SVG Europe Sit-Down: HARMAN Professional’s Katy Templeman-Holmes on Studer brand evolution and R&D priorities
With a number of notable launches from brands such as Studer – including the Glacier and Micro mixers – 2016 has been a hugely creative year for HARMAN Professional. But in recent weeks it has also acquired a new significance with news of Samsung’s intention to acquire HARMAN International Industries for $8bn in a deal that is due to close in mid 2017.
SVG Europe’s conversation with HARMAN Professional Director, Marketing & Solutions | Broadcast Katy Templeman-Holmes took place before this news was announced, and in any case focused on the technological changes of the present and near-future – mixer design, R&D priorities and IP-based operation among them.
How would you characterise overall activity levels for HARMAN Pro worldwide in 2016?
The focus of HARMAN Professional has been profoundly refined as we recently organised ourselves into vertical markets. Looking at markets instead of operating as brands [has] enabled us to be so much more intimate with our markets. In this model we have had core teams of excellence focusing solely on broadcast, for example; not for any one product or brand, but for the customer.
IBC witnessed some notable launches from Harman, not least the new flexible mixers from Studer. What has been the response to these new introductions?
This is one of the most exciting times at Studer in many years. In tune with a transitioning broadcast industry, we have committed to a huge new factory in Hungary to support an aggressive new portfolio, which began its five year roll-out in September. The new Glacier series and Micro are just an entry-way peek into what you can expect from Studer and HARMAN in the near-future. All of our development has come from in-depth consultation with our clients, partnering in the development of new solutions. The intimacy of our relationship with our valued partners, and those we seek for the future, is evidence of our commitment to broadcast. We are working with the industry, the media companies, our clients, our peers and our own HARMAN network, versus working for them or without them in a vacuum. The new products are a live demonstration of the strength of this business philosophy.
In what fundamental ways have broadcasters’ expectations of audio mixers changed over the last five years?
It’s not that much about the mixer itself, so much as it’s all about the system workflow and interoperability. Cloud technologies and IP present new opportunities and new hurdles; there are a lot of unknowns for broadcast workflow. A surface feature is far less prominent in our customer meetings now than the exploded interest in, and requirement for, flexibility. That interest carries over for the surface as much as the system. The Glacier surface, or more appropriately ‘interface’, is a textbook example of the response to that.
What would you identify as their most important design priorities?
Priorities typically lie somewhere under the headings of centralisation, standardisation and virtualisation. We are constantly working toward solutions that address all of those areas; the core of what our clients need to make decisions with. Product decisions are being driving from strategic business decisions in turn directing the technology workflow and thus solution choices. Our entire technology outlook is based on a response to that – we consistently consult and invite discussion from clients and media companies to help us understand their strategic direction as a company. With that understanding we have been able to cultivate the strongest portfolio of solutions for our clients, which you witnessed unrolling at IBC this year.
What processes do you have in place to help direct your R&D and ensure that it is satisfying current and future customer requirements?
HARMAN is structured in a way that allows us to put the customer at the forefront of our product developments. R&D ostensibly work by the definition of Product Management; it is our Market and Product experts working hand in hand with clients, media companies and our channel teams to identify problems, and then solve them. The brilliance of our R&D teams is they take a conceptual solution and find a way to engineer the final result, as per the direct needs of our customer. That said, all areas of our research, development and manufacturing consistently focus on research per their personal discipline. We have dedicated research teams and staff trainings within HARMAN; we travel the world speaking at and listening to conferences, roundtables, and confidential technology meetings, and of course we partner with some of the world’s strongest media and technology companies such as IBM and Microsoft. It’s not to take away from the excellence of our R&D department, so much as it is to highlight the strength and concentration you find embedded and nurtured within HARMAN.
To what extent do you think that audio over IP will revolutionise sports broadcast production over the next few years?
There’s nothing revolutionary about IP – broadcast and production media is late to the game on an established and sophisticated transport. The adoption of it, though, can theoretically support lower cost, lower weight, high performance productions. ‘Revolutionise’ might be a bit strong; I’d be milder in the celebration and consider IP as an opportunity to modernise an aged – but proven! – workflow. IP is most exciting to me in the sense that it allows you to think outside the box.