NAB Perspectives: EVS CEO Joop Janssen on 20 years of success serving live TV production
At NAB EVS Chief Executive Officer Joop Janssen addressed a press conference to mark an auspicious birthday for the company. He explained why 2014 is set to be a very good year for sports and for EVS as a company, and reflected on some of the key milestones that brought EVS to the fore in the live production sector along the way — from slow motion and replays to servers, file formats, media transcoding and beyond.
“It’s 20 years for EVS at NAB,” said Joop Janssen, “and of course 2014 is an even year which is always special for us. We have all the international sports events happening this year, and EVS is always happy, humble and proud to be chosen by most of the sports federations to provide server and live production technology for the big events.
“We’ve already had the Super Bowl, Sochi and the Oscars, and we’re looking forward to the soccer World Cup, Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games in Korea – and then shortly after 2014 the first European Games in Baku in Azerbaijan. A special year, and a full year for us,” he said.
“We have grown so fast over the last years. 2013 was our record ‘uneven’ year — so in a year with no big international sports championships, we’ve never before posted such high revenues or profits. Actually we’ve grown so fast we’re in six different buildings in Liege now, but we’re building a new headquarters and new innovation centre, targeted for the end of the year, for all of our 500 employees.
“Taking a quick look back over our 20 years,” continued Janssen, “I’m proud to note that innovation still drives our business; not a lot of companies can say, after 20 years, that innovation is still the heart of the business. Half of our employees are still fully focused on R&D; out of our 500 employees, 250 are working on new products every day. That is by far the largest investment in R&D in the live production product sector that we serve.
“EVS started in 1994 when three students – Pierre L’Hoest, Laurent Minguet and the hardware specialist Michel Counson — decided to work together. Laurent and Pierre have now left the business (and have started many other businesses), but Michel is still with us of course as CTO and managing director leading all our hardware development.
“In 1996 we were the first, with Panasonic, to show super slow motion replay in a sporting event, so that instead of waiting until half time to get the replay from your tape machine you got it from a hard disk instantaneously. That was the moment when sports TV changed forever,” said Janssen, “and luckily EVS was there to make that happen together with Panasonic.
“In 1998 we had the first LSM-controlled replays for all the matches at the World Cup in France. Then in 2000, we were the first with HD for slow motion and replays in sporting events.”
“In 2003 EVS moved into the studio, with the first newsroom solution with RTL in Belgium (which is still one of the most innovative newsroom solutions in the world). In 2005 we went beyond typical slow motion and replay with the XT2 server coming onto the market with full live production solution augmented with IP Director, to control more and provide more of the total file-based workflows for our customers.
“In 2006 we were able to centralise all the venue’s material onto a single media server and that was accessible to all the broadcasters around the world for the first time at a sporting event [FIFA World Cup in Germany].
“At this show you’ve heard about the acquisitions of AmberFin and Digital Rapids; in 2010 we already saw that for live production you need to have the expertise of file formats and transcoding in-house so we bought OpenCube, which is now it’s the pillar for the EVS media division which is growing quite fast. And I’m very proud to say,” added Janssen, “that in February 2014 we were the first, along with Fox Sports, to have six 4K cameras with zoom on air at the Superbowl.
“That’s just a quick snapshot of our history, a very rich history. And today we have 16,000 EVS operators around the world, and over 7,000 installations and servers. We have 500 people and 21 offices – and something of which we are very proud, 115 field engineers working with our customers every day. These are just a few statistics to illustrate the sharp growth and success of EVS over the last 20 years,” said Janssen.