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IBC 2009: Harris Touts European Strength Amidst Soft U.S. Sales

IBC Amsterdam 2009: Complete Coverage of the IBC Show

After experiencing a downturn in sales in the U.S. broadcast market over the past year, broadcast conglomerate Harris is focusing on growth opportunities overseas and in finding new customers in non-broadcast markets, said president Tim Thorsteinson at IBC on Thursday.

Fiscal year 2009, which ended for Harris on June 30, was a difficult one, said Thorsteinson. Besides seeing fewer large system orders due to the general economic malaise, Harris also saw its U.S. transmitter business drop off in the second half of the fiscal year as broadcasters have now completed the digital TV transition.

So Harris Broadcast, which used to get 60% of its revenues from the U.S., is transitioning its business to eventually be 75% international.

"It's a big transition for us, and we're going to be shifting resources from the U.S. market to elsewhere," said Thorsteinson.

One international growth opportunity for Harris is selling transmitters in countries that haven't yet completed the switch to digital. At IBC, the company is showing two new VHF models from its solid-state platinum line aimed at digital TV and digital radio applications. They incorporate Harris' PowerSmart technology to consume some 20-40% less power than previous generations. Harris will also be building transmitters at a new plant in Brazil.

Harris' EMEA (Europe-Middle East-Africa) business was one bright spot in fiscal 2009, recording 5% year-on-year growth in revenues. Sky Media, for example, is now using Harris' Landmark sales software to manage ad sales across 192 channels, and Harris announced at IBC that Discovery Networks will also be adopting the Landmark system to manage ad sales for its European operations.

Harris also announced some new EMEA sales in the European mobile truck market, including a large shipment of infrastructure gear to German television channel ZDF for an HD upgrade of its mobile production department, ZDF Mobile Produktions Einheit (MPE), and the integration of a new hi-definition OB (outside broadcast) van for L'Opera Broadcast Video Service in Italy.

ZDF's Harris purchase included signal processing equipment, routers, multiviewers, distribution amplifiers and optical fiber test tools. The new gear was installed in ZDF MPE's modular mobile rack equipment bundles, which can be configured-to-order and shipped to a variety of venues for special event coverage. They were used in ZDF MPE's mobile broadcast of the 12th IAAF track and field world championships in Berlin last month.

The Harris gear in L'Opera's new "OB 5 HD", which is on display in IBC's outside broadcast area at IBC, includes a 256x256 Harris Platinum 3-gig-capable router; Centrio multiviewer; Videotek VTM-4100 advanced audio/HD video test tool; two X75 all-in-one processors for up/down/cross conversion; "6800+" advanced core processing platform modules for auto-sensing SD/HD audio multiplexing; an Inscriber TitleOne graphics system; and Harris CCS Navigator software for centralized equipment configuration and setup.

Harris is introducing about 20 new products at the show. Most notable are the X50 frame synchronizer/converter, a one-rack unit (1RU) device which features up-, down-, and cross-conversion with optional 1080p 3 Gb/s support; and the Nexio Volt, a 1RU server that has four input/outputs and provides direct access to larger Nexio shared storage networks.

Harris has continued to see strong interest from U.S. broadcasters in providing mobile DTV services, says marketing VP Brian Cabeceiras, and has shipped some 25 to 30 mobile DTV systems to date.