Lenbrook America will begin on June 1 to sell its NAD and PSB home audio brands through in-house regional sales managers for the first time after having sold exclusively through independent reps since the company's founding 20 years ago. The company will drop all or almost all of its independent reps in the U.S. and will decide on Tuesday whether to keep one or two, said Dean Miller, who earlier this year was appointed president/CEO of the U.S.-based subsidiary of Canada's Lenbrook Group. Lenbrook will hire three to four regional sales managers, each responsible for sales of the NAD, PSB, and Tivoli brands. They will report to Miller. Miller told TWICE that the decision to go direct was difficult, given Lenbrook's long relationship with U.S. rep firms. "We're grateful to these companies," he said. Multiple factors, however, forced the company's hand, including retail consolidation in the specialty-A/V channel, a flat audio specialty market, and continued rising business costs.
After several years of litigation, the patent-infringement case that TiVo launched against Dish Network and EchoStar has come to an end. Dish Network and EchoStar have agreed to pay TiVo $500 million to settle the case, including an upfront payment of $290 million from Dish and $10 million from EchoStar. Between 2012 and 2017, the companies will pay TiVo the remaining $200 million in equal installments. The parties also agreed to eliminate all pending litigation between them. The battle between the companies started in 2004 when TiVo claimed EchoStar, which was Dish Network's parent company before the satellite provider was spun off in 2007, violated its "multimedia time warping system patent." That patent covers how DVR users can watch one program while another is recorded. For its part, TiVo felt vindicated. The company said last month that after a long wait, it finally had the ruling it needed to ensure it could receive the damages it has been seeking for years.
You'll soon be able to watch 3D movies from 30,000 feet in the air. A start-up company called MasterImage 3D is reportedly very close to signing a deal with multiple airlines to bring its display technology to TV monitors across entire fleets of aircraft. Hollywood Reporter notes that the company just received $15 million in funding from Samsung, which is sure to start pouncing on the emerging glasses-free 3D market.
Logitech was herald of wider problems with Google TV on Thursday after its winter fiscal results (PDF) revealed very low numbers. The peripheral maker made just $5 million in sales from the Revue and all its accessories. At $300 per device, the figure would have seen it ship fewer than 16,700 of the Android-based media hubs. The sales were a steep drop from the $22 million in the fall, the Revue's first full quarter in shops. It also fell well below its official estimates of $18 million. Logitech chief executive Gerald Quindlen justified the plunge by claiming that his firm had reduced the amount of marketing, but the claim was contradicted by a 19 percent increase in marketing costs that had been focused heavily on Google TV. Some anticipation has circulated around a reboot of Google TV at the upcoming Google I/O conference in May. While never confirmed by Google, rumors have persisted that it forced a last-minute delay in many companies' Google TV plans that pushed their launches from the CES expo in January to the fall to give time for a theoretically much improved version of the platform.
Consumer confidence in technology and the overall economy both increased in April, according to the Consumer Electronics Association. The lobby's Index of Consumer Technology Expectations--it's ice tea--increased four points this month to 82.4. The ICTE measures consumer expectations about technology spending. It rose for the second consecutive month and is 10 points higher than this time last year. "New model and product launches making headlines this month are likely driving consumer interest in spending on consumer tech," said Shawn DuBravac, CEA's chief economist and director of research. "New models for traditional categories, together with tablets, smartphones and gaming devices, have raised consumer sentiment heading into the second quarter of the year." Consumers are also feeling more confident about the overall direction of the economy. The CEA's Index of Consumer Expectations--just plain "ice"--rose five points in April to 166.2. The ICE measures consumer expectations about the broader economy, is up for the first time since January and is more than two points higher than this time last year. It plunged in March on concerns of geopolitical instability and the natural disasters in Japan. "Consumer sentiment improved this month despite continued concerns and uncertainty over the stability of U.S. credit quality," DuBravac said. "But Americans are feeling more confident about the job market as companies indicate an increasing willingness to hire, easing concerns and leading to greater confidence in the economy."
Netflix continued to post impressive quarterly financial numbers, ending the first quarter 2011 as the largest subscription video service in North America. In the first quarter, Netflix added 3.6 million subscribers, ending the period with more than 23.6 million subscribers in total. That was up 69 percent from the 14 million subscribers it had a year ago. To put that in context: Comcast ended 2010 with 22.8 million pay TV subscribers. While it's always possible the cable company could report subscriber additions in the first quarter, it's unlikely to do so, given its declines over the last several quarters. Most of Netflix's customer additions came in the U.S., where it added 3.3 million new users to end at 22.8 million subscribers. Internationally, Netflix added an additional 290,000 subs, to bring total international users to 800,000. Netflix's revenue for the quarter came in at $719 million, which was 46 percent higher than the prior year's first-quarter sales of $494 million. The company recorded net income of $1.11 cents a share, compared to 59 cents a share in the year-ago quarter and 87 cents a share in the fourth quarter of last year.
RadioShack's profit dropped 30 percent to $35 billion, which the company attributed to stiff competition as well as a contract dispute with T-Mobile. The company's mobility business did grow by 11 percent, the company said. "Despite a challenging economy and tough weather conditions, our first-quarter results were generally in line with our internal expectations," the company's president and CEO-designate, Jim Gooch, said as part of the announcement. "We expect the softness in our business to continue during the second quarter before we begin to see the benefits of our merchandising and sales initiatives improving both revenue and income trends in the back half of the year. In addition, growth in our mobility business will be aided by our tablet computer offerings, which are being introduced this month."
Nearly 20 percent of all TVs shipped in 2010 featured connected TV capabilities, according to new research released Monday by DisplaySearch. The DisplaySearch Q1 2011 Quarterly TV Design and Features Report, predicts the connected TV category to grow to over 123 million shipments in 2014 (at a 30 percent compound annual growth rate). Emerging markets will play a major role in this growth, the firm said, with Eastern Europe forecast to grow from 2.5 million connected TVs shipped in 2010 to over 10 million in 2014. In addition, DisplaySearch findings indicate that 33 percent of flat panel TVs sold in China in 2013 will have internet capability.
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Netflix's streaming content license fees are projected to increase at least $500 million this year from $180 million in 2010 - more than wiping out much-ballyhooed savings from reduced disc postage and distribution costs, an analyst said. Michael Pachter, with Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles, said the exponential rise in Netflix's license fees revolve around recent benchmark content deals completed with pay-TV channel Epix and The Walt Disney Co. He estimates Netflix will pay Epix $190 million annually during five years for repurposed movies from Epix co-owners MGM, Lionsgate and Paramount - available 90 days after initial broadcast. Pachter expects Netflix to shell out $150 million to $200 million annually for a renewed deal with Starz Entertainment - with the current $30 million per year agreement set to expire in this fall. The analyst believes Netflix will pay on average more than $107 million per year per studio for repurposed movies from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, Universal Studios Home Entertainment, Warner Home Video and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. He says Netflix will pay even more for TV content, with separate studio deals ranging from $100 million to $200 million per year. Pachter says Netflix will realize about $200 million in reduced postal fees after 2012.
Philips is moving its loss-making TV business to a 30/70 joint venture with Hong-Kong based monitor maker TPV and has the option to sell out. The Dutch group has struggled to compete against players like Samsung and LG Electronics. Van Houten, a restructuring expert who took over as CEO this month, said on Monday he is assessing the profitability of Philips' 400 or so business areas, a hint that further divestments could be on the cards. "We are not yet firing on all cylinders...There's much unlocked potential in Philips," Van Houten told Reuters Insider. Philips' shares opened lower on the news, but then recovered to trade up 0.9 percent at 10:29 a.m.. Philips has 3,600 employees at the business, all of whom will be transferred to TPV. It did not give a value for the deal, saying it would receive a deferred payment from TPV. Philips showed its first television to the Dutch public in 1928 -- a bulky box-like contraption that was a far cry from its current sleek, flatscreen models. But Philips, once a global leader in TVs, can no longer compete with lower-cost rivals. The unit, which makes up less than 10 percent of group sales, has become a thorn in the firm's side, having notched up losses of almost a billion euros since the beginning of 2007. Van Houten said the joint venture "will enable a return to profitability for the television business, and an increased portfolio focus for Philips in health and well-being."
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT), the world's biggest retailer, plans to cut back on space for electronics as sales in that category have declined, contributing to the company's two-year U.S. sales slump. The company, which is based in Bentonville, Arkansas, will reduce the floor space devoted to items like flat-screen televisions and give some of that space to apparel, according to Rosalind Brewer, who runs the Wal-Mart East division. Brewer spoke at a retail conference in Atlanta today. The reduction is a reversal of Wal-Mart's 2009 move to allocate 21 percent more floor space to entertainment gadgets and comes after electronics contributed to a 1.8 percent decline in sales at U.S. stores open at least a year in the fourth quarter, its seventh consecutive drop. "It's something Wal-Mart has needed to do for a year," said Craig Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners, a New Canaan, Connecticut-based consulting firm, in an interview. "You don't need as much space in that area with products shrinking and purchases going online, and electronics has narrow profit margins. Floor space is a scarce commodity."
To perform the test, all you need is one piece of string that measures about the length of your arm. Tie a knot in the middle, and then a knot two to four inches from each end. Hold the string up to your nose with the closest knot about two inches away from your nose. Make sure your finger isn't obscuring your line of sight. Now you're ready to go. First, check to see how many knots you see as you look at the knot in the center. You should see only one. If you see two, you may have double vision, or diplopia, and should consult your optometrist. Next, check to see how many strings you see as you focus on the center knot. You should see two, crossing at the knot in the middle. If you don't see two strings, you don't see 3-D. I found that the strings kept popping in and out, so I definitely have issues with 3-D perception. If you see two strings, the next step is to determine where the strings cross. If they cross at the center knot, your eyes probably work well together and you can see 3-D. If they cross in front of the center knot, your eyes are pointing in too much and you have "convergence excess." And if the strings cross in back of the center knot, your eyes aren't pointing in enough and you have "convergence insufficiency."
As broadcasters and television networks try to figure out their Internet strategy, the TV content that actually is online is generating quite a pretty penny. Online TV brought in $1.6 billion last year, up 34% from 2009, according to a data analysis by IHS. The largest contributor to that growth was a 65% rise in Internet TV advertising, which reached $719 million in 2010. That's surprising, since Big Media has often beenreluctant to throw its content online, thinking it would jeopardize their lucrative deals with cable providers. And the number of online television streams with ads rose by a measly 10% last year. But some analysts say that the big players in online TV are actually making out pretty well. "Even in this conflicted market, revenue was up, thanks to the proactive attitude of a handful of players, including Hulu and the CW Television Network, which have managed to expand revenue even as consumption growth has leveled out," said Dan Cryan, head broadband media analyst at IHS.
YouTube has started its new service "YouTube Live" to offer live streaming videos of concerts, sports and interviews to users. Consumers can use the new service, launched online at youtube.com/live, to watch shows or events streamed by the Google-owned operation's partners, who will be able to access the YouTube Live streaming platform to begin broadcasting content. The launch started with a "Digitour" performance by YouTube musicians. It is not the first time the online video company is showing live videos. The new Live platform would make live-streaming a standard practice. The company said that the new service is intended to be a platform for its partners to show live content to users. YouTube product manager Joshua Siegel and product marketing manager Christopher Hamilton said in a blog, "The goal is to provide thousands of partners with the capability to live stream from their channels in the months ahead."
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