May 21, 2001
Tech Note – 080
Sponsored by: Bloomfield & Associates
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Thanks to our regulars and welcome to
the new folks.
~~ Reader Responses, Inquiries & Comments ~~
From: Stacy Siroky , Media Relations
Manager, National Association of Broadcasters
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 email@example.com
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
“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
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
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
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
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
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: http://www.nab.org/newsroom/issues/digitaltv/dtvstations.asp
- 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.
Subject: HIGH-SPEED ACCESS
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)
Subject: 8-VSB - YOU ARE THE WEAKEST
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 below...it 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
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
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: http://www.scri.com/sc_hdtv_2001products.html
-- Subscribers to Tech Notes Eligible for a 10% Discount!! --
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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