Firm earns millions with TV gear |

Firm earns millions with TV gear

One of western Nevada County’s largest employers ended the year on a positive note – multiple orders totaling $20 million.

While not the largest orders ever for Thomson’s Grass Valley unit, they are the largest yet for high-definition television applications – a promising business area that has been slow to materialize.

“We’ve been hoping the market would mature for several years,” said Tim Thorsteinson, the unit’s chief.

Previous orders for Grass Valley’s high-definition television equipment have been less than $1 million, amounting to only a percent or two of company revenues. With the recent orders, it will now amount to 10 percent this year, said Thorsteinson.

Thorsteinson hopes high-definition television will become more visible to consumers, as high-definition television prices come down and broadcasters make more of a commitment to high-definition signals.

Grass Valley gear used for one, $8 million order will equip mobile production trucks that roll out to events in the National Football League, Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, and the National Basketball Association. The equipment will be capable of broadcasting in multiple, high-definition television formats and standard format.

“We live and die by utilization, so we wouldn’t be building these trucks if we didn’t see a market for them,” said George Hoover, senior vice president and general manager for NEP Supershooters LP, which ordered the equipment.

“Our clients have a variety of format requirements across the standard and high-definition spectrum, and we’ll be able to support them all using the same trucks.”

Close to half the order will be for cameras manufactured in Holland.

The cameras don’t increase the local unit’s production, but they do allow the unit to pitch the deal as a comprehensive package of cameras and broadcast equipment, which helped it get the order.

While the Grass Valley unit won’t need to hire more employees to handle the orders, they do provide a solid end to 2002 – a year that is up a bit in revenues from the previous year, but described by Thorsteinson as “not robust.”

The Grass Valley unit employs close to 400 people at its Nevada City facilities. It was formerly known as Grass Valley Group, a privately held company until the $172 million March acquisition by Thomson, of Paris.

The $20 million in orders consists of four separate, multimillion-dollar orders signed in late November, including:

— An $8 million order by NEP Supershooters LP, of Pittsburgh.

— A $6 million order by National Mobile Television Co. Inc., of Torrance.

— Two separate $3 million orders by unidentified production companies.

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