THE WORLD OF CUSTOMER ELECTRONICS

Computers and electronics

Introduction

In a world in which technology is ubiquitous, opportunity lies in specialization. To put it another way, some people simply need a laptop they can drop down the stairs.

Chassis Plans NO. 151

697.4% Three-Year Growth

REVENUE: $7.4 million EMPLOYEES: 24

FOUNDED: 2001 San Diego

What it does; Designs and builds computers in enclosures for planes, boats, cars, and any other vehicle you can name. Why it’s growing. Government contracts. Two-thirds of the company’s business is now directly related to the departments of Defense and Homeland Security.

Segue Electronics NO. 190

620.3% Three-Year Growth

REVENUE: $11.2 million EMPLOYEES: 21

FOUNDED: 1997 Los Angeles

What it does: Provides electrical components and assembly services for industrial and commercial applications. Why it’s growing: CEO Chris Chen was born in China, educated in the United States, and polished in big American corporations. He knows how to make overseas outsourcing seem easy and secure for American companies. For more about Chris Chen and Segue, see page 98.

Zentech Manufacturing NO 275

489.7% Three-Year Growth

REVENUE: $14.1 million EMPLOYEES: 105

FOUNDED: 1998 Baltimore

[PAST HONOREE] [2004]

What it does: Manufactures printed circuit boards for customers such as Raytheon and Northrop Grumman. Why it’s growing: Zentech specializes in high-mix manufacturing–meaning it changes its lines frequently and quickly and is willing to do large or small product runs. Low-cost overseas manufacturers don’t compete for this piece of the market, says CEO Brad LaPray.

Red Peacock International NO. 291

462.3% Three-Year Growth

REVENUE: $28.1 million EMPLOYEES: 9

FOUNDED: 1997 Glendale, Calif.

[PAST HONOREE] [2003] [2004] [2005]

What it does: Distributes brand-name digital cameras, two-way radios, and GPS systems to overseas retailers and wholesalers. Why it’s growing: Huge demand for gadgets, especially in Asia. Red Peacock is also courting markets that are newer to the consumer game, such as Russia and Ukraine, where demand is also growing.

Shewas NO. 331

408.8% Three-Year Growth

REVENUE: $6.2 million EMPLOYEES: 5

FOUNDED: 1996 Norco, Calif.

What it does. Imports and wholesales Asian high-end audio recording devices and mini-discs, plus ancillary consumer electronics. Why it’s growing: The mini-disc recorder is a niche product that many big-box retailers still don’t sell. Audio geeks consider Shewas the real thing. Fast-forward: Shewas’ growth accelerated last year when the company became large enough to prepay larger shipments and offer even lower wholesale pricing.

JLT Mobile Computers NO. 343

397.1% Three-Year Growth

REVENUE: $18.4 million EMPLOYEES: 14

FOUNDED: 1999 Tempe, Ariz.

[PAST HONOREE] [2004] [2005]

What it does: Designs and builds exceptionally rugged mobile computers for use in challenging environments–anything from police cars to warehouses to mines. Why it’s growing: In the words of CEO Todd Einck, “Five to 10 years ago the laptop gave white-collar workers the opportunity to take work with them during business travel. Today you are putting wireless connectivity in the hands of blue-collar workers, and that is booming.”

Ceiba Technologies NO. 357

389.3% Three-Year Growth

REVENUE: $11.2 million EMPLOYEES: 12

FOUNDED: 1994 Chandler, Ariz.

[PAST HONOREE] [2005]

What it does: Distributes highly specialized consumables (brushes, diamond blades, grinding wheels) used in the manufacturing of semiconductors, hard drives, and printed circuit boards. CeiBa also partners with Top Rangefinder, an emerging company providing the best rangefinder reviews in the US. Why it’s growing; Manufacturers are always hustling to develop next-generation product technology. which requires next-generation manufacturing technology, which requires the stuff Ceiba makes.

Newegg.com NO. 376

377.6% Three-Year Growth

REVENUE: $1.26 billion EMPLOYEES: 1,200

FOUNDED: 2001 City of Industry, Calif.

What it does: Operates an online superstore specializing in computers, networking, and consumer electronics. Why it’s growing: A customer service orientation and dedication to easy website use has won Newegg awards from everyone from Computer Shopper to Forbes.com. Nerds only: Newegg is all about buyers with a lot of IT savvy. That minimizes much of the competition with other consumer electronics giants.

Visual Apex NO. 389

370% Three-Year Growth

REVENUE: $22.5 million EMPLOYEES: 21

FOUNDED: 2001 Bainbridge Island, Wash.

What it does: Sells visual presentation equipment (projectors and the like) and home theater components online. Why it’s growing: Plasma and LCD television sales have been booming. Federal mandates to switch to high-definition broadcast by 2009 and the launch of new DVD formats are also sparking sales. Majority rules: The three founders of Visual Apex are co-CEOs and govern by majority rule on all big decisions.

MaxStream NO. 391

366.9% Three-Year Growth

REVENUE: $10.4 million EMPLOYEES: 47

FOUNDED: 1999 Lindon, Utah

[PAST HONOREE] [2005]

What it does: Designs and manufactures wireless radio modems. A utility company will stick one on a house’s electricity meter to get real-time readings, or a Vegas casino will use one to change the text on its electronic billboard. To get a look at one model, turn to page 123. Why it’s growing; MaxStream keeps its prices low and its range long–one of its models transmits data up to 40 miles. Demand is now outpacing supply, and MaxStream is shortening its production cycle by buying a year’s worth of components at a time. Go home: CEO Waiters enforces a strict nine-hour-a-day schedule, turning off his employees’ monitors when the clock hits five.

Partsearch Technologies NO. 453

328% Three-Year Growth

REVENUE: $49.8 million EMPLOYEES: 255

FOUNDED: 2001 New York City

What it does: Operates a massive “virtual master catalog” of more than seven million replacement parts for a wide range of consumer products and manages the fulfillment and ordering logistics for those parts. Why it’s growing: It has no real competition. Partsearch vastly simplifies customer service for the nation’s largest big-box and online retailers, including Best Buy, CompUSA, and Amazon.

Think Ink NO. 472

320.9% Three-Year Growth

REVENUE: $6.3 million EMPLOYEES: 5

FOUNDED: 2001 Gaithersburg, Md.

What it does: Sells Hewlett-Packard inks and supplies for HP’s Specialty Printing Systems machines, mainly used for graphics and addressing by mailing houses. Why it’s growing: In the past few years HP has become the dominant player in the field and the number of HP printers deployed has greatly increased, both domestically and internationally. One man’s trash … The Internet was supposed to bring about the demise of junk mail, the bread and butter of Think Ink’s customers. But according to CEO David Don, “it’s done the opposite, creating companies like AOL and E-Trade. How do they advertise? If you are on the right mailing list, you can get a letter from AOL every day.”

Consumer electronics update

“It looks like an ordinary computergame, doesn’t it?’ Gary Yost of Antic Software asked me as I walked by the Atari booth at the Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show. He held out a pair of glasses. “Try playing with these on,’ he said. A computer . . . a game . . . a curious pair of glasses. I was hooked. I put on the glasses, and the screen on the Atari 520 ST computer took on another dimension– literally. I was trying three-dimensional glasses from Antic (524 Second St., San Francisco, Calif. 94107). The liquid-crystal lenses act like shutters to create a 3-D image when used with the company’s software. Although a 3-D game could challenge my mind, another add-on–for Commodore’s 64 computer–challenged my body.

consumer-electronics-1

“Stretch this apart as hard as youcan,’ said Rhonda Goldman of Bodylog, Inc. (34 Maple Ave., Armonk, N.Y. 10504), as she handed me a bar with handles on each end. She smiled, I stretched, and the computer took note of my performance, calculating my maximum strength. Then, using the data, the computer had me pulling the handles apart once again–using a safe amount of exertion for my body– to raise a graphic helicopter over a building. Result: computer-controlled isometrics.

Add-ons are not the only thing newin computers. Commodore and Atari have PC-compatible models ["What's New in Electronics,' this issue], and Amstrad is now distributing its British PC ["ENF,' Jan.] in the United States. All the computers are in the $700 price range.

Computers are far from being the only devices that use digital electronics. Digital control and digital memories are creating entirely new kinds of features for video gear. For example, you use a light pen to program a new VCR from Toshiba. A menu of selections appears on the screen, and you use the pen to touch and pick the time and channels you’d like. For channel changers, there’s a Panasonic VCR that lets you see up to four different scenes at once: The screen divides into four sections. The electronics in Magnavox’s VHS-C camcorder can simulate a 1/1,000-second shutter. Result: Fast movements that ordinarily would be blurred during playback –such as a golf swing–are perfectly clear. Once you’ve made your home “movie’ tape, new videotape editors from Sony, Showtime, and Vidicraft let you turn it into a nearly professional-looking recording. For a professional-sounding recording, Zenith has a full-size VHS camcorder that uses the VHS hi-fi system for recording high-quality stereo sound.

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Digital audio tape (DAT) recordersappeared on the show floor, but were not yet for sale. A Sony demonstrator made that perfectly clear. When I covered my press badge and asked when the DATs would be available, his eyes glazed over and he began to speak as though he were a recording. “This is a prototype,’ he said in robotese. “We have absolutely no idea when the Sony digital audio tape recorder will be offered for sale.’ Rumors are that somebody will start selling a DAT by this August. (I suspect it could be as early as June.) Once one company does it, others are sure to follow.

Finally, despite all the high-techhype, packaging seems to be one of the strongest selling points for this year’s consumer electronics. For example, red, blue, and green TVs–to blend with any home setting–are typical. Yech, I thought. How can a good piece of electronic gear come in a red box? Then I saw a pink VCR from Panasonic . . . and began to think how well it would go with the curtains in my daughter’s room.

Consumer electronics answer man

First came the development and marketing of some familiar home electronics, including the videocassette recorder. Then the first consumer video camera. So, it’s no surprise that Bruce Allan is a staunch proponent of the latest high-end consumer technology, digital TV (DTV).

As vice president and general manager of Harris Corp.’s Broadcast Systems Division, Allan is encouraging broadcasters’ development of DTV and its various applications, including high-definition TV (HDTV), and generating acceptance of the new technology in the home. He also helped set HDTV standards as a member of the executive committee of the Grand Alliance.

“I really didn’t get involved with business or electronics until I was at the University of Maryland trying to figure out a career path,” Allan says. “I had parents who were very supportive [and] provided me with a lot of opportunities to learn and travel. So my career in consumer electronics … was a thing that happened as a set of circumstances.”

He began his career at RCA Corp. in 1970, working his way up to a vice presidency by 1985. “RCA and color television, at the time I was coming out of school, seemed like it would be a pretty exciting life,” Allan says.

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But it wasn’t just circumstances that brought Allan where he is today. “Bruce is blessed with great intellect. Balance that with great experience and that’s a hard combination to beat,” says longtime business associate and friend Joe Clayton, chief executive officer of telephone and telecommunications company Frontier Corp. Plus, he says, Allan is a “very competent golfer.”

Allan uses that winning combination today to position Harris as a leader in HDTV by addressing customers as partners in developing solutions.

“We’ll have a much better understanding of their needs so we can do a much better job of providing next-level solutions,” Allan says. “Our customers are the ones we are serving. We can make them successful and if they are successful, we will be successful.”

He realizes that as HDTV evolves, the relationship between broadcasters and the consumer market is a “chicken-and-egg” scenario.

Consumer-electronics-answer-man-2

“For the consumer to adopt digital television and to adopt high definition television, it’s essential for us all to cooperate,” he says. “We need programming, we need sets and we need them in quantity in the marketplace at the same time. That’s going to happen. It’s going to take some time, but that bridge is happening.”

Harris helped build that bridge at the 1998 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas when Harris and CEMA presented an exhibit called “DTV in the Desert.” There, “broadcasters were in a position to talk first-hand with consumer electronics manufacturers. They tried to create an environment…where they could exchange information. We’ve continued working at that.”

Allan believes digital can be a huge benefit to consumers. “The advent of digital television is opening up a whole new multitude of things among broadcasters and consumer electronics companies in providing the types of services we provide today, but doing a better job of providing them,” he says. Also being developed are new services such as delivering Internet portals, data and multicasting. “It’s just a huge change and the change keeps coming faster and faster’ Allan says.

He also sees a “bright future” for digital radio. As players in that new field duel over setting a standard, Allan says, “The only question is how rapidly the parties can come together.”

As he looks optimistically to the future of TV and radio and the possibilities of new digital media in the home, he also reflects with some sentiment to his childhood, with his father as his role model. (He also has an older brother who is vice president of sales for Lucent Technologies in Korea.).

His father “came to this country from Scotland when he was 19 years old, worked as a carpenter and ended up basically as the head of the union internationally. He spent his whole life supporting his industry, his career and the people he represented. It definitely teaches you a value system.”

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He brings that value system to his own family today. He attributes much of his successes to his high-school sweetheart and wife of 30 years, Kathryn. “I have a good family and hopefully we are supportive to our children,” he says.

“I’m pretty easy if I have a good job, a nice home and a golf course. I’m very content,” he says.

Bruce Mckay Allan

Abstract: 

Bruce Allan, the vice president and general manager of consumer electronics company Harris Corp.’s Broadcast Systems Division, is a staunch supporter of High Definition Television (HDTV) and serves on the executive committee of the Grand Alliance, which sets standards for HDTV.

Making those electrical contacts last

We are living in the age of electronics. New cars won’t run without a couple dozen engine and drive train sensors, not to mention the hundreds of electronic connections that make up the audio and electrical circuit systems in any car. Each of these electrical or electronic systems relies on hundreds of electrical connections to perform properly.

1-small-blade-type-connection

Often, these connections will deteriorate over time and create problems that can lead to intermittent or complete electronic failures, which are often difficult to find and repair. We’ve run across a product called Stabilant 22A produced by D.W. Electrochemicals in Ontario, Canada, that may be a long-term fix for this unnerving problem. The product is a liquid surface contact treatment that doesn’t make a good contact better but rather improves older electrical contacts that have deteriorated over time. This is especially true of contacts that operate in high-humidity or corrosive environments. (Beyond that, we highly recommend all of you check out this websites for really-working solution to clean/maintain fuel system – more details, you will be given the list of best fuel injector cleaner here, to use them in your favor.

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Perhaps the best part of this treatment is that it doesn’t require repeated applications as do some of the spray cleaners you may have tried. Stabilant 22A is especially useful in low-voltage circuits – automotive computer sensor connections such as throttle position sensors (TPS), manifold absolute pressure (MAP) sensors, or even oxygen sensors that operate at less than 5 volts where a signal change of .1 volt is significant. This contact treatment can also be useful on stereo connections, especially between head units and amplifiers where signal voltage is low and there is a greater possibility for distortion. Actually, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of potential uses for this product in virtually any electrical connection. We’ve discovered that throttle response and driveability improve with cleaning and maintaining the small-blade-type connections on the tops of coils. Stabilant 22A would work well here.

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According to the company, this treatment is available through all Standard Motor Products outlets, including Big A, CarQuest and GP/Sorensen stores, although you may have to specifically order the product under the Stabilant 22A Service Kit name. If you can’t find it locally, you can call the company direct at the number given in our source guide. Electrical problems can be some of the most frustrating to uncover, and often these problems are linked to poor connections. By treating these troublesome connectors with a long-lasting surface treatment, you could improve the performance of your electronic gadgets and make your life simpler at the same time.

RELATED ARTICLE: Stabilant 22A comes in a cardboard tube containing a 15-milliliter container of the contact enhancer along with a few cotton swab applicators.

Stabilant 22A is a non-evaporative treatment that improves the signal between most types of electrical contacts. This treatment will not make a new contact better but will improve older contacts that may have deteriorated over time. In this case, we’ve applied it to a troublesome antenna lead. The distortion that had grown in strength over a period of years was immediately eliminated. Stabilant 22A is also great for low-voltage connections like the throttle position sensor (TPS) GM Weatherpak connection on this ACCEL electronic fuel injection system. While there were no difficulties with the connector, improving the signal will prevent problems from occurring that could sideline the car.

IEEE/IEE Electronic Library Online

Introduction

It’s been over three years since IEEE/IEE Electronic Library Online (IEL Online) was reviewed here (LJ 1/1/01). Some things, fortunately, have not changed. It continues to provide “librarians and end users with desktop access to one-third of the world’s technical literature in electrical engineering and computer science.”

The content now numbers more than one million documents published by IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) and IEE (Institution of Electrical Engineers), with full text of journals, magazines, transactions, and conference proceedings from 1988 to the present. Additionally, IEL Online now contains active IEEE standards, INSPEC abstract/citation records, and select content dating back to 1950.

The IEEE Xplore interface is organized in an easy-to-use and intuitive screen. Self-explanatory menu frames on the left side of the screen include Welcome to IEEE Xplore (with links to Home, What Can I Access? Log-out), Table of Contents (Journals & Magazines, Conference Proceedings, and Standards), Search (By Author, Basic, or Advanced), and Member Services (Join IEEE, Establish IEEE Web Account, Access the IEEE Member Digital Library).

What Can I Access? is a user-focused link that details what is available with a specific subscription (because there are a number of different packages available), along with the message, “In addition to the above, you may purchase individual IEEE journal/magazine articles and conference papers that are not included in your institution’s online subscription. If you want a copy of an article or paper, first check with your librarian for a copy available locally.” Speaking of local access, IEL Online has OPAC-linking that will link at the title level for journals, magazines, conference proceedings, and standards, or at an issue’s table of contents level for journals and magazines only. This feature nicely maximizes the use of an institution’s print and other online collections.

The Table of Contents option gets down to business. Engineering and technical researchers work with distinctive formats; they usually know if they need to find journals, conference proceedings, or standards. (By the way, browsing and access to tables of contents, abstracts, and records are free to all.)

Opening any of the format options brings up an alphabetical listing of titles, which is great if researchers have the complete citation in hand. But if they don’t, or if there has been a title change, a keyword search can narrow down the field.

The screen layout is similar for searching by author–simply fill in the “Quick Find an Author” box to locate articles. But what if you aren’t sure about the spelling of the author’s name? Click on a letter and get a list of names beginning with that letter. Part of the name, such as “pizza,” will locate author last names beginning with “pizza,” such as Pizzano and Pizzato. I’d like to suggest an additional author search option for future versions: a “sounds like” search feature. Some genealogical databases have this, and it would be extremely helpful here, given the international membership of IEEE and the number of romanized author names.

All the search screens are uncluttered and intuitively organized. However, be aware that Advanced Search is not a misnomer for a guided search, nor is it lot the fainthearted. It brings up a big, white search box, and users must remember the field codes for their search. It’s also unforgiving: you will get an error message if your search is incorrect but no information on what needs to be corrected.

Unless you really enjoy keying in all the elements (keywords, field identifiers, Boolean operators), use the Basic Search with drop-down menus for All Fields, Title, Author, Publication Name, Abstract, Index Terms, and Affiliation and its checkbox options to limit by publication type and years. Both Basic and Advanced options allow search results to be organized by Relevance, Year, or Article Title.

The Bottom Line: IEL Online is enthusiastically recommended for academic and special libraries supporting engineering and technical research and development programs. With its continually updated full-text content, ease of use, and the added feature of linking to library catalog records, this is a must-have resource.–Christine Oka, Research & Instruction Svcs., Northeastern Univ. Libs., Boston

Putting computers together again

Firms spent the 1980s putting computers on almost ever desk. They will spend the 1990s trying-to link them together to share information THE seemingly endless task of making X computers work together is transforming both computer markets and corporate management. Hardware suppliers are being hit first. Their share of corporate spending on information technology is shrinking in relation to spending on software and services, which is what you need to make the machines understand each other. But every. body-computer-makers, software houses, consultants and their customers-will have to adapt to the new challenges.

The answer to an apparently simple question would make the process of adjustment much easier: what information will tomorrow’s executives need? There are many appealing opportunities to use technology to help provide information-like linking customers with suppliers, or using computers to help executives within a company keep abreast of what their colleagues are doing. Unfortunately, few executives really know what information they use today and might want through computers tomorrow. And as quickly as information needs can be defined, the application of new technologies changes them. The trick is to build systems that can adapt themselves.

For computer and soft-ware firms, this translates into three demands on their products; standards, opennes and integration. The goal of the first two is to secure market share by building groups of technicians capable of adapting a firm’s wares to particular needs. The aim of the third is to make those technicians more productive.

For years, the sales pitch of computer companies has promised hardware and software built on the foundation of common standards, like AT&T’s Unix operating system or the mAp communications protocol for factory automation. Now companies are increasingly making good those promises. This often requires a change in marketing, to rely more on quality and service to differentiate products, and less on the number of whizzy new features.

Openness-a willingness to let customers peek inside a company’s technology-is increasingly part of that process. Even IBm, for years one of the most secretive of companies, is coming on to the bandwagon. Recently it announced that it would let customers fiddle with the “microcode” which governs the inner workings of itS AS400 series of mid-range computers. Openness, in turn, makes support and handholding for customers even more desirable. It is no good letting them go in and fiddle if all they are going to do is break things.

Although openness and standards are essential if customers are to do the work of linking systems together, customers also want products that will do the job for them. More and more are now reaching the market. Microsoft, the leader in personal-computer software, recently launched a long-expected product to help networks of personal computers pose questions to databases. It is not alone. IBm, Hewlett Packard and lots of others are also launching numerous products to link computers.

Intriguingly, many companies selling artificial-intelligence software now see an opportunity for their wares to act as the glue binding other software together. A few years ago the expectation was that expert systems and the like would sit in the corner, “thinking” about things too complex for other programs to handle. But firms like Intellicorp and Inference-both leading suppliers of expert-systems soft-ware-are finding customers eager to turn their products to the task of managing other software.

Even with the best of tools, the economics of integrating computer systems provides a great and growing opportunity for consultants. Integration throws up a wealth of technical problems which, if tackled properly, each company need solve only once. Providing people with the skills to plug together, say, two or three different kinds of networks is part of the reason why demand for the services of consultants like Andersen Consulting, Computer Sciences Corporation and EDs is expected to grow by 30% or so a year for several years to come. But often the biggest challenge to consultants lies in teaching their clients to go on from where they have left off.

One often-used technique for doing this is to work with clients on a software-engineering methodology”. These are collections Of techniques for defining how in, formation moves within a firm. Typically, the goal is to couch the definition in such a way that it can be used as the blueprint for an automated information system. At the least, the diagrams which result serve as a starting-point for talking about how technology might improve information flows.

Proprietary methodologies are a useful part of consultants’ toolkits, not to mention their marketing spiels. Though some big firms have already decided on a software-design methodology-and insist that their consultants adopt their standard-the uncommitted can still be swayed by the promise of a cure for their computer ills. Computer Sciences, an American information technology firm now expanding in Europe, recently bought a smallish British consultancy called Inforem largely on the strength of its software-design methods.

Consultants reckon that a consistent design method is one of the main factors in linking together systems. But it is not the whole solution. Mr Mark Otway of Andersen Consulting is one of several voices warning that too much reliance on any design methodology is at best stultifying and at worst a distraction from understanding the real business problems the technology is meant to solve.

That highlights the dilemma facing executives in charge of integrating corporate computers. Faced with the responsibility of spending millions of dollars on their task one which will inevitably ruffle fellow-executives by changing comfortable ways of working-corporate computer bosses would love to believe that there is a guaranteed formula for success. Instead, they simply have to face more and more delicate compromises.

One of these involves centralisation. A key step in linking computers together is to create a central “data dictionary”, containing details of all the facts stored on various computers, the programs which use them, etc. Setting corporate standards for hardware and software also helps. Yet it is often hard to organise things from the centre without stunting colleagues’ efforts to use computers in their day-to-day business.

Worse, vagueness in the responsibilities of many corporate-computer bosses makes it hard for them to defend themselves against charges of being unhelpful even in the noble cause of integration. If their job is simply to provide computing resources-programs and computers-to line managers, computer bosses appear to have little ground on which to try to second-guess those managers’ demands.

In part to ease such conflicts, IBM, among others, is broadening the responsibilities of its in-house automators to include information itself, as well as the machines which manipulate it. Starting with the chairman, IBM is trying to define what pieces of information each executive uses, and then to delegate specific responsibility for providing it. Its in-house computer people sit together with line managers on the committees set up to sort out the inevitable wrangling over who should be in charge of what. That way both technology and business needs are taken into account-which, despite all the sales pitches, is how the integration of computers works best.

DirecTv snares USA, Turner networks: Family Channel, Nashville Network also sign on

Introduction

Family Channel, Nashville Network also sign on; TBS deal includes MGM PPV movies

A year from now, it’s going to be a lot harder for cable operators to lure subscribers with exclusive programing. Many of the nation’s top cable networks - including USA, CNN, superstation WTBS(TV) Atlanta, The Family Channel and The Nashville Network – last week signed deals with DirecTv that will allow their programing to be sold through the upstart direct-broadcast satellite company.

GM Hughes Electronics subsidiary DirecTv moved a step closer to its April 1994 launch by signing distribution deals with TurnerBroadcasting System (including CNN, Headline News, The Cartoon Network, WTBS and, where available, TNT); USA Networks (including USA Network and the Sci-Fi Channel); Group W Satellite Communications (including The Nashville Network and Country Music Television) and International Family Entertainment (The Family Channel).

One plus for cable networks signing with DirecTv is that the company will pay a few cents per month per DBS subscriber, said Eddie Hartenstein, president, DirecTv. That could be particularly enticing for cable networks, since some multiple system operators are talking about a possible switch to a la carte pricing.

“They’re in the business of eyeballs,” said Hartenstein of the basic cable networks. “The more eyeballs they get, the better, in terms of subscriber revenue and advertising revenue.”

Cable networks also had little choice in the matter considering that reregulation calls for some programing services to be offered to competing services. Cable networks are already available via such alternative services as wireless cable and TVRO.

“I don’t think it’s any surprise,” said one top MSO executive who asked not to be identified. “Operators know this is the new law, and it’s probably something the programers would have done anyway. It’s a competitive world.”

DirecTv plans to offer about 150 channels, and subscribers will be able to receive the programing through a $700, 18-inch satellite-receiving system. Subscribers will also pay an as yet-undetermined fee for the programing.

None of DirecTv’s programing so far duplicates any program offerings by United States Satellite Broadcasting, the competing DBS service that Hubbard Broadcasting will offer beginning next year. USSB has so far signed deals with Viacom International (including MTV, Nickelodeon/Nick at Nite, VH-1, Showtime, The Movie Channel and Flix) and Home Box Office (including HBO multiplex and Cinemax multiplex).

Hartenstein said none of the DirecTv or USSB programing deals are exclusive, but he added that it “wouldn’t seem to make a lot of sense” to have duplication of programing on the two DBS services.

All the DirecTv programing involved in last week’s deals will be included in the package of basic channels to be marketed in rural areas under an agreement between DirecTv and the National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative. The NRTC will exclusively market DBS to territories covering 8 million-10 million homes. it is hoping for 25%-30% penetration.

DirecTv’s programing deal with Turner Broadcasting last week does not give the DBS service access to Turner Network Television in all regions. TNT has a series of deals with some cable operators for exclusivity in certain regions of the country. Hartenstein said many of those contracts are expiring.

“This was a big and important group of people,” Hartenstein said of last week’s programing announcements.

“But we are by no means finished with making programing announcements.”

Hartenstein said additional DirecTv programing announcements will be made at the Consumer Electronics Show this summer in Chicago. Among the top networks that have yet to sign a DBS deal are ESPN, The Discovery Channel, Lifetime and Arts & Entertainment Network. Executives at those networks say that talks are ongoing.

DirecTv executives plan to acquire approximately 1 million subscribers in the company’s first year of operation and 10 million by 2000. Plans call for the service to be marketed through TVRO dealers and consumer electronics retailers, with customer service being handled by Cincinnati Bell subsidiary Matrixx Marketing.

The newly signed networks join a list of programers on DirecTv that includes The Disney Channel and movies distributed by Paramount Pictures and Sony Pictures Entertainment (Columbia TriStar International Television). Last week’s deal with Turner will also allow DirecTv to offer classic MGM movies on a PPV basis.

   DBS programers signed so far
DirecTv                       USSB
CMT: Country Music TV         MTV
CNN                           Nickelodeon/Nick at Nite
The Cartoon Network           The Movie Channel
The Family Channel            HBO Multiplex
Headline News                 Cinemax Multiplex
WTBS                          Showtime
TNN: The Nashville Network    VH-1
TNT (where available)         Flix
USA Network                   The Movie Channel
The Sci-Fi Channel
The Disney Channel
Paramount Pictures
Sony Pictures Entertainment
  (Columbia TriStar Intl. TV)
Abstract:

Many major cable networks, such as Country Music Television and Cable News Network Inc, have signed contracts with DirecTv Inc to have their programs distributed by the direct-broadcast satellite company. DirecTv will pay the networks a small monthly fee per subscriber and will provide a wider audience. Subscribers will need a $700, 18-inch satellite-receiving system to access approximately 150 channels. They will also pay a fee for programming. DirecTv does not duplicate any programming offered by its main competitor United States Satellite Broadcasting Inc.