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Conlon Says U.S. Transmitter Market Challenging

Nautel leader says broadcasters still buying transmission gear, but cautiously

Nautel’s share of the radio transmitter market in the United States is growing, according to company CEO Peter Conlon, despite an environment that presents some challenges.

Nautel, which makes AM and FM transmitters, saw year-to-year revenue climb 24% in 2011 and is pacing for strong 2012, Conlon says. “I think it is fair to say that we’ve become one of the world’s largest manufacturers of radio transmitters and our base of users in the U.S. has grown exponentially.”

The Hackett’s Cove, Nova Scotia-based transmitter manufacturer sees opportunities in the U.S. by looking at the market “the right way.” The Nautel executive adds: “If you combine the pressures due to the lingering ‘Great Recession’ with the fact that many transmitters were replaced prematurely during the heyday of HD conversion incentives, each transmitter sale is a precious commodity.”

Another trend is the move to fewer engineers managing larger numbers of transmitters. That requires a whole new level of control in the system, which Nautel pioneered with its Advanced User Interface, according to Conlon.

Despite the leftover gloom of the recession, broadcasters of all sizes continue to buy, but cautiously. “We continue to do great business with most of the major broadcasters, and once the economy starts to pick up, we expect the purse strings to loosen,” according to the executive.

Conlon remains optimistic about HD Radio in the U.S. “Now that HD receivers are starting to get out in the marketplace, we are watching to see when the next wave of conversions in the mid-markets picks up.”

Meanwhile, Nautel announced earlier this year that the company will begin manufacturing for the television market, focusing initially on the power range of 2 W to 100 W UHF. “For those broadcasters that are in the TV space, it appears much of their capital is going to finishing the conversion to HDTV,” according to Conlon.