(click thumbnail)Tim ThorsteinsonAt NAB2007, Harris Broadcast Communications Division will be promoting its ONE initiative, touting its broad array of products and services to broadcasters and the production community.
“This business is really a compilation of a whole bunch of acquisitions over the last six or seven years,” said Tim Thorsteinson, president of the division. “We’re spending a lot of time and effort on integrating those technologies we’ve acquired—the cultures, people, some of the locations—into a more unified whole to provide value to customers… as a company, we’re really well-positioned.”
As recently as three years ago, Harris was known primarily to broadcasters for its transmission and automation product lines, but a number of acquisitions—including the purchase of Encoda, Invenio, Arkemedia, Leitch, Videotek, Inscriber, Aastra and OSi—have greatly broadened the company’s technology offerings to the point that it can provide almost everything in the production chain (except cameras and related products).
But the company’s transmission business has taken a hit as television broadcasters have completed their build-outs and turned their attention to other parts of the production facility. The slump in transmitter sales has forced the company to eliminate about 150 positions from its facilities in Quincy, Ill., and Mason, Ohio.
Thorsteinson said the division has too much manufacturing capacity, adding that although the Harris business overall is strong, TV transmitter sales have been “very, very, very, very, very, very, very soft. People have been delaying their purchases. I’ve seen a lot of things but I’ve never seen a business drop off like this.”
The evolving broadcast industry has prompted Harris to re-evaluate even the name of the division. By NAB2007, the word “broadcast” may no longer be part of the Harris moniker, according to Thorsteinson.
“We’ll be positioning the business a little bit beyond the traditional broadcast name,” he said. “The business has moved significantly beyond transmitters.”
Thorsteinson emphasizes, however, that Harris’ broadcast business is healthy. Revenue from continuing operations increased from $1.84 billion in 2002 to $3.47 billion in 2006 and broadcast sales, he said, are about $625 million per year and he’d like to grow the business 8 to 10 percent per year.
Overall, he said, business is “the best it’s ever been in my 12 years in the industry—forgetting the TV transmitter hiccup.”
Positioning its business beyond traditional broadcast though, doesn’t mean that the company isn’t moving ahead with new ideas to help broadcasters transition to the mobile TV era. Harris has been very active in this burgeoning market and NAB2007 will mark its boldest move yet.
At the show, the company will reveal plans about a new mobile TV standard it is proposing that uses broadcasters’ DTV signals to transmit audio video content to mobile devices. It may even conduct a technology demonstration of the standard—dubbed “ATSC Mobile” during the show.
In announcing the initiative—code named “Project Eagle”—the company places itself in direct competition with A-VSB, which is also based on the ATSC standard and is being developed by Samsung and Rohde & Schwarz. Samsung demonstrated the standard at CES in Las Vegas earlier this year. The ATSC, which is the standards body for U.S. digital television is currently considering standardizing A-VSB.
ATSC Mobile is “in-band and optimized for mobile pedestrian and handheld-type services,” said Jay Adrick, vice president of strategic development for Harris Broadcast Communications Division. “The platform has performance specifications that exceed A-VSB. In fact, we have about a 7 dB greater signal threshold in performance than A-VSB.”
Harris has been conducting low power testing “in a major city” using a 1 watt transmitter, according to Adrick.
“We are about to move that testing to a major market with a high power VHF station in a Top 30 market and conduct some field trials during the month of March,” Adrick said.
Harris will continue to support development of other mobile TV standards, Adrick added. “We’re not a single flavor house when it comes to mobile TV,” he said.
The company’s focus on integrating its product line to provide comprehensive solutions to its customers is illustrated by the debut of “NewsForce” at NAB.
NewsForce integrates editors from the former DPS (which was acquired by Leitch in 2000), graphics from Inscriber (another Leitch acquisition from 2005) and Nexio servers from Leitch (which Harris acquired in 2005) to create a complete, file-based newsroom system based on the Nexio XS shared storage server architecture. After acquiring Leitch, Harris decided to refocus its Velocity editing platform to broadcasters, optimizing the editors for the fast cutting, voicing and airing of news.
On the test and measurement front, the Harris Videotek division will introduce the latest version of its QuiC media analysis server. Launched in its Phase One release last year, QuiC provides broadcasters with an efficient, consistent method of analyzing file-based, compressed digital content faster than real time. The new version more than doubles the number of available parameters that, based on user specifications, will be identified as faults during the analysis.
Broadcasters expanding their facilities to HD are looking at new 3 Gbps-based products and Harris is expanding its support for this standard across its product line. The company will demonstrate 3 Gbps capability thoughout the core processing workflow, including in the company’s X75 HD multiple-path converter/synchronizer, an all-in-one 1 RU solution for adaptable ingest and emission applications; distribution amplifiers in the 6800+ modular core processing platform; the Panacea routing switcher for small routing applications; and the Platinum and Platinum MX routing switchers.
Harris is also focusing its attention to alternative distribution methods beyond broadcast, such as IPTV and mobile TV by demonstrating H.264 (MPEG-4, Part 10) compression products in its NetVX video networking platform and the DTP digital turnaround processor in its booth.
Radio’s transition to digital is also very much on Thorsteinson’s mind. He estimated that Harris’s market share for HD Radio is greater than 50 percent.
At NAB2007, NAB is highlighting its solutions for HD Radio, as well as products that build on digital radio standards used elsewhere in the world.
The ZX3500 transmitter is making its public debut at the show. A 3.5 kW model transmitter, the ZX3500 is geared toward small-market analog FM broadcasters looking to upgrade to HD Radio, as well as larger operators seeking a compact backup transmitter. Harris designed the ZX Series of transmitters for tri-mode operation, allowing for switching among digital, analog and hybrid modes on the fly.
To take advantage of the datacasting capabilities of HD Radio, Harris is offering the DATAplus system for data transmission alongside multiple HD audio channels. DATAplus accepts data management from multiple sources and stores, prioritizes and separately outputs the data to multiple sources including program associated data, or PAD; it can also be used to generate information for RDS/RBDS and the Web.
The DMB 670 transmitter is designed for T-DMB broadcasting, which allows for the delivery both Eurkea-147 digital audio and mobile TV signals from the same transmitter. The transmitter can be modified for other DAB circumstances through simple adjustments.
For the studio backend, Harris is highlighting its VistaMax and VistaMax Envoy studio audio networking systems. New for 2007 is the VistaMax 500-series code for consoles and cardframes. The software-based platform features UDP support for external servers and incorporates SNTP for real-time synchronization.
Enhancements to the NetWave range of digital on-air consoles are being shown, along with the 4X-A2D analog-to-digital converter. Harris also plans to show the RMXdigital on-air console with the new RMXd8-HL self-contained rackmount mix-engine. Also new is the StereoMixer, a digital production and on-air console being touted as offering a digital mixing architecture on an analog budget.
All the consoles and networked audio systems will be shown with Harris Smoothline furniture.
Tom has covered the broadcast technology market for the past 25 years, including three years handling member communications for the National Association of Broadcasters followed by a year as editor of Video Technology News and DTV Business executive newsletters for Phillips Publishing. In 1999 he launched digitalbroadcasting.com for internet B2B portal Verticalnet. He is also a charter member of the CTA's Academy of Digital TV Pioneers. Since 2001, he has been editor-in-chief of TV Tech (www.tvtech.com), the leading source of news and information on broadcast and related media technology and is a frequent contributor and moderator to the brand’s Tech Leadership events.
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