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Harris Pitches Unified Company, Nets Cox Sales

Harris Corporation says it is focusing in 2007 on unifying the diverse businesses within its broadcast division while maintaining a recent pattern of strong sales growth.

In a pre-NAB press event in New York Friday, Tim Thorsteinson, president of Harris’ Broadcast Communications Division, said the company’s message for NAB 2007 will be "One," as in Harris being the only technology vendor that touches every part of the broadcast workflow (except for cameras).

"It is not our plan to run it as a portfolio of independent businesses, but as an integrated workflow model moving forward," he says.

Thorsteinson says the broadcast technology business in general is the best it’s been in his 13-year tenure in the industry, with the Leitch infrastructure business providing the strongest sales growth for Harris due to high-definition upgrades at various stations and networks.

In that vein, Harris announced that Cox Television has selected Harris’ IconStation SD/HD on-air branding system and ADC Playout Automation software to handle high-definition graphics at the 15 stations it owns and/or operates. Cox has also selected Harris’ OSI-Traffic software to manage the traffic, sales, accounting and reporting functions at its stations. That is one of 12 new sales that Harris has netted for software from OSI, a company it acquired in April 2006 for $32 million.

Transmitters have been a soft spot for Harris, says Thorsteinson, as most broadcasters have already made their digital TV investments and the 500 hundred or so stations that have to buy new gear in order to move to their final digital TV channel assignments have been slow to make new investments. Harris is actually cutting about 150 of 700 jobs at its transmitter manufacturing plants in Quincy, Ill. and Mason, Ohio in response to the overall slowdown in the TV and radio transmitter business.

Harris vice president Jay Adrick says the FCC is "about eight months behind" in completing the final table of channel allotments for DTV, which will allow stations to make their final preparations for the analog turn-off mandated for Feb. 17, 2009. Harris is warning broadcasters to get their orders for new equipment in early to allow both it and other transmission equipment vendors to produce the required gear in time for the deadline. It has also met with the FCC to brief the Commission on the issue.

Nonetheless, Adrick, who is also on the board of the ATSC digital TV standards body and is helping Harris develop a new mobile DTV technology, is fully confident that the industry will meet the February 2009 deadline.

"I’ll bet my paycheck on it," he says.