Categories: News 08May State lawmakers recognize regional robotics team champs Pettalia, Moolenaar host Thunder Bay students to Capitol visitTeam members, pictured from left: Josh Beatty, Savannah Thomson, Nate Cosbitt, Sam Beatty, Elizabeth Thomson, Breanna Domrase. Back row: Pettalia, Bob Thomson, Katie Thomson, Ann Cosbitt, Lisa Beatty, Moolenaar.State Rep. Peter Pettalia and Sen. John Moolenaar welcomed the Thunder Bay Junior High students on the UR2 Underwater Robotics Engineering Team to the state Capitol this week to recognize their accomplishment on a Great Lakes Regional first place win. The team also garnered two of three top engineer awards for its remotely operated vehicles (ROV) competition.“The team’s success shows how important skilled trades learning opportunities can be, even starting at a young age,” said Pettalia, R-Presque Isle. “These kids have generated great pride in our part of the state and their talent, teamwork, and determination have earned the respect of ROV followers and teams elsewhere in Michigan.”The UR2 Underwater Robotics Engineering Team was created by Robert Thomson, teacher at Sanborn Elementary School in Alpena, and is hosted by the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary.“I have long been a supporter of career and technical education and this robotics team is one example of having our students apply their skills in a fun, competitive environment,” said Moolenaar, R-Midland. “I was proud to meet these outstanding students and hear about their experiences. I want to congratulate them on their success, and I encourage them to continue to hone their skills and use their creative talents to help re-energize our economy.”The first place regional competition finish qualified the team to represent Michigan and the Greater Great Lakes Region at the June international ROV competition in Seattle, Wash. in June. They will be competing against the other regional winners world-wide.
28Jul Nesbitt hosts third annual Local Officials Meeting Categories: News On Friday, July 25, state Rep. Aric Nesbitt hosted more than 45 officials from across Van Buren and Kalamazoo counties at his third annual Local Officials Meeting. The event brought together local elected leaders and representatives from different departments within state government to discuss the issues that greatly impact local government.The meeting was once again held at the Van Buren ISD Conference Center in Lawrence. The event was established three years ago with the goal of providing township, village, city, county and school officials a greater opportunity to engage in beneficial discussions with experts and policy liaisons from departments handling issues confronted by most local bodies.“I’d like to thank all the local leaders and those providing presentations for participating in this great exchange of information and ideas, said Nesbitt, R-Lawton. “This event has continued to provide our local leaders with updated information on the important topics they face on their boards and councils.”The discussion and presentations focused on several important issues including a review of the 2014-15 Fiscal Year general budget, how new reforms to accepted agriculture practices affect the right-to-farm law and a review of the benefits available from the Natural Resources Trust Fund.“This forum continues to make government more accessible and accountable through opening new dialogue and discussion,” Nesbitt said. “After receiving feedback from those in attendance, it is very clear that this event was a huge success yet again.”CUTLINE INFORMATION: Rep. Aric Nesbitt, center, joins various local and state government leaders at the third annual Local Official Meeting held in Lawrence on July 25. ###
02Apr Rep. Bumstead to host town hall on road funding Categories: News State Rep. Jon Bumstead is inviting residents of the 100th House District to attend an informational town hall meeting regarding the May 5 statewide ballot proposal on road funding in Michigan.The town hall will be held on Thursday, April 16, from 7 to 9 p.m. at TrueNorth Community Services, located at 6308 S. Warner Ave. in Fremont.“There’s a significant amount of information out there about the ballot proposal and I’d like to give local residents the opportunity to address their questions and concerns,” said Rep. Bumstead, R-Newaygo. “This town hall will help to ensure that voters are informed on all aspects of the proposal.”Residents who are unable to attend the town hall meeting are encouraged to contact Rep. Bumstead toll free at (877) 999-0995, or via email at JonBumstead@house.mi.gov.###
30Mar House panel approves Vaupel’s bill removing vignettes from ballot State Rep. Hank Vaupel testifies before the House Elections and Ethics Committee regarding legislation he introduced to remove party vignettes from election ballots.Legislation introduced by state Rep. Hank Vaupel to remove political party icons from the ballot was approved today by the House Elections and Ethics Committee.Political vignettes are small icons first added to the ballot in the 1890s. Vaupel said ballots have changed drastically since then and the icons no longer serve a purpose.“The icons don’t line up with the political party they’re meant to represent, and they’ve gotten so small that it’s impossible for people to identify who or what is depicted in the picture,” said Vaupel, of Handy Township. “At this point vignettes are just taking up space on the ballot.”In addition, Vaupel said vignettes have confused some voters who think circling the icon is all they have to do to cast a straight-ticket vote.“When people make this mistake it’s a shame because their votes don’t count, and everybody’s vote should count,” Vaupel said.Vaupel said he was pleased to work on the bill with Livingston County Clerk Elizabeth Hundley, who joined him earlier this month to testify before the Elections and Ethics Committee.House Bill 4177 moves to the full House for consideration.### Categories: Vaupel News,Vaupel Photos
Simon Calver, chief executive of UK online video streaming service Lovefilm, is leaving the company to join babycare retailer Mothercare.The move will see Calver join the British retail firm at the end of April.He has run the Amazon-owned online platform and DVD retailer since it merged with Video Island in April 2006 and has built up its digital business, striking streaming deals with Hollywood studios including Disney, Sony, Warner Bros.Before joining Lovefilm, Calver worked at digital education software company Riverdeep and also previously had roles at Pepsi, Dell and Unilever.
Virgin Mobile France has launched a new multi-play box and quad-play offering for €29.99 a month, competing head-on with ISPs including Free, SFR, Orange and Bouygues Telecom.Virgin Mobile is offering a quad-play of TV, internet and fixed and mobile telephony including two hours of calls and unlimited text messages for €29.99, dubbed H@ppy4, undercutting its rivals who, led by Free, raised the prices of their services following the raising of VAT on bundled offerings.Virgin Mobile president Geoffroy Roux de Bézieux told French journalists that Free CEO Xavier Neil “doesn’t have a monopoly” on protecting the interests of French consumers and pointed out that Free’s fixed-line margins were extremely high. Roux de Bézieux called on the country’s competition authorities to take on what he described as a fixed-line oligopoly in France.Virgin Mobile has launched two quad-play offerings. The second, more expensive bundle, includes four hours of calls and 3GB of data for €39.99, some €7 less than the cheapest comparable offering, provided by Bouygues Telecom.Virgin Mobile is France’s largest MVNO, with about two million customers.
Channel distributor Thema has signed a carriage deal with Virgin France for 47 of its ethnic channels.Various channel packages are available catering for communites from French-speaking Africa, Germany, Turkey, Russia, Greece, Arabic countires and the Comoros islands.Packages vary in price from €4.90 per month for Greek channel Antenna 1 to €23.90 per month for the DigiTurk Turkish package consisting of LigTV, TurkMax, ShowTurk, IzTV, PowerTurk, and SkyTurk.
Driven by strong demand for next generation media server products in North America, set-top vendor Pace said revenues are in line with management expectations.In a trading update, Pace said it expected revenues for the second half of 2012 to be around US$180 million (€142 million), up 16% year-on-year. The UK company said hard disk drive supply issues that had impacted revenues last year and into this year had been resolved and would not affect revenue or EBITDA for the second half of 2012.Pace CEO Mike Pulli said, “We continue to make good progress in executing our strategy and becoming a more profitable, cash generative company with a broader commercial opportunity. We have made significant steps in transforming our supply chain and the continued focus on operational improvement will deliver further operational savings in 2013. The demand we are seeing for our innovative next generation media server products underpins our strong revenue growth in H2 2012. Our widening out strategy continues to build momentum with wins and deployments across the globe. As a result we have further invested in these growth areas. We are confident about our trajectory and remain firmly focused on execution in the remainder of the year and beyond.”
L-R: Robert Knorr, Cameron Munter, Dragan Šolak & SBB’s Dragica Pilipović ChaffeyMid Europa Partners-backed pay TV operators including Serbian cable leader SBB, Telemach Slovenia, Telemach BiH in Bosnia-Herzegovina, satellite operator Total TV and 15 smaller companies will begin operating as United Group from Wednesday May 1.The group, which is majority-owned by Mid Europa Partners and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, plans to develop a series of joint initiatives for customers across the region’s borders, the first of which, free fixed phone calls between SBB, Telemach Slovenia an Telemach BiH customers, goes live on Wednesday.United Group’s networks currently serve 1.65 million residential and business users, with about 10,000km of fibre-optic networks across the three countries. United Group companies generated revenues of €180 million in 2012, with capital expenditure across the region totaling €50 million.Dragan Šolak will serve as the group’s chairman and managing board, with Marko Šter serving as CEO at Telemach Slovenia and Željko Batistić as CEO at Telemach BiH. Cameron Munter, a former US ambassador to Belgrade, will join the group as senior advisor to the board.At a press conference to mark the launch, Šolak highlighted the ability of the group to benefit from scale in negotiating directly with TV rights owners and in investing in technology.
UK broadcaster ITV reported revenue gains in the first half of the year thanks to growth in its online, pay and interactive operations and from its global content division ITV Studios (ITVS).ITV posted H1 revenue to June 30, 2013, of £568 million (€655 million), up 11% year-on-year. Online, pay and interactive revenue grew 19% to £56 million, while revenue at ITVS was also up 11% to £395. However, TV ad revenue fell 3%.ITV’s CEO Adam Crozier predicted full year revenue for ITVS, online, pay and interactive would all be up “double digit”.Overall company profit before interest, taxation and amortisation was up 11% to £291 million, with ITVS contributing £63 million, a figure up 26% YOY. Broadcast and online earnings were also up 7% to £228 million.“We’re making good progress with our strategy of growing and rebalancing the business as we build new revenue streams and improve margins. In the first six months of the year, ITV continued to increase group profits and revenues despite the expected fall in our H1 advertising revenues,” said Crozier.On ITVS, he added: “We’re showing real momentum in our strategy of creating a robust international content business and in building substantial strength and scale in the US market.”ITVS is on track to deliver £20 million in planned cost savings. However, company net debt stands at £52 million as the result of a recent acquisitions spree at the studio arm.Crozier claimed ITVS America’s growth now meant it was now among the top five production entities in the US, and is on course to deliver 64 shows comprising 899 hours to 34 broadcasters this year.The total cost of ITVS acquisitions in the first half of this year, which include Big Talk, fellow UK company The Garden and US firms High Noon Entertainment and Thinkfactory Media, was £53 million. Organic revenue growth at ITVS was up 5%.Separately, Crozier played down a move for Scandinavian production group Nice Entertainment.ITV has been active in terms of acquisitions since Crozier unveiled his five-year Transformational plan in 2010, and just last week bought UK indie Big Talk.A recent report in the UK press claimed ITV was preparing a £90 million (US$138 million) move for Nice but Crozier said the broadcaster was “not looking” at the company. The firm already operates ITV Studios Nordic in the region following previous deals for Norway’s Mediacircus and Finland’s Tarintalo.
Patrick Drahi’s Altice investment vehicle plans to increase its stake in French cable operator Numericable from 24% to about 30% after its IPO, Drahi has announced.The move will make Altice Numericable’s principal shareholder. According to Reuters, Numericable’s two other shareholders, private equity groups Cinven and Carlyle, will divest a part of their shares during the IPO process, with the number of shares to be publicly floated yet to be determined.Drahi said that his investment, within the framework of the company’s flotation, demonstrated his confidence in the future of the group and his intention to be a long-term participant.Numericable’s IPO, expected to take place within the next month, could reportedly value the company at up to €5 billion.
Telekom Austria reported a 7.8% increase in domestic TV customers in the first nine months of the year, though revenues and earnings were down year-on-year.The firm said that its Austrian teleco provider A1 reported 229,800 TV customers, up almost 8% compared to the previous year.Broadband lines rose by 5.0% to 1.36 million in the period. However, these gains could not compensate for a decrease in average revenues per line for fixed line access, which dropped by 1.6% to €31.3.Overall, Hannes Ametsreiter, CEO A1 and Telekom Austria Group said “in the first nine months of 2013, we were able to achieve a solid operating performance, defying the persistently difficult framework conditions.”However, group revenues declined by 2.6% to €3.13 billion and net profit was down 11.6% to €159.2 million.
Panasonic has released details of its new AX800 series of Ultra High Definition 4K TVs, which it is due to release with immediate effect.The new line will feature sets in two screen sizes –58-inches and 65-inches – and will be priced at US$3,800 and US$4,500 respectively.As well as featuring 4K resolution displays, the new smart TVs will also feature a new ‘my Home Screen’ function that Panasonic says will offer a “more intuitive and personalised” experience, allowing users to customise their screen with their favourite apps and content.
A solid performance in Spain, driven by recovery in the advertising market, helped push Mediaset into the black in the first quarter, offsetting problems in its domestic Italian market.Mediaset reported net revenues of €828.8 million for the quarter, up 1% year-on-year, and operating profit of €45.9 million, up 55%. The free and pay TV broadcaster posted a net profit of €0.7 million, compared with a loss of €12.5 million last year.Sales in Italy amounted to €608.5 million, down from €620.9 million. Spanish revenues on the other hand rose from €200.4 million to €220.7 million, driven by the country’s economic recovery and its impact on the ad market.
Anke Schäferkordt and Guillaume de PoschBroadcaster RTL Group benefited from a strong performance from its core German advertising-driven business and fast-growing digital unit in the third quarter to deliver revenue growth of 7.5% to €1.853 billion.Among RTL’s digital properties, MCNs BroadbandTV and StyleHaul saw revenue growth of 85% and 98% respectively, while SpotX was up 62%. RTL said that these units still required ongoing investments and digital services were likely to generate startup losses in the near future.Medengruppe RTL Deutschland’s revenue was up 6.8% while RTL Group digital revenue grew by 86.6% to €125 million.RTL Group’s reported EBITA was up 13.8% to €182 million.“During the first nine months of 2015, RTL Group significantly increased revenue, EBITA and net profit, mainly driven by the strong performance of Mediengruppe RTL Deutschland. The third quarter 2015 was particularly positive, with revenue and EBITA for RTL Group at record levels. This is a very encouraging basis for another successful full year, despite the challenging comparatives in the fourth quarter,” said co-CEOs Anke Schäferkordt and Guillaume de Posch.Looking at our revenue split, digital is now accountable for 8 per cent of RTL Group’s total revenue. For us, TV does not stand for television alone anymore, but for ‘total video’ – and we have built leading market positions across the whole value chain of this total video market. Investments in broadcast, content and digital are transforming our leading European entertainment network into a global force in video production, aggregation and monetisation.”
Scripps Networks Interactive channel Food Network has expanded into Mexico with the recent launch on fibre operator Totalplay’s TV platform.The culinary lifestyle channel launched earlier this month in high-definition via Totalplay on channel 226.“Food Network’s launch in Mexico marks a significant milestone for the company as we enter into one of the largest, fastest growing and more promising markets for our brands,” said Eduardo Hauser, managing director, Latin America and the Caribbean, Scripps Networks Interactive.“Mexican gastronomy and Mexican content have had a tremendous impact on the global culinary and entertainment stages. We look forward to infusing Food Network with Mexican influence through local programming as well as help bring global culinary content to the Mexican viewers.”Food Network first launched in the US in 1993 and Scripps claims that it is now available in over 150 million households across the US, Canada, Europe, Middle East, Africa, Asia-Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean.
YouTube has added support for High Dynamic Range (HDR) for videos on the platform.From yesterday, viewers can watch YouTube videos in HDR on supported devices including via HDR-enabled TVs with Google’s new Chromecast Ultra HDMI dongle.Support for HDR will be extended to YouTube viewing on Samsung SUHD and UHD TVs soon, the video platform said.HDR videos will pay in standard dynamic range on devices that do not support HDR.YouTube said it would work with partners to enable streaming of HDR content on more devices as they become available.Early HDR content on the platform includes videos from YouTube content creators MysteryGuitarMan, Jacob + Katie Schwarz and Abandon Visuals.YouTube has teamed up with DaVinci Resolve to enable the uploading of HDR videos in a way that is relatively simple and accessible, the video platform said. It has also provided HDR equipment to enable the creation of content at its YouTube Spaces facilities in Los Angeles and New York.Google started shipping Chromecast Ultra, a new UHD version of the popular HDMI streaming device, this week, priced at US$69 in the US. The device is also to be made available in 15 countries internationally.Chromecast Ultra supports 4K, HDR and Dolby Vision. While the dongle can currently be used to view content from Netflix and Vudu as well as YouTube, Google has also said it woll roll out 4K content on Google Play Movies later this year.According to Google, Chromecast Ultra loads videos 1.8 times faster than previous Chromecast devices and includes improved WiFi connectivity. It can also be hooked up in WiFi-challenged environments through the inclusion of an optional Ethernet port.
Jørgen Madsen LindemannModern Times Group (MTG) is selling its operations in the Baltic states to Providence Equity Partners in a deal that values the free, pay TV and radio businesses at €115 million, or 12 times 2016 earnings before interest and tax.MTG said the sale was part of its plan to transform itself from “a traditional national broadcaster” into a “global digital entertainer” in line with changing consumer habits. It said it would use the proceeds of the sale as part of its transformation process.The sale includes the Baltic region’s third-largest pay TV provider, subscription and ad funded streaming services and national commercial radio stations.It also includes MTG’s three Estonian free-to-air channels – TV3, TV3+ and TV6 – five channels in Latvia – TV3, TV3+, TV6, Kanals 2 and LNT – and three in Lithuania – TV3, TV6 and TV8.“We have been in the Baltic region for two decades, and our very dedicated and professional colleagues have built a successful business here. I would like to take this opportunity to thank our local team for an extraordinary performance over the years,” said MTG president and CEO Jørgen Madsen Lindemann.“We are on a journey to build an even stronger presence in the global digital arena, and I am happy that we have found a buyer that shares our view of the potential of the Baltic businesses. Our Baltic colleagues can look forward to a new era that taps the full possibilities of the Baltic media market.”Karim Tabet, managing director at Providence, said: “MTG’s Baltic broadcasting businesses are all leaders in their respective areas and we’re excited to partner with such a talented group of people to grow the company together. After our acquisition of Bite in 2016, this transaction highlights Providence’s continued commitment to investing in the Baltic region.”Robert Sudo, another managing director at Providence, said: “Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia are all among the fastest growing countries in the EU. The business friendly environment combined with a highly skilled workforce make the Baltics an exciting region for us. We are looking forward to working together with MTG Baltic’s management and employees over the coming years.”The sale follows months of media speculation about the future of MTG’s Baltic businesses, which collectively contributed just over SEK1 billion to MTG’s top line in 2016.The sale of the Baltic business can be seen within the context of Lindemann strategy of focusing more tightly on digital entertainment, including an extensive investment in eSports and games through the acquisition of eSports league ESL and more recent investment in gaming outfit InnoGames.Gabriel CatrinaSpeaking at last week’s Cable Congress, MTG’s chief strategy officer Gabriel Catrina said that eSports “is going to become the biggest sport in the world in future”, surpassing football.Swedish advertising and media news service Resumé reported in December that MTG was also considering a sale of its traditional TV channels in the Nordic region, including TV3, TV6 and TV10, citing unnamed sources.According to Resumé, MTG touted a sale of its free TV channels to several potential buyers in the spring of 2016. The prospectus did not include pay TV services or digital assets. MTG at the time declined to comment on what it described as rumour and speculation.In January MTG sold its stake in Czech free TV channel Prima Holding to Denemo Media, having previously sold its free TV assets in Africa.Providence Equity’s acquisition of MTG’s Baltic operation meanwhile follows a bid last year to secure control of leading Baltic cable operator Starman from East Capital Explorer that failed as a result of a legal challenge from a minority shareholder.Starman’s Estonian assets were ultimately sold to Finnish cable and media group Elisa, while its Lithuanian cable network, CGates, was retained by former minority shareholders Polaris Invest and Com Holding.In 2015, Providence Equity acquired Bite Finance International, which controls the number two mobile player in Lithuania and the number three operator in Latvia, from Mid Europa Partners for an undisclosed sum.
Comcast will not pursue an acquisition of a suite of entertainment assets from 21st Century Fox, leaving The Walt Disney Company in the clear to complete a deal.NBCUniversal owner Comcast was one of a few companies with the scale to buy the available Fox assets, but has confirmed it is not moving forwards with a bid.“When a set of assets like Fox’s becomes available, it is our responsibility to evaluate if there is a strategic fit that could benefit our company and our shareholders,” said Comcast in a statement yesterday.“That is what we tried to do and we are no longer engaged in the review of those assets. We never got the level of engagement needed to make a definitive offer.”Disney, which has been the frontrunner since news leaked the Murdoch family may offload some of its Fox assets, now looks odds-on to complete an agreement that has an estimated value of around US$68 billion.On the table are the Fox TV and movie studio, Fox 21 Television Studios, the FX and National Geographic cable operations, international Fox-owned channels, a 39% stake in pay TV operator Sky and ownership of Star India.Last week, it appeared Disney’s acquisition of those assets would be announced this week, but confirmation is now more likely to come later in the month.Comcast is the US’s largest cable TV provider, and owns broadcast network NBC and its production assets, plus cable networks such as USA Network and Bravo.Verizon and Sony Pictures Entertainment have also been linked to the Fox assets, but they are not considered major threats to Disney.The Walt Disney Company, Comcast, 21st Century Fox, M&A, Verizon, Sony Pictures Entertainment
The Roku Channel is set to offer premium subscriptions from Showtime, Starz and Epix by late January.Premium subscriptions will give potential customers the ability to browse all available content across the services before signing up, as well as free trials for all subscriptions and the ability to pay for all premium content in a single monthly bill to Roku.Free, live and premium content will be presented together in a single channel, creating a simple way to browse, search and watch a wide variety of entertainment without switching to multiple streaming channels.The Roku app will also give customers the ability to watch all of this content on iOS and Android mobiles.Premium subscription partners will include Baeble Music, CollegeHumor’s Dropout, CuriosityStream, FitFusion, The Great Courses Signature Collection, Hopster, Magnolia Selects, MHz Choice, Noggin, Smithsonian Channel Plus, Tastemade and Viewster Anime, alongside Showtime, Epix and Starz.Notably, HBO, Hulu and Netflix are all excluded as app partners.As the streaming environment gets increasingly crowded, such bundling strategies will become more common. Other companies have already started planning similar offerings.Recode previously reported that Facebook is also in talks with HBO, Showtime and Starz to offer TV shows and movies for its Facebook Watch users.