Grass Valley execs discuss new products, new strategy

The Grass Valley stand at last week’s IBC in Amsterdam looked similar to the company’s most recent stands at major trade shows: most notably, the green overtones and areas dedicated to specific product categories and workflows. But the old look was complemented by a new corporate philosophy that became public in the past few weeks and is designed to help the company transition to a future based on leveraging IT and commodity-based hardware as well as new executives with a wealth of industry expertise who will develop new strategies to attract new customers and new engineering talent heading into 2013.

Topping the list of notable changes was the appointment of three regional presidents in Asia, the Americas, and Europe and the Middle East (EMEA). Effective immediately, Alan Wright and Andrew Sedek are promoted to regional president: Wright for EMEA, Sedek for Asia Pacific. Mike Oldham takes over in the Americas.

“We concluded that the one-size-fits-all approach was not going to cut it and we needed the voice of Asia, the Americas, and EMEA,” explains Grass Valley President/CEO Alain Andreoli. “So we have three key executives empowered to make the right decisions for their region. And in the middle is marketing and engineering … that can be a voice for the customers in the regions. It’s a very simple way of organizing, and it is very cohesive.”

Each region will be treated like a customer segment, with the regional staffers acting as advocates for their region’s needs, Andreoli says.

“We also have the capability to leverage local engineering resources for any unique needs in a region,” he adds. “But the goal is to make sure each region has a clear voice.”

For example, in Southeast Asia and the Middle East, there is a need for TV playout systems that make it easy to censor inappropriate content. The Grass Valley engineering team in Kuala Lumpur can dedicate a small team to finding a solution.

“That doesn’t mean that the products will be different [for each region], but they will be more software-based, and we will build that capability by having the right skills, teams, and partnerships.”

The new software and IT philosophy is exemplified in the company’s new LDX camera series. The lineup will include three camera models, but, in a twist, features like high-speed recording will be able to be added and removed from the camera via software. The result? The user of the camera can better monetize high-end features that may be used only intermittently.

“The concept is that customers in the rental game have to buy at the top but we could make it easier so that they pay us when they get paid [for a feature],” says EVP/GM of Products Charlie Dunn. “It resonates.”

Getting to that level of product flexibility requires a more modular approach to design and product lines (like the Stratus suite of media-production and content-management tools), and it will also result in a complete overhaul of current products by 2014.

“The base of the [product] platforms should be mostly mainstream technology with a few bits added,” explains Dunn. “The rest of the value is on software that sits on top of the platform.”

Of course, discussions of “replacing” product lines that include the Grass Valley vision-mixer lineup is the kind of talk that inspires fear among sports technical directors whose careers have been built around a solid platform. When Grass Valley infamously replaced the 300 vision mixer with the 3000 version in the 1990s, it went over about as well as New Coke. Don’t expect the same misstep this time.

“We will continue to develop around the Kayenne flagship mixer, and, over the past year, we have been bringing processing to it that allows for 1080p and 3D with no real compromises,” says Dunn., “And now we are bringing that same great experience down to lower price points so we can widen the user base way beyond where it is today.”

In the future, look for Grass Valley to also make use of “mainstream” IT technologies from companies traditionally not associated with broadcast equipment.

“They basically provide a base competence and technologies, and then we construct unique solutions the industry needs,” Dunn explains. “You can use economy of scale to get cheaper and cheaper or build dozens of unique products. But you need to have an edge that is unique to the broadcast industry and then use the core to leverage technology from the IT industry.”

For decades, the Grass Valley brand has been about the right mix of engineering investment and a personal touch. Expect that to continue as well.

“The role of the field organization is much more important than just pushing product,” says Andreoli. “How can we help the customer resolve issues, and what third-party partner can we help?

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