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NAB 2010: Omneon Sees the Future in High Definition

LAS VEGAS: Tangible opportunities lie with the old black that is high-definition TV, Omneon chief Suresh Vasudevan said at the company’s presser Saturday night at The Palms.

“Less than 15 percent of the studios in Europe have HD production capability,” Vasudevan said. Russia and India have yet to launch HD channels, which he considers key drivers for Omneon’s business, more than 60 percent of which is international.

Omneon posted revenues of $105 million for 2009, down from $126 million in 2008, though last year was possibly the worst on record for the broadcast industry. The company has managed a 28 percent compound annual growth rate since 2004. Vasudevan said Omneon’s cash position was “strengthened” in 2009 from the $34 million with which it ended 2008. The company has no debt.

Omneon first circled the wagons last year as the recession settled in. It divested its global-file transfer business and focused on its core product line. The company has a 22 percent chunk of the transmission server market and substantial client goodwill to go along with it. Continued attention in that arena comprises the first of a two-pronged business strategy.

Prong two is about tricking out Omneon servers and peripherals with production functions. Marketing chief Geoff Stedman said that about one-third of Omneon’s product line now extend into production, compared to just one in 10 four years ago. That trend continues with this year’s product introductions at NAB: Server compatibility with Sony’s RDD9 MXF file wrapper for XDCAM; a beefier version of MediaDirector; and MediaGrid ContentServer enhancements that handle up to 100 simultaneous Final Cut Pro editors.

The Sunnyvale, Calif. server folks have a particular fixation with the intuitive management of metadata. Anyone who’s worked with even the simplest video file knows there is no such thing as a video “file,” but rather multiple files associated with a single clip. Omneon will be demonstrating its recently released ProXplore software, a scaled-down asset management system that automatically “harvests” metadata defining format, bit rate, resolution, aspect ratio and who did what with the file when--and then enables related searches.

For the coming year, Vasudevan said the focus of the company would be on production and the simplification of workflows. He’d launched the press conference with cartoon depicting “2009 in Review,” showing a downtrodden guy selling apples for 5 cents on the street in 1929, compared to a downtrodden guy selling organic apples for 5 cents on the street in 2009.

“What’s clear is that it’s not going to be as bad as 2009,” he said.
-- Deborah D. McAdams