Interview: TVN’s Markus Osthaus on acquisitions, new OB trucks and getting set for Euro 2024

TVN Live Production chief executive Markus Osthaus has spoken about the rationale behind the company’s recent acquisition of fellow German OB provider TopVision, and revealed that TVN is set to roll out two new trucks ahead of Euro 2024.

TVN acquired fellow outside broadcast facilities provider TopVision Telekommunikation in January, with the company brand, HQ and management team all included in the deal.

All of the shares in the Berlin-based OB company have been acquired by TVN in a move that will see TopVision continue to operate independently as a subsidiary of its new parent company.

TopVision was founded in 1993. It runs three OB units and has around 40 employees. It works mainly in sport, particularly football.

TVN Live Production chief executive Markus Osthaus

“TopVision – especially with Achim Jendges as owner and managing director – has for decades been a leading company for supporting soccer production in Germany. Achim and his crew were always the top notch for innovation and big productions.

“Over the years, TVN also created a really strong position in the German football market, and our performance is on the same high-end level today. As soon as the topic of a possible acquisition of TopVision came up, of course we were interested.

“Achim doesn’t intend to retire; he will still be on board. But in my view, it was the right time for him to think about the future of TopVision. So Achim was looking for a suitable partner, and TVN has proven to be a reliable organisation interested in long partnerships on the customer as well as on supplier side and even regarding competitors.”

Osthaus described TVN and TopVision as being similar in terms of the technologies used by the outside broadcast companies, with Sony equipment, including cameras and vision mixers, plus EVS server technology installed in both firm’s trucks. “Only in the audio sector do we have different suppliers and systems,” he said.

The deal between TVN and TopVision was announced in the same week as the merger of EMG and Gravity Media was revealed.

“Of course, we are looking at the European market and we can see there’s consolidation, and we all know that the OB van market – especially in Germany – is not an easy market. So, we must think about what we can do to be cost effective, to be reliable and to provide high-quality services to our customers. Those are the things we focus on,” said Ostahus.

“If we look at the big players – and TVN is a small player – like NEP with 200 OB vans or the new EMG/Gravity company with I guess 110 OB vans, then we think about how big we must be to compete in some fields like remote production. So of course, we need a minimum size to compete in new fields, especially when we need big investments. It’s easier to make an investment of, say, €5 million if you have an annual revenue of €20 or 30 million than with a revenue of just €5 million.”

However, having acquired TopVision, Osthaus said seeking out further deals were not top of his agenda.

“If there are any opportunities to grow, we will look at it, but further growth is not our priority. What we are looking for is quality, based on long-lasting customer relationships. If there are opportunities for growth, we’ll check it out, but it’s not a priority. There is no defined goal of a certain annual growth.”

The focus of developing “long-lasting customer relations” will be on German-speaking countries, where Osthaus estimates TVN conducts some 90-95% of its business. “We are also working on productions outside of Europe, but that’s mostly for German customers, too. So internationalisation is not our focus.”

New OB units and Euro 2024
Looking ahead to a bumper summer of sport for Europe’s live production facilities providers, Osthaus said TVN would be closely involved in Euro 2024. He said: “We were awarded by UEFA to look after venues in Hamburg and Berlin for Euro 2024, which includes the final and the closing ceremony, and we’re really proud that UEFA has trusted TVN to look after the final.”

“We will also have our copters (drones) at all Euro 2024 venues covering every match. Our range of products, equipment and services are our strength and a key advantage. Over the year, also the productions in Bundesliga and in other international matches such as Champions League will keep us busy, and besides, we always do a lot of music festivals.”

In preparation for a summer of events, TVN is set to add two new OB trucks to its fleet, TVN-OB7 and TVN-OB8.

“TVN-OB7, which is just about ready, is a 10 to 12 camera truck with a satellite dish. We will use it for international production, for example when we are abroad for RTL or DAZN in the Champions League or Europa League, as well as for clients such as the European Central Bank. The concept is really well done; the truck is extremely compact with a total of only 28 tons, and you don’t need a support truck.”

OB7 is a 14m truck described by TVN as a “compact all-rounder”. The UHD/HDR capable truck supports 12 Sony UHD cameras (expandable) with Canon lenses plus special cameras. It is equipped with integrated satellite uplink technology, has room for 13 workstations and contains a Sony production switcher with up to 24 UHD inputs, plus two EVS XT VIA Servers including XFile3 Recording.

The Dolby Surround-capable truck’s audio setup includes Lawo MC² 36, Backup audio mixer Intercom System and a digital intercom system from Riedel Artist with MADI, VOIP, AES67 and analogue connectivity.

Osthaus said he expects OB7 to be launched at the production of FIS Snowboard World Cup in Winterberg, Germany in early March, with OB8 to be available a month later for use at one or two football matches before its journey to Euro 2024 in Berlin.

Inside TVN-OB7

TVN used the same partners and suppliers for both trucks, including Akkermans for the coach work, D&MS, Sony, Riedel, Lawo and EVS. OB7 has a Ross router, while OB8 is equipped with an Evertz router.

“OB8 is almost the same size as OB6, which is our biggest vehicle. OB8 is very much designed for football production. It has two galleries and up to 30 cameras on board. So OB6 and OB8 will be in Berlin for Euro 2024 including the final.”

“When we look further ahead, to 2025, of course technology will develop and change. Nowadays, everybody is talking about remote, that’s one field of business we are really looking into deeply because we assume it will be expanded. Now, remote production is not yet relevant in Germany, but I am absolutely convinced that it will be in the future.”

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