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News summary for 10/15/07

Mon, 10/15/2007 - 9:30am
CED staff

Cablevision investor against buyout offer
By Mike Robuck

A prominent fund manager is opposing the Dolan family’s bid to buy the rest of Cablevision’s common stock shares in an effort to take the cable company private.

Mario Gabelli said in a regulatory filing on Friday by one of his funds, Gamco Investors, that he plans to vote against the Dolan family’s offer during a special meeting to decide the matter on Oct. 24 during a vote by Cablevision shareholders.

Gabelli, Cablevision’s second largest shareholder with an 8 percent stake, has said he thinks the offer by the Dolan family undervalues the company by about $15 a share, or another $4 billion.

"Despite the likely challenges of FiOS, Google, a bidding war for the NY Yankees and so on and the concern of New York's susceptibility to an economic slowdown, we believe our clients are best served by staying the course in Cablevision," Gabelli wrote in a letter to Cablevision chairman Charles Dolan dated October 8.

The letter was posted on Gamco Investors' Web site under a section called The Gabelli Blog.

Earlier this year, Cablevision’s board agreed to allow the company to be taken private by the Dolan family, which currently has the largest stake of common stock at 20 percent, for $36.26 a share.

The Dolan family may negotiate with Gabelli prior to next week’s vote in order to win his support for the transaction.

Danaher scoops up Tektronix for $2.8B
By Brian Santo

Danaher announced it is buying Tektronix for $38 a share, or approximately $2.8 billion, including debt, transaction costs and net of cash acquired. Tek shares closed trading Friday at $28.34, but on the news shot up to just below the offer price.

The transaction is expected to be completed in the fourth quarter of 2007.

Tektronix is one of the granddaddies in test and measurement (T&M), and in recent years, has branched out into network and video testing and monitoring. It joins a long-ago rival, Fluke, in the Danaher fold.

Tektronix would become part of Danaher’s Electronic Test platform.

Danaher’s President and CEO, H. Lawrence Culp Jr., said, “Through the application of the Danaher Business System we believe we can continue to deliver strong results in our established businesses and look at attractive adjacent markets for future growth opportunities. We are very pleased to welcome Tektronix’s management team and associates to Danaher.”

Startup BlackArrow joins the ad-insertion crowd
By Brian Santo

BlackArrow, an ad-insertion startup backed by a high-powered trio of cable and electronic investors, announced itself to the world today. The company introduced its multiplatform ad-management system it says is the first purpose-built platform for dynamic advertising across broadband, video-on-demand (VOD) and digital video recorder (DVR).

BlackArrow just closed a $12 million series B round of funding led by Comcast, which was joined by Cisco and Intel, and two venture funds: Mayfield Fund and Polaris Venture Partners.

The BlackArrow system manages, delivers and measures targeted advertising for “user-controlled” video.

One part of BlackArrow’s proposition is to compensate for ad-zapping. If a subscriber fast-forwards through a commercial, an operator can set the BlackArrow system to insert a static ad on screen during the process.

When it comes to any on-demand content, the system can be set to select and exhibit ads appropriate to the content being viewed and the time it is being viewed.

Little of this is entirely new; BlackArrow joins a number of companies providing similar, if not the same, capabilities.

Judging by the identities of its executives – also just now revealed - Black Arrow appears to have splintered off from Knight-Ridder.

Dean Denhart, previously chief technology officer of Knight Ridder Digital, was revealed to be president and CEO. Another former-Knight Ridder executive, Sharon Mandell, is SVP and CTO. BlackArrow has also hired Patrick Carter as VP of operations; he was senior director of Web infrastructure for Knight Ridder Digital.

The company also added Chris Hock as VP of management, who had been with Adobe Systems and was a co-founder of RedSpark. Larry Kramer, MarketWatch founder and former-CBS Digital Media president, is on the company’s board.

“The growth in multiplatform video consumption requires new advertising models to reach consumers who are now accustomed to being in control of when and where they view video content,” said Denhart in a statement.

“The BlackArrow system is specifically built to address the complexities of video ad-management, with the flexibility to support evolving advertising business models.”

Internet TV viewers on the rise
By Traci Patterson

Nearly 16 percent of U.S. households with Internet access watch TV broadcasts online, according to a new report from The Conference Board and TNS. Online viewers cited personal convenience and avoiding commercials as their top two reasons for watching TV broadcasts on the Internet.

The number of Internet TV viewers who watch entire episodes of shows online has doubled in the past year.

Four out of every five online viewers said that watching these programs online has not changed their TV viewing habits, but a small percentage said their traditional TV viewing has decreased. 
 
“Although online television viewing is still not a widespread phenomenon, the proportion of users has increased since 2006 and is likely to increase over time, given consumers’ love for entertainment,” said Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board’s Consumer Research Center.
 
Nearly 73 percent of online households use the Internet for entertainment purposes on a daily basis, and an additional 15 percent search for entertainment several times a week.

The top methods for viewing broadcasts online are streaming and free downloading - about two-thirds of viewers stream online content, and more than 40 percent download content for free.  

Sprint creates TV programming for mobile phones
By Traci Patterson

Sprint has launched its own network of original TV programming - Sprint Exclusive Entertainment (SEE) - for the company’s video-enabled phones.

SEE delivers the TV programs for free (about 150 each week) to customers with any Power Vision data plan.

The on-demand programs average about two minutes in length and focus on three major areas - sports, music and entertainment news.

Sprint offers more than 70 video and audio channels of on-demand, linear and simulcast programming. In 2003, the company launched the first multimedia experience available on the mobile phone. Sprint was also the first company to offer live TV programming (MobiTV) and full-length, on-demand movies on the mobile phone.

Nighthawk buys Eagle’s IPTV set-top box assets
By Mike Robuck

Nighthawk Systems said today that it’s picking up Eagle Broadband’s IPTV set-top box business assets for $4.75 million.

Nighthawk expects the deal to have an immediate impact on its bottom line based on purchase orders for HD MediPro3000 set-top boxes by an unnamed hospitality provider. The company anticipates the existing purchase orders to produce revenues of more than $400,000 once they’re completed.

“This is a huge event for Nighthawk Systems. This funding and subsequent acquisition of the set-top box business presents Nighthawk with an incredible opportunity to take a quick and large step forward in creating additional value in the Company,” said H. Douglas Saathoff, Nighthawk’s CEO, in a statement.

Since all of Nighthawk’s products, including the set-top boxes, utilize printed circuit boards, the company also expects to lower its costs through higher production volumes.

Under the terms of the deal, Eagle’s team of set-top box engineers and support staff have now become employees of Nighthawk. Nighthawk was able to fund the buyout by a $6 million sale of preferred stock. The preferred stock is not convertible for one year and is redeemable at Nighthawk’s option.

For its part, Eagle Broadband felt the deal was in its best interest because it lowered its debt and employee headcount.

“When Nighthawk approached us with an extremely attractive offer, we felt that selling this business would provide a more immediate return and give us the ability to focus our attention on the service areas of our business,” said Brian Morrow, COO of Eagle Broadband, in a statement. “This transaction significantly reduces Eagle’s financial pressures by paying off a large portion of our debt, and providing us the opportunity to reorganize our staff and capabilities.”

Broadband Briefs for 10/15/07

* AOL to cut one-fifth of global workforce
By Brian Santo

Time Warner’s AOL unit will eliminate 2,000 jobs as part of an ongoing restructuring, according to Reuters, which said it got its information from an internal AOL document.

AOL has been leaking subscribers, and has been accused of being a drag on Time Warner financial results.

The cuts, scheduled to begin tomorrow (Tuesday), amount to about one-fifth of AOL's global workforce and are spread across operations in the United States and in Europe, where the company has sold off its Internet access businesses.

AOL plans to boost investment in higher growth areas such as advertising, AOL CEO Randy Falco said in the memo to staff.

* SMPTE, VSF extend deadline for conference papers 
By Mike Robuck

The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) and the Video Services Forum (VSF) have extended the call for papers deadline for the SMPTE and VSF 2008 Joint Conference, which is scheduled for Feb. 10-13 in Houston.

The two organizations announced that the new deadline will be Friday, Nov. 9 at 5 p.m. ET. The original due date was Oct. 12.

Those interested in submitting a paper should visit www.smpte.org for further information on procedures, topics, requirements and contacts. Authors will be notified regarding the acceptance or rejection of their proposals no later than Nov. 30.

* Verizon adds 2 FiOS TV Premier channels 
By Traci Patterson

Verizon now offers A&E HD and the new Fox Business Network in all of the company’s FiOS TV markets. The channels are the latest additions to FiOS TV Premier, a package of more than 200 all-digital channels that starts at $42.99 per month.

FiOS TV is available in parts of 12 states: California, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas and Virginia.

* Spirit upgrades voice/video PC software 
By Brian Santo

Spirit DSP announced the availability of the latest version of its embedded voice and video software. TeamSpirit Voice & Video Engine PC Version 3.0 is an IMS-ready solution that encapsulates wideband voice and video processing. The Engine seamlessly bundles standard and proprietary wideband voice and video codecs, echo cancellation, noise suppression, PLC, jitter buffer and more, allowing fast and easy integration into complex products designed to deliver low-latency voice and video over IP. The software’s proprietary technology solves most voice/video-over-IP (V2oIP) issues, the company claims, including voice and video lips sync.

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