An Italian Job: How a group of OB providers is aiming to improve the sector’s business

Italian Alliance (left to right) Rosario Castaldi, senior account manager; Bruno Vigilante, cameraman; and Andrea Gianolli, chairman and head of operations.

Italian Alliance (left to right) Rosario Castaldi, senior account manager; Bruno Vigilante, cameraman; and Andrea Gianolli, chairman and head of operations.

Established in late 2015, The Alliance – a merger of three large Italian Outside Broadcast providers – is already operating as main contractor for a number of new initiatives in both that country and internationally. According to Andrea Gianolli, the group’s chairman and head of operations, the three founding companies – One-tv, Global Production and SBP – have created the most important national group and one of the biggest in Europe. “The size, capacity and resources of The Alliance, both in terms of technologies and our technical and production staff, can provide security to a market that has been, until now, quite fragmented,” says Gianollo.

Other board members alongside Gianolli are Stefano Bianco, chief human resources officer, Davide Furlan, chief customers officer, and Gilberto Steccazzini, chief financial officer.

But why create The Alliance (TA) in the first place?

“Unfortunately, the Italian OB market is very sick and sometimes I have had the feeling of caring for a terminally ill patient,” laments Gianolli. “However, I don’t want to give up, because I think there will still be lot to do, and The Alliance is my answer. Indeed, I’m not the only one to think so. The Alliance is our – not just my – solution.”

He says that solution is structured to look for resources on the international market, while still maintaining and caring for the national scene. “The problem has been caused by an exaggerated offer of services at insufficient prices, certainly generated by a business system that is inadequate by itself under the entrepreneurial profile. It would be easy and simple to think that quality and reliability are also below standard – but that is not so.”

Gianolli believes that many customers are taking advantage of the current situation and are creating a competitive environment in which most of the companies that are in crisis can’t or don’t want to escape. ‘That’s even because of, I am told, the recent economic world crisis. I personally think that this is a suicidal rather than survival technique, because in the long run this situation will inevitably cause the closure of many of these companies.”

He continues: “I often hear the concern of some our colleagues in having to deal with the change that the new UHD challenge will carry. I must say that the myopia from which even many customers suffer has really surprised me; especially those companies for which the service provision represents more than 50 per cent of their business.”

Gianolli says The Alliance’s creation was also prompted by other important considerations, such as improving the available human resources by avoiding duplicates and integrating the technology know-how by centralising all the engineering and maintenance activities. “The main shareholder is Professional Show Spa, one of the most innovative European system integrators, with high class technicians and laboratories specialising on multi-brands maintenance.”

Meeting the challenges

The Alliance will provide facilities for The Copa del Rey annual football cup competition for Spanish football teams for the next three seasons.

The Alliance will provide facilities for The Copa del Rey annual football cup competition for Spanish football teams for the next three seasons.

So it is clear that the reasons why TA was created are many and diverse. Gianolli goes on: “The new company is the right size to compete in the international market, and the first results we have achieved are giving us reason to be positive in this aspect of the operation. In fact, alongside the ongoing commitments of the three companies, The Alliance recently signed very important long-term contracts for well-known and highly valued productions such as the leading Sky Italy Show X-Factor. We will handle this Fremantle production for the next three years.”

In addition, TA will produce Copa del Rey and the SuperCopa de Espaňa in Spain for the next three years. It will also be responsible for the complete operational and production coverage of the 28th Winter Universiade, that will take place in Almaty, Kazakistan in 2017. This will involve 150 cameras and more than 200 technicians.

Gianolli states that The Alliance means there is better use of resources and increased management facilities for each of the individual companies that make up the group. “One example is coverage of MotoGP. The Alliance handles the worldwide coverage of this event – with the exception of the Austin, USA GP – for Dorna Sports. TA provides four flightcases currently used by SBP to enable coverage of the races. Now, a further complete flightcase system is provided by One-tv and is employed for personalised production elements on behalf of Sky Italia and the customisation of the same MotoGP coverage. Not only that, by integrating a flightcase from Global Production with additional equipment provided by One-tv, a high specification control room has been constructed.”

The Alliance is also responsible to Infront Sports for almost the 50 per cent of the matches of the Italian Football Championship and numerous events related to the World Championship of Alpine and Nordic Skiing.

Other business plans

Beyond the production side of TA, Gianolli reveals that other aspects of OB technology will form part of the group’s remit. Indeed, there are working groups engaged on various aspects of the OB industry.

“All our OB vans are designed, made and used by us, and this is one of our great strengths,” says Gianolli. “We start from CAD design of the van structure, with a particular focus on those operational areas that must distinguish our vehicles in order to respond and fulfil every different production. We follow through the actual construction, and then specify the optimal choice of the technologies, including wiring. These steps are fundamental for us, because we strongly believe that only those people who work in the field can have the real, concrete and perfect point of view to build their proper working tools.”

Although TA is an Italian initiative, could companies from other countries seek to join? “Why not?” responds Gianolli. “As I said, I think that optimising existing resources could be a real opportunity for growth. That would mean a way to reduce duplicated costs and share experiences. Those who come from abroad mustn’t be underestimated, even according to the best economic results they produce. There could be a great deal to say in this regard. On the other hand, I am convinced that as Italians, we are able to fully compete wherever there is ‘television’ to do. I can say this, thinking of all my personal international experiences.”

Grab the opportunities

The Alliance has signed important contracts with Sky Italia.

The Alliance has signed important contracts with Sky Italia.

In conclusion, Gianolli says that The Alliance is both a great opportunity and a huge honour, the crowning of a long career in the OB field – a story that has lasted for 40 years to date. “I think The Alliance has all the capacities to get us out of the serious difficulties that companies of average dimensions suffer. Difficulties due to the continuous increasing of technical resources that customers require and to the technological obsolescence that is always too rapid in the face of international market opportunities. If you add the worldwide economic crisis of the last three years, you can easily infer that investments in this field are really quite considerable. It’s also a great honour to have been able to create The Alliance with people of so big value; people I respect for the professional skills they showed during their career, and for the courage they demonstrated, as we say in Italy, ‘throwing their hearts past the obstacle’, and making The Alliance a reality. It was a true merger – the same sensation of the crucial goal during the final match of the World Cup!”

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