Category Archives: Blog

Comcast files emergency motion to expedite TiVo verdict appeal

by Daniel Frankel | 

Comcast has reportedly filed an emergency petition with the U.S. Court of Appeals, seeking to move up its hearing as it continues to battle TiVo over patent licensing.

The filing, which was first reported by CableFax, asks to move the hearing up to this summer. Without the request, the earliest the court might hear the case is the fall.

Comcast is appealing a November ruling by the International Trade Commission which halted imports of X1 set-top boxes with two technologies the ITC ruled violated TiVo patents.

Comcast responded by disabling remote recording features associated with the two TiVo technologies, then filing an appeal in federal court.

TiVo filed federal lawsuits in California and Massachusetts, alleging infringement on not only the patents it received favorable rulings from the ITC on, but also eight additional patents that the Commission ruled weren’t being infringed upon by Comcast. These lawsuits seek monetary compensation, while the ITC complaint seeks to control Comcast’s ability to import its devices into the U.S.

Comcast is arguing in its appeal that the ITC has overstepped its authority by prohibiting the cable company from importing its set-tops.

Comcast asserts that the patents are decreasingly relevant during an era in which its developing most of its own technologies.

For its part, TiVo was formed two years ago when Rovi Corp. bought set-top box maker TiVo for $1.1 billion. Rovi makes most of its income on technology licensing.

Toyota isn’t sweating North America slump

February 12, 2018 @ 12:01 am

Just how serious are Toyota's problems in North America?

Big enough to undercut the parent company's latest quarterly results, but not enough to dim the outlook for the fiscal year or to make Toyota an outlier among its competitors.

Traditionally Toyota Motor Corp.'s cash cow, the North American arm saw its operating profit plunge by more than half to ¥33.1 billion ($293.8 million) in the fiscal third quarter ended Dec. 31, thanks to falling sales, rising incentives and slower production. Regional wholesale volume in North America shrank 1.3 percent to 735,000 vehicles.

Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., which includes Lexus, struggled with a flood of vehicles coming off lease and the continuing migration of consumers from cars to crossovers, SUVs and pickups, a fast-moving trend that has Toyota scrambling to keep pace.

It took a $2.59 billion windfall from the new U.S. tax law to make the overall results look respectable: Thanks to the tax break, Toyota's net income for the quarter nearly doubled to $8.36 billion.

The tax change was a one-time gain, Executive Vice President Koji Kobayashi said last week. But the advantages will continue to accrue.

"The lower corporate tax and also the immediate depreciation of company investments as well as the tax credit on research and development expenses will continue in and after next year as well," Kobayashi said. "We intend to leverage those benefits."

The launch of automated vehicle functions is transforming the way in which cars are designed and marketed and coincides with the introduction of electric drivetrains. Together, these technological step-changes will alter vehicle architectures in ways that will change the way people can use interiors.

Toyota lifted its outlook, predicting record net income of $21.3 billion in the fiscal year ending March 31.

As for Toyota's unfavorable car-truck mix in the U.S., it is working to realign demand by increasing its supply of light trucks and rolling out more updated cars, such as the redesigned Camry and Avalon sedans.

"Competitiveness should be enhanced," Senior Managing Officer Masayoshi Shirayanagi said. "That's our first priority."

Indeed, Toyota lifted its wholesale volume forecast for North America to 2.81 million vehicles for the fiscal year ending March 31. That's up from an earlier outlook of 2.79 million vehicles, though it represents a 1 percent decline from the previous fiscal year.

Eric Lyman, vice president of industry insights at TrueCar, said market metrics for Toyota and Lexus have held up pretty well given an increasingly competitive U.S. market that favors domestic automakers and their storied truck brands.

"Toyota has been doing OK when we compare the Toyota brand against the mainstream automakers and Lexus against luxury," Lyman told Automotive News. "A lot of the headwinds that Toyota is facing are the same headwinds that the industry is facing overall."

Those include rising incentive spending as sales dip from historic highs and brands fight for share.

The Toyota brand's incentives in January were 7 percent higher than a year earlier, at $2,248 per vehicle, Lyman said, citing figures from Motor Intelligence. That's the third lowest in the industry behind Subaru and Honda. Mainstream brands as a whole were up 4 percent.

Lexus' incentives rose 65 percent in the same period to $5,135, about $150 less than the luxury average, which rose 28 percent.

Lower spiffs on some nameplates, such as the redesigned Camry sedan, are helping Toyota control incentive spending.

In 2017, Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A.'s average incentive outlays were $2,614 per vehicle, below the industry average of $3,672, according to Motor Intelligence.

Toyota's fleet sales averaged around 7 percent of its total sales over the last 12 months, below the 10 percent average for mainstream automakers, and Lexus has no fleet sales, according to Polk. And the Toyota and Lexus used-car supply is expected to fall over the next three years as the industry's rises.

"They're not playing the fleet game as much as FCA or Nissan or Hyundai, so they're probably more shielded from those fluctuations that can result from high rentals," said Tim Fleming, an analyst at Kelley Blue Book.

At the same time, Toyota has been adjusting its car-heavy mix to light trucks, boosting production capacity for RAV4s and Tacomas and adding a subcompact crossover, the C-HR.

Fleming said Toyota's 60-40 split between light trucks and cars is getting pretty close to the industry average of about 65-35. "Toyota's SUVs and trucks have phenomenal resale value, and that hasn't really changed over the years."

Said Lyman: "Their metrics aren't too far out of line with what we see in the industry overall."


Retailers are getting help from technology including AI in a busy returns season

Published: Jan 3, 2018 8:37 a.m. ET

Today’s National Returns Day is expected to mark a 5th consecutive record involving 1.4 million packages


rove customer service for the millions of returns expected to be processed during the holiday season, and may even make some gains out of giving money or credit to customers.

Returns have become a part of the shopping process with the growth of e-commerce. But they can be expensive and cumbersome.

According to United Parcel Service Inc.shoppers have returned more than one million packages daily throughout December. Volume should hit its peak on Wednesday, National Returns Day, when UPS said it expects 1.4 million packages, a fifth consecutive record. 

Here's how robots can revolutionize e-commerce

“I think you’re going to see returns continue to grow as long as e-commerce grows,” said JC Ramey, chief executive of DeviceBits, which uses artificial technology (AI) to help companies provide better customer service. “It was the barrier to entry for online, the desire for touch and feel. The overall cost will continue to shrink as [retailers] seek out operational efficiencies.”

Technology is replacing humans and offsetting the cost of returns. Ramey estimates that the price tag for a customer service call is between $2 and $5. The cost is higher for in-store associates. The ability to reduce those costs can mean significant savings. Staffing at a large call center can reach 20,000 people, up from around 14,000 during other parts of the year.

“We’ve seen less staffing required this year—by 20% to 30%—so I think a lot of brands are using systems that aren’t human,” Ramey said.

He finds it encouraging that consumers are adopting these new technologies.

In some cases, shoppers don’t even know they’re not dealing with a human. Data from Narvar, a company focused on helping retailers provide a better customer experience, shows that only 10% of consumers know that the live chat or messenger app they are conversing with is not a person.

Other cost saving measures include providing multiple ways for shoppers to return items, whether through a shipping service or elsewhere, and offering an incentive to exchange an item rather than return it.

DeviceBits also collects data on why people are returning items. Many of their clients are in consumer electronics, so a chunk of their returns are tied to a customer’s inability to set up or use the item they’ve been given.

“The ability to drive that education early to the new users of these platforms—consumer electronics or otherwise—will drive some of the cost out,” he said.

Total U.S. returns are expected to come to $380 billion in 2017, according to numbers from The National Retail Federation provided by Optoro, a reverse logistics company that helps with returned and excess inventory.

Tobin Moore, chief executive of Optoro, says retailers are focused on customer experience, even on the return side.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. added Mobile Express Returns to the company’s app to speed up the process, reducing the time it takes to return an item to just 30 seconds, according to Walmart’s senior vice president of services and digital acceleration, Daniel Eckert.

But it’s not all about digital alternatives to human interaction. Kohl’s Corp.with partnered offer free returns at select stores.

“[Retailers] recognize that the e-commerce model doesn’t work economically unless they’re well prepared for returns,” said Moore. “Consumers probably won’t notice it much but retailers are getting better at processing on the back-end, in a more effective manner.”

Over the past three months, Wal-Mart shares have risen 24.5%, Kohl’s shares are up 26.7%, and Amazon’s stock is up 24.2%. The S&P 500 indexis up 6.4% for the last three months and the Dow Jones Industrial Average  is up 9.6% for the period.

Charter adds 7 DOCSIS 3.1 gigabit markets

December 20, 2017

Charter Communications has launched its Spectrum Internet Gig in seven additional markets, using DOCSIS 3.1 technology to provide 1 Gbps Internet services. The company is also doubling its minimum Internet speeds in those markets to 200 Mbps at no additional cost to new and existing Spectrum Internet customers.

Priced at $104.99 a month for new customers, Spectrum Internet Gig is now available to more than 8.8 million consumers in Austin, TX; Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham, NC; Cincinnati; Honolulu; Kansas City, MO; New York City; and San Antonio. Charter plans to launch the service in additional markets next year. The company first deployed DOCSIS 3.1-based gigabit service on Oahu earlier this month.

"Charter's state-of-the-art, fiber-rich network is superior in its ability to deliver fast and reliable Internet to millions of consumers across the country," said Tom Rutledge, Charter chairman and CEO. "As technology continues to evolve, the products and services of tomorrow will increasingly rely on faster broadband connections. Charter's world-class network is best-positioned to deliver the bandwidth and capacity needed to meet these growing demands."

Spectrum Internet Gig is offered with no data caps or contracts, includes a modem and free in-home WiFi, and is backed by a 30-day money back guarantee.

Automotive Industry Updates its Guiding Principles to Enhance Sustainability in the Supply Chain

The Automotive Industry Action Group (AIAG) and Drive Sustainability today announced an updated version of the “Automotive Industry Guiding Principles to Enhance Sustainability Performance in the Supply Chain.” This collaboration between AIAG, Drive Sustainability and key automotive organizations provides guidance to our valued supplier partners concerning the latest industry expectations. Additionally, a supplementary reference document was created to provide further explanation and examples for the updated principles.

Along with AIAG and Drive Sustainability, BMW Group, Daimler, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Group, Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Honda, Jaguar Land Rover, Nissan, Scania, Toyota, Volkswagen Group, Volvo Cars, and Volvo Group, all participated in this revision of the 2014 document, and in creating the additional explanatory resource. This extraordinary alignment between automakers came out of a need to address issues relevant to the automotive industry today, and to speak with a unified voice on the importance of a sustainable, ethical supply chain.  

With these goals in mind, Steve Kiefer, senior vice president, General Motors Global Purchasing and Supply Chain, says, “GM views the pursuit of positive environmental and social impact throughout the supply chain as a global priority.” Kiefer goes on to explain, “GM is focused on efficient business with our global partners, and AIAG’s guiding principles ensure that the entire auto industry is working together to use our scale and resources for good.” 

The amended text augments previously stated positions, and is more inclusive of principles that reflect current industry concerns pertaining to business ethics, human rights, working conditions, and environmental leadership. As Tanya Bolden, director of corporate responsibility, products & services, AIAG, explains: “We are pleased that the effort initiated a decade ago by the North American automakers has grown in scope and global acceptance. Due to the degree of complexity in today’s automotive supply chain, it is more important than ever that we all work together, and communicate these vitally important issues in a clear and unified voice.”

Updates to the Principles include a number of new expectations, as well as a brief description of each point. In one example, Business Ethics, new guidelines state that companies are expected to responsibly source raw materials and to work to minimize the risk of counterfeit or diverted parts and materials in their products. The importance of transparency in accurate quality reports, financial reports, and filings is also emphasized, as well as the need for companies to disclose both financial and non-financial information, according to regulations and industry practices. A final bullet point explains that companies need to establish processes so that employee concerns can be raised anonymously, without fear of retaliation.

Certain areas have also been reworked and expanded upon in the Environment section. Additions include a statement on air quality, which stipulates that companies must work to monitor and eliminate (as much as possible) emissions contributing to air pollution, as well as a note on managing chemicals responsibly to minimize or eliminate restricted substances.  

As Tom Lake, vice president, Honda North America Purchasing, notes: “Automakers have a responsibility to work together and offer guidance concerning the expectations we have as an industry, and to highlight the importance of strong governance structures to safeguard business ethics. These updated Guiding Principles and Practical Guidance documents are a great resource for our supplier partners to reference as they make important decisions that impact their business and ours.”

To further elaborate upon the guidelines outlined in the Principles, the supplementary text, “Global Automotive Sustainability Practical Guidance,” addresses the practicalities and legalities of meeting industry expectations. For instance, to create a safe and healthy working environment—one of the fundamental values noted in the Principles—companies should educate their employees on emergency and evacuation procedures. They should also offer personal protective equipment when required, as well as focus on training for machine safety. Other examples offered include the need to maintain legally required permits and licenses, and verify that fire detection, alarm, and suppression systems are in place and in working order at all times. 

“The new release of the Guiding Principles and Practical Guidance is part of Drive Sustainability’s enhanced commitment to sustainability,” Stefan Crets, executive director, CSR Europe, and facilitator of Drive Sustainability explains. “Drive Sustainability is a partnership of automotive companies that made a pledge to move to the next level of sustainability and supply chain management. We are happy to collaborate with AIAG and its members to put the basis of a global automotive strategy on supply chain sustainability. This is the foundation to strengthen Drive Sustainability activities like local supplier capability networks (in China & Turkey), and raw materials actions.”

Additional resources like the tools, trainings, and workshops AIAG offers, also help companies of all sizes meet sustainability performance expectations. Free online courses and assessments such as the Supply Chain Sustainability eLearning and the Supply Chain Sustainability Knowledge Assessment (Practitioner Level), along with additional options for AIAG members, all support the same industry goals regarding the social and environmental performance of the supply chain.

View the Automotive Industry Guiding Principles to Enhance Sustainability Performance in the Supply Chain

About AIAG

The Automotive Industry Action Group is a unique not-for-profit organization where automakers, suppliers, service providers, government entities, and individuals in academia have worked collaboratively for 35 years to drive down costs and complexity within the supply chain. AIAG membership includes preeminent manufacturers and many of their parts suppliers and service providers. 

About Drive Sustainability

Drive Sustainability is a partnership of 11 leading automotive companies that work together to improve sustainability in the supply chain. Starting with 2012 the companies have assessed over 20,000 suppliers in more than 100 countries and engaged over 1500 suppliers in capacity building initiatives. Over 40 training sessions have been conducted in 10 countries. Drive Sustainability operates under strict anti-trust policies. Drive Sustainability is facilitated by CSR Europe.

About CSR Europe
CSR Europe is the leading European business network for Corporate Social Responsibility. Through its network of around 45 corporate members and 41 National CSR organisations, it gathers over 10,000 companies, and acts as a platform for those businesses looking to enhance sustainable growth and positively contribute to society. In its mission to bring the CSR agenda forward, CSR Europe goes beyond European borders and cooperates with CSR organisations in other regions across the world.


Source: AIAG CR Team

Tesla reveals a new Roadster, due in 2020

At Tesla's Semi event, the automaker dropped its new Roadster. It'll have a 620-mile range via a 200kWh battery pack."You'll be able to travel from LA to San Francisco and back without recharging," CEO Elon Musk said. The new Tesla Roadster will do zero to 60 in 1.9 seconds, and it'll blast through a quarter mile in 8.9 seconds, before reaching a top speed of over 250 MPH.

Oh, and it's a four-seater.

Musk called it, "a hardcore smackdown to gasoline cars." The car is due in 2020 so start saving up all your nickels and dimes now -- the cost is $200,000, with a $50,000 reservation to get in line for a base model. Of course, there are also 1,000 "Founders Edition" Roadsters also available, provided you're willing to pony up for the full $250k price right away.

A limited number of folks that attended tonight's event and put down a $50,000 deposit on the Roadster will get a ride in the car.

Sprint, Altice Aim to Solve MVNO Puzzle

November 14, 2017
Sprint (NYSE:S) has been pretty busy in November, announcing the demise of its attempt to merge with fellow wireless provider T-Mobile and the initiation of a multi-year strategic agreement with Altice USA (NYSE:ATUS).

Under the terms, Altice will be able to use Sprint's network, under an MVNO (mobile virtual network operator) model, to provide mobile voice and data services. In return, Sprint will densify its network using the Altice broadband network.

In a conference call last week, Tarek Robbiati, CFO of Sprint, called the deal "unique" in terms of an MVNO arrangement.

"It is not a simple resale of capacity," Robbiati said. "There is from the Altice standpoint, but the infrastructure swap is what makes the deal the first of its kind."

Sprint plans to deploy several thousand small cells in the Altice footprint in order to densify its network to bolster the future of 5G. Robbiati noted that the deal is part of Sprint's overall strategy and referred to a joint venture parent company SoftBank announced in October with Australian-based Lendlease Group. Each company has committed $200 million in equity to acquire and restructure 8,000 existing telecom sites, including rooftops, across the United States.

Under the terms of its agreement with Sprint, Altice can only sell wireless within its footprint. However, as it expands this footprint, it has the right to sell wireless in the new areas. Likewise, Sprint may piggyback on expansion of the Altice infrastructure. Robbiati said he is "comfortable" with the investment of tower companies and partnerships with the likes of Altice.

"I think we have a compelling proposition in the near term," Robbiati said, noting that Sprint's priority is to begin upgrading its existing footprint in terms of towers and also in parallel to densify.

Robbiati said the agreement with Altice was not contingent on the failure of the T-Mobile deal.

"(Altice) would have taken place anyway," he said. "(Densification) is a critical part of our strategy. We started with trials with Altice six months ago. We spoke about the trials in prior earnings announcements."

The Sprint/Altice deal is not exclusive, meaning that Spring is free to make similar agreements with other players as well. The mobile operator also is free to deploy fixed wireless offerings; there aren't any restrictions in the terms.

There is monetary compensation involved on top of the infrastructure sharing, but Robbiati wouldn't share specifics with regards to the volume rate card for gigabytes or voice minutes. He also wouldn't provide detail about the performance measurements saying only that Sprint feels "good" about the fact that Sprint's performance hurdles are the right ones.

"We intend as true partners that we deliver those," Robbiati said.


ATS announced as new Mediacom Communications repair facility

September 2017

Advanced Technical Services announced that they have been added as a new cable distribution equipment repair facility for Mediacom Communications.

When asked about the addition, ATS Company President, Dave Vikartofsky, said that “being an authorized repair facility for Mediacom Communications will allow us to expand our repair offerings to a new customer base allowing us to continue to grow our support services within the cable industry”.

For more information about ATS product and service offerings please visit the company’s website or

ATS Supporting Play Network with Equipment Repair Services

August 2017

Advanced Technical Services announced today that that they have added Play Network to the list of Entertainment Industry customers they are now supporting.

When asked about the addition, ATS Company President, Dave Vikartofsky, said that “we are excited about the opportunity to help support Play Network with their equipment repair needs.”

The addition of Play Network allows us to expand the breadth of our repair offerings within this industry, and to deepen our existing relationships with the existing customers we already support”.

For more information about ATS product and service offerings please visit the company’s website or