anderson, Chairman and President & CEO, R/C  Theatres and spoke person for NATO, Phil Barlow, Executive VP, Walt Disney  Motion Pictures Group, Mat Erixson, Head of Technical Operations, Advanced  Media Technology Lab, Swedish Royal Institute of Technology, Thomas McGrath,  Executive VP, Viacom Entertainment Group and Dick Walsh, Executive VP, Film  Operations, AMC.  Of the group, Phil Barlow and Thomas McGrath had the most  to say. They had opposing viewpoints on several items and when asked  questions from the audience seemed to use the opportunity to talk about more  of their own viewpoints. 

The day came to an end with a demonstration of the best film has to offer and  the best of what digital has to offer.  

In summary a lot of people attending came with the expectation of learning  something about digital cinema but were probably left just as confused as  when they came. There was no attempt to explain the workings of the various  bits and pieces of the digital cinema processes. Nothing on how films are  scanned and digitized. Nothing on how the various projector technologies,  such as D-ILA, Grating Light Valve and fLCD work. Nothing on some of the  various compression systems, such as QuVis’ QuBit with Wavelet technology,  MPEG or Technicolor/Qualcomm’s variable block DCT that are now or will be  used in the near future. Nothing on how the various delivery systems proposed  work in delivering a movie to a theatre. No mention of any of the encryption  algorithms that might be used to prevent piracy. The Seminar skimmed the  surface and I think created more questions then produced answers. The clips  were interesting and pretty but none were scientific.  

Just prior to the SMPTE Seminar the Large Format Imaging Conference was held.  I was reported  that one of the 70 mm producers showed a film that went from  2 pixels on up through 4K (4,000) pixels with the idea that you as an  observer determine what would be the necessary number of pixels for the  cinema. Most agreed that 4K were the minimum number of pixels needed.  As  easy as that film clip was done none were shown at the SMPTE Seminar. J.  Wayne Anderson said “Theaters would like to have a better product but so far  the studios have not delivered”. Maybe the time is ripe for digital cinemas  to make that happen and provide an incentive for more people to become  theater goers. 

The ETC/USC lab has the TI DLP Cinema projector with the “black” chips and  its resolution is 1024 x 1280. Rumor has it that TI will release a 1920 x  1080 chip by the end of the year. We’ll see if that rumor becomes a reality.  Kodak, meanwhile, has a prototype projector using the JVC D-ILA that has 2K  resolution. No one has seen, except in the lab, the Laser CRT nor the Grating  Light Valve. 

That’s my report on the 2001 SMPTE Seminar about the Cinema. . Sponsored by  Eastman Kodak Company and the Entertainment Industry Development Corporation  (EIDC).


Subject: Under the hood of DTV standard 
Source: Crain Communications -- Electronic Media: 

One of the problems in getting digital television off the ground is getting  DTV technology solutions focused on real-world problems. 

“Eventually 8VSB can be made to work essentially everywhere,”' said Mark  Schubin, a TV technology consultant and standards critic. “The biggest  problem is that DTV doesn't replicate NTSC [standard TV] coverage.” 

Mr. Schubin noted that despite assurances otherwise, he cannot receive New  York City DTV stations reliably at his Manhattan apartment using an indoor  antenna. 

Analyzing DTV signals 
Until now, public entities had never recorded actual signals from the field;  the few tests that were conducted outside the lab simply measured whether DTV  signals could be received. And the results of more detailed field tests  conducted by manufacturers were never shared. 

The Advanced Television Technology Center recently completed the first public  effort to capture real-world radio frequency DTV signals, providing the  industry with a repeatable source of applicable material to test and optimize  DTV receivers. The ATTC is a private, nonprofit corporation organized by  broadcasters and consumer-product manufacturers to test and recommend  solutions for the delivery and reception of 8VSB digital transmissions. 

“The majority of DTV problems stem from low signal strength compounded by  multiple echoes [multipath],'' said Jim Kutzner, senior technology director  at ATTC. ``The problem tends to be worse in an urban environment such as an  apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.” 

That's because the proliferation of buildings further reduces signal strength  and increases the number of times a signal bounces around before it reaches a  receiver. 

Now that the data are in, the ATTC is developing “test ensembles” (sets of  characteristics that create distortion) to create new demodulation chips to  measure where reception breaks up. The group hopes to parlay its  investigations into suggestions for 8VSB enhancements to the Advanced  Television Systems Committee, the country's standards-setting body. 

All in all, Mr. Kutzner is heartened by the progress made in getting 8VSB in  shape to be a viable solution. “The proposed enhancements-at least some of  them- look pretty good,” he said, an assessment he shares with the more  skeptical Mr. Schubin. 

“The ATSC RF Task Force report is very good and provides a good analysis of  the problems and possible solutions,'' Mr. Schubin said. “It should be  required reading at the FCC and Congress.” 

In addition to creating high-profile tests, the ATTC also assesses the  interoperability of encoders and decoders using a wide variety of bit  streams. One provider of those bit streams is the Sarnoff Corp., a  combination private research lab and high-tech product development start-up  engine. 

Diagnosing video problems 
Sarnoff has also been busy targeting new technologies to evaluate-for  example, the actual performance of a DTV encoder and better tailoring image  quality to real consumers. Its Encoder Stress Pattern (see photo) is a motion  sequence of tests for various aspects of video processing. The technology  pinpoints design problems in DTV encoders running at various bit rates by  means of an on-screen display. Technicians can actually see the problems  instead of reviewing sheets of data. 

For example, the happy face in the lower right hand corner (see photo)  simulates the presentation of a TV station logo. Its smooth dissolve into and  out of the screen display indicates that the encoded stream passes tests  designed for things such as rate control; the face's more erratic entry and  departure indicate a problem called ``judder'' (shakiness). The technology  has been licensed by Sencore for production of its HD292 HDTV Reference  Signal Source chassis. 

Sarnoff's JNDmetrix-IQ is a software tool that uses psychophysical algorithms  to calibrate how people will perceive the quality of an image or video to  determine what part of each video frame is off. Comparisons with signal-to- noise ratio and absolute error quality measures show JNDmetrix-IQ to be more  reliably attuned to perceptions by the human eye. Available for Windows and  Unix platforms, it allows for a wide variety of input video types, file  formats and output measurement modes. 


Subject: General comments on the industry 
From: Mark Schubin  

2002 - There are 352 days left until all 1288 U.S. commercial TV stations are  due to transmitting DTV.  According to the National Association of  Broadcasters (NAB), as of Friday, there were 192 stations operating in 64  markets, but about 30 of those are non-commercial. Three stations were added  in the last week; more than three need to be added each DAY (including  weekends) to meet the deadline: 

- COFDM DTV has been transmitted in Argentina since April 18. Testing  officially begins on June 1, but there will be a launch event later this month.
- I have been told that a number of companies are pulling out of the projector shootout at Infocomm. 



From: (not by) Craig Birkmaier  

High-speed Internet connections currently reach only between five and six  million U.S. households, partly because of the terms of the law covering  regional Bell companies' entrance into the long-distance data market. Under  the Telecommunications Act of 1996, local Bell carriers must substantially  open their networks to long-distance competition before selling broadband  directly. Only five states have so far approved Bell company plans to open  their networks, an obvious sign the Telecommunications Acts is not working,  critics say. A new piece of legislation offered by Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.)  would eliminate those restrictions in the hope that it would encourage the  continued deployment of broadband networks. Critics of the new bill say it  would only enforce the Bells' monopolies in their regional markets and stifle  competition. Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) has put forward another bill that  would strengthen the Telecommunications Act instead of weakening it, as  Tauzin's bill would. 

(Wired News, 11 May 2001) 


By: Dermot Nolan 

I am sitting on the plane having endured another NAB full of promise, and very  much full of hype! However much I have tried to feel enthusiastic about this  major broadcast event, I leave with a hollow feeling and a great deal of  disappointment. Perhaps I was expecting too much! Had I more closely analyzed  the recent 'state of affairs' in the USA and the state of the economy I would  have realized that I should have been more prepared. Big issues are all about  the spin and nothing to do with the actual reality of any given scenario. But  who cares? Are we all just a little jaded with it all to care too much  anymore? 

Just to give you a flavor of this year's event and the spin-doctors: Sunday  kicked-off with a press conference at the 'DTV Store' (The CEA and NAB + ATSC  created a Digital TV Store). A press conference invite with the tantalizing  phrase, "An important announcement concerning digital television"; definitely  not to be missed. As it turned out it was merely a publicity stunt by the  aforementioned 'gang-of-three' as an attempt to repair the damaged reputation  of the DTV in the USA. Timed very neatly, no doubt, to mask the recent bad  press concerning the debacle of testing carried out by the MSTV. Very much a  self-appreciation gathering for the purveyors of the hype in this DTV  broadcast market, the roll call of speakers publicly announced, and not for  the first time I might add, that America was the 'world leader' in digital  television? 

The announcement. Ah! Yes! It was the announcement concerning this  collaboration between NAB, ATSC and the CEA for a publicity campaign to drive  the sales of DTV forward (This follows a recent UK and Australia initiative  it just so happens). Gary Shapiro Chairman of the CEA tried to engender  enthusiasm but seemed only to be convincing himself!  Once again he re- iterated that to date the consumer electronic market showed a boom in digital  sales. These were announced as 648,000 devices sold so far. Don't  forget 'Digital Devices'? Not DTV Receivers of which 22% was finally offered  as containing a DTV receiver. Not mentioned either is that some of these  devices were for DVB services (HDTV on Dish Network with an 8-VSB tuner that  is probably redundant). Lynn Claudy of the NAB in a sidebar with a journalist  was heard to say that it depended how you were counting and that the figure  was closer to 100,000...others still discussed the more realistic 25- 28,000...therefore an extremely unclear scenario was laid out before us, once  again!. Apparently the "Time for finger pointing is over", furthered  Shapiro!  We shall see!  

Unfortunately this whole back slapping, public relations moment failed to  address the honest fact that whilst a campaign to sell equipment of a DTV  nature is now being undertaken at a consumer level the system that delivers  the signals to these unsuspecting purchasers is subject to a myriad of RFP's  in order to repair it. (It is broken! And no matter all the hype, this is  fact!). 

Further on the trail of DTV at NAB Robert Graves the Chairman of the ATSC was  very low-key at the 'Brazilian Breakfast'; choosing not to represent the ATSC  along side the DVB and ISDB (Maybe due to last years embarrassing attacks by  SET/ABERT). This gathering of the 3 system proponents for the SET/ABERT  breakfast also included ANATEL (Government Regulator in Brazil) The  invitation had invited us to witness a 'debate' for the best terrestrial  system for Brazil. Who took the line of fire for the USA? As I said, not Mr.  Graves but Bob Seidel of CBS who had; announced with no embarrassment,  participated in the MSTV trials. He admitted that the tests ended up being  about equipment and not systems and therefore not scientific at all. And most  damning was that the USA would definitely forget mobile. The disappointing  element was in fact that this breakfast turned out to be a one-way traffic of  information and more misrepresentation of the COFDM v 8-VSB tests. Charts  from the ridiculous MSTV tests were shown, thus further stretching  credibility. There was no time for questions and answers or rebuttal, in fact  there was no debate. 

ANATEL eloquently highlighted the extent of the study that had gone into the  field trials and evaluation of tests in Brazil. They indicated that it was  time for the public consultation in Brazil and responses from each party  (DVB, ISDB & ATSC). It appeared as if the ATSC had managed to get the 8-VSB  back into the equation, as I will explain is a confused affair. 

Confused: we all were! This is because in a strange twist the SET/ABERT group  who mediated this breakfast, having recently rejected and very publicly  rejected the ATSC system in favor of an COFDM solution, made a point of  thanking Robert Graves for his presence (in the audience) and asked the  inimitable Joe Flaherty of CBS, also present, to give the wrap-up speech;  despite the fact that there were many high level Brazilian ministers in the  audience. It is a strange world of hidden agendas and egos that presently  engulfs the DTV in the USA and Brazil too it would now appear! Mr. Flaherty  went on to cite an earlier mentor of his who had given him something that he  always lives by, "The first thing should be the first thing first". This was  in reference to the USA's decision on selecting HDTV as the 'raison d'etre'  for the future of digital TV in the USA. Once again he conveniently and  publicly announced that Europe did not do HDTV! However he corrected himself  to say they were capable, this only after pronounced sighs of disbelief from  the pro DVB portion of the audience. It was perhaps a wise move as the DVB  stand on the trade show floor showed a fantastic 'off the shelf' demo of DVB  HDTV that is actually in many homes across the USA. Ironically it appears  that DVB is beating ATSC at its own game in the HDTV domain. He also  criticised the attempt at offering 'new services' in DTV (referring to mobile  TV & portable) and that giving up traditional broadcasting and adding new  technologies just because we can is not the way forward. This appeared to be  the attitude of the 'old school' giving credence (and thus supporting Mr.  Seidel) for the selection of the 8-VSB-modulation system that cannot offer  anything other than 'old fashioned' broadcasting and that as we know, is  questionable! So we had it, the old guard standing firm in a blinkered view  of what the USA broadcasters want and need in order to move forward in these  new and exciting times. 

Zenith, one of the strongest VSB proponents would only give 'private'  and 'exclusive' demonstrations of their Enhanced VSB receivers. Such a public  debate and resolute decision to reject COFDM apparently still requires closed  doors? 

So as the trade show meandered (lost for direction) around promising  technologies and promising enhancements and promising new businesses built on  emerging technologies the USA DTV machine buried its head in old values and  old technology.  

I passed by the DVB stand to ask them why they had not attacked the MSTV and  had allowed this type of 'politics' to belittle their technology. Their  response was simple and succinct. "Had the USA exposed 8-VSB for what it is  in comparison to DVB-T it would have embarrassed the ATSC and others who have  lauded the technology for so long. It was convenient to have this result and  it suited the politics." 

So as the halls of NAB were ripped apart to make way for the next convention,  the heart of the DTV was ripped out of the USA and the band played on. 


Subject: NBC Ponders Its Options: Grow or Else 
By: Jim Rutenberg and Bill Carter 

In the distant broadcasting past, back in 1941, NBC was considered such a big  and dominant broadcaster that Federal regulators broke it up. Part of it  eventually became ABC. Sixty years later, NBC is posed with the opposite  threat - it is now competing in a world where it has been so greatly  diminished next to media giants like AOL Time Warner and Viacom that its  future vitality is widely considered to be in peril. 

Last week's appointment of the president of NBC News, Andrew Lack, to the  presidency of the company brought to the forefront what many analysts and  even NBC executives agree is an increasingly crucial need for the company to  expand - if, that is, it intends to continue to compete with media companies  of far greater size. 

With Mr. Lack taking over NBC's day-to- day operations, the NBC chief  executive, Bob Wright, has said he will be freer to help its parent company,  General Electric, devise a strategy for NBC's future. According to analysts  and some NBC executives, he has his work cut out for him. 

"For these guys it's either grow or die, grow or sell," said Tom Wolzien,  senior media analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Company and a onetime NBC  executive. "They've got to do one or the other." 

Last week, Mr. Wright, who is also a vice chairman at G.E., called NBC's  growth, "our No. 1 challenge." One senior NBC executive said, "Long term, we  can't compete with companies like AOL Time Warner and Viacom, not as we are  now." 

But it is unclear who would be the best partners for NBC, or how much freedom  NBC would have to buy another company - or be bought by one. General Electric  operates under strict accounting procedures that give its units little leeway  to make major acquisitions. 

However, with changes in federal accounting standards believed to be in the  offing that might make a large purchase more palatable to the parent company,  and with an apparent renewed emphasis on growth, NBC may soon be in a much  better position to make major moves toward expansion. 

On one level, NBC certainly remains a company of considerable strength. For  about a decade, it has consistently been the most profitable of the big  broadcasters (though ABC and CBS have been making gains with popular  nonscripted programs like "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" and "Survivor").  Though it has fallen to third place in the overall ratings this season, NBC  is still the leading network among people 18 to 49 - the demographic group  advertisers covet most. 

Its financial news cable network, CNBC, is a huge profit center - it is  estimated to have brought in pretax profit of more than $350 million last  year on more than $580 million in revenue - and is the leader in its field.  MSNBC, owned in partnership with Microsoft, is the top-rated cable news  network on a 24-hour basis among people aged 25 to 54, an important  demographic group to advertisers in news programming. 

That is essentially where it ends for NBC. But its main rivals have similar  bragging rights, and then some. 

Viacom not only owns CBS, which is in contention to win the overall ratings  this season, but it also owns the Paramount television and movie production  studios and it has a vast array of cable channels serving a wide range of  viewers. Nickelodeon is the leading children's network; MTV is a leading  network for teenagers; TNN is one of the leading general-audience cable  networks. 

AOL Time Warner not only has the WB network, the Warner Brothers production  studio and a host of news and entertainment cable channels, it also owns the  second-largest cable system and the single-largest Internet provider. Rupert  Murdoch's News Corporation has production studios, the Fox broadcast network  and a lineup of cable networks, and is also trying to acquire DirecTV, the  nation's third-largest subscription television provider. 

With all of those assets, these companies have powerful leverage when it  comes to making deals with one another. For instance, if Warner Brothers  decided to charge Fox a high price for one program, it might expect to be  gouged in a similar fashion by the News Corporation's Twentieth Century Fox  Television production studio for one of its programs. NBC has far less  insulation. Though its NBC Studios produces solid shows - "Will & Grace"  and "Providence" - it does not make television for other networks. 

"A lot of negotiating in the television business is that old-time, cold war,  mutually assured destruction kind of thing," Mr. Wolzien said. "You get me, I  get you - you sell me this today, I have to sell you this tomorrow and we  come out even. If you're small and you're just a buyer - and that's all NBC  is - you don't have a threat on anybody. You negotiate with a studio, they  say: `So what? You're no threat.' They can get NBC with impunity." 

NBC's general lack of leverage is believed to have led to one of the best- known examples of an entertainment seller using lopsided leverage to force a  huge payout by a buyer: In early 1998, NBC agreed to pay Warner Brothers $13  million an episode for "E.R." 

NBC certainly has tried to grow through deal making. It has looked at a  number of acquisitions or partnerships, but time and time again, current and  former executives said, it could not justify big deals in large part because  of the strict General Electric accounting procedures, which were devised to  protect earnings growth. 

A few years ago, NBC passed on the notion of buying America Online because it  would have been considered too dilutive, two former NBC executives said. In  part, for similar reasons, G.E. decided not to bid formally on DirecTV. 

NBC has also held talks at different times to merge or form an alliance with  the Turner Broadcasting System of Ted Turner, whose holdings include TNT, TBS  and CNN. But those negotiations were said to have been fraught with  accounting complications caused by General Electric's earnings-based  accounting methods. 

Such difficulties in augmenting the network have contributed to General  Electric's exploration of the possibility of selling NBC over the years -  especially in the early 1990's, when NBC was struggling in the ratings, and,  thus, in revenue. (Reported talks with Paramount, and even the partnership of  Bill Cosby and the former CBS-TV president Robert Wussler never went  anywhere. When NBC's revenue later picked up, General Electric seemed loath  to part with it.) 

But expected changes in federal accounting standards could soon give G.E.  more leeway to let NBC make deals. 

G.E. competitors like AOL Time Warner and Viacom have been able to spend  great sums on acquisitions more readily because they calculate earnings  before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization - a methodology called  Ebitda (pronounced EE-bih-da). Ebitda allows companies to report cash flow -  not actual earnings - quarterly as they borrow money to enlarge their  businesses, assuming a big payoff some time in the future. 

General Electric, however, is unwilling to do the same because it is an  earnings-per-share company, aiming to show real profits each quarter. Under  current standards, if a company like G.E. buys another company for more than  the apparent combined value of its individual assets, the difference, called  good will, must be included in the purchasing company's earnings, amortized  over as many as 40 years. The result is that the purchaser's earnings are  diluted by the inclusion of the good will. 

New rules expected to be enacted by the Financial Accounting Standards Board  in the coming months, however, will end the amortization of good will and  will increase reported earnings, though a company will risk being forced to  take a write-off if a new asset performs under its book value. 

Mr. Wright said the accounting limitations had not, by his estimation, been  overly onerous. NBC executives acknowledge that the new accounting standards  will make acquisitions easier, though they would not identify specific  candidates. But, they said, the company would not alter its standards to make  unreasonable deals. For instance, one NBC executive said, it did not make a  deal to buy the Family Channel - now the Fox Family Channel and once again  for sale - simply because General Electric executives did not like the terms  of the deal being offered by International Family Entertainment Inc.,  controlled by Pat Robertson. 

The incoming General Electric chairman, Jeffrey R. Immelt, is still somewhat  of an unknown quantity - and though he has said he is enthusiastic about NBC,  some wonder whether he will be truly committed to its growth or will  ultimately decide to sell it. Last week, when asked whether he thought Mr.  Immelt's strategy for G.E. would change, Mr. Wright said no. 

If NBC chooses the growth path, it is not evident what moves it could make.  Many larger studios are already aligned with networks. One likely production  partner mentioned often is the Sony Corporation, parent of Columbia Tristar,  which owns television and movie operations. 

A joint venture was previously discussed by the companies, a former NBC  executive said. At one point, John F. Welch Jr., the G.E. chairman, said that  the chairman of the Sony Corporation of America, Howard Stringer, had "walked  in with a big bag of Ebitda on his back." 

Another possible partner mentioned often is Vivendi, which now owns Universal  studios - producer of the "Law and Order" television programs and the  movie "Josie and the Pussy Cats" - and a large stake in USA Networks, owner  of the USA, Sci-fi and Trio cable networks. Executives at USA had no comment. 

Whatever happens at NBC, Wall Street analysts hope it will move carefully and  not try to grow without reason. 

Jeanne G. Terrile, an analyst at Merrill Lynch, said there was an argument to  be made that the company had done exceptionally well in its current  incarnation. "They have done better than everybody else in their business in  the last six to eight years," she said. 

But, she added, she understood why its executives might be eager for growth. 

"In the media world in which it operates," she said, "it looks like Brooks Brothers in an Armani world." 


Subject: 2001-2003 US TV Station HDTV Product Reports 
From: Des Chaskelson 

Data for these reports was derived from an extensive survey of US television  stations from November 2000 through April 2001. Product Reports include a  written category analysis, plus quantitative summary tables and charts  showing installed base and annual purchases (units and dollars) fro SD and  HD, 2001-2003, brand shares, average prices, incidence of purchase etc.  Product Reports are available for 23 product categories -- view table of  contents online at:  

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Parting Shots 
By Larry Bloomfield

 NAB 2001 – The after math and then some corrections 

Long Tech-Notes, so I’ll be brief (that’ll be the day). We’re still learning  all about the automated mailing list - thing! Thanks to those who said they  received duplicates.  Everyone did.  Sorry about that.  Guess I pushed the  button twice.  Will try to be careful. 

In the last parting shots, I said: “Had a nice chat with the Senior Director  of Broadcast Systems Engineering. With folks like him on their staff, they can sleep soundly at night, ” and then neglected to say that this gentleman  is with DirecTV.  

Had an interesting chat this past week with a Director of Engineering in  Raleigh, NC. This guy has a really good grasp on some of the problems out  there. Had a similar conversation with a Chief Engineer in Eugene, OR. We’ll  be talking to them both again, soon. Look for the stories – They’ll really  stir the pot and then some. These guys have had it with the high-priced help  (other engineers) who, when it comes to digital television, couldn’t find  their you know what with both hands, six months of school and a road map.  They’re a whole lot of guys out there that think they know what they’re doing  and don’t really have a clue. Sad part is, they don’t know that they don’t  know and there are very few who see them for what they are. Couldn’t agree  with guys anymore! – Stay tuned! 


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