TECH SPOTLIGHT

New Grass Mantra: ‘Buy, Build Or Partner’

To implement its "complete solutions" approach, the newly reorganized Grass Valley is now looking to partner with other vendors with complementary technology or possibly buy them, says the company’s new CMO Graham Sharp. "You may see some acquisitions over the coming six months," he says.

Grass Valley is committed to providing “complete solutions” to broadcasters, sports programmers and other TV producers, says Graham Sharp, officially named chief marketing officer of the venerable broadcast brand on Monday.

And the 53-year-old brand is prepared to do whatever it takes to assemble the pieces to those solutions, he says. “It’s the old buy, build or partner question.”

Grass Valley makes a broad line of products — cameras, switchers, routers, servers, editors. It will continue expand the line through its research and development activity, but it doesn’t make sense do everything, Sharp says.

“There are a lot of best-in-class graphics vendors. Why would we make a graphics tool? Isn’t it much better to actually integrate with the best-in-class guys that are already out there?”

So, Grass Valley is looking to partner with other vendors with complementary technology or possibly buy them, he says. “You may see some acquisitions over the coming six months….We have some very interested investors who are making available to us funds to acquire businesses.”

Asked whether Grass Valley is interested in all or part of the Harris Broadcast Communications Division, which has been on the block since May, Sharp hinted that it is.

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“I couldn’t possibly comment on that,” he says. “I couldn’t possibly say that I have been to Denver or that I am going to Denver again next week.”

Denver is the headquarters of the division.

(Editor’s note: After this story was posted and distributed on our Tech Thursday e-newsletter today, a Grass Valley representative sent us a statement from Sharp saying he was only joking about his suggestion that he had visited Harris. “I have been to Denver – not to meet with Harris, but we are always looking,” the statement says.)

The “very interested investors” in Grass Valley that will be saying yes or no to any deal are the backers of Francisco Partners, the private equity firm that purchased Grass Valley from Technicolor in 2011 in a deal that valued the company at $100 million.

Sharp brings plenty of experience to his job. Most significant, he ran Avid’s video division from 2006 to 2008 as EVP and general manager. Prior to that, he worked in management positions at Post Impressions, Discreet Logic and Dynatech Corp.

Sharp’s appointment as Grass Valley’s CMO was part of a major reorganization of Grass Valley’s sales and marketing. The companies created three regional sales presidents.

For North American, it hired Mike Oldham, the CEO of Omnibus Systems before it was acquired by Miranda Technologies in 2010.

Alan Wright and Andrew Sedek were promoted from within to cover the other regions. Wright will oversee Europe, the Middle East and Africa, while Sedek handles Asia Pacific.

Odd man out is Jeff Rosica, EVP and chief sales and marketing officer. With the company since 2001, he essentially ran it from early 2009 when Technicolor announced that it was spinning it off until early 2011 when Francisco Partners hired Alain Adreoli as CEO.

In a statement, Rosica said he will be sticking around until November to help the transition to the new structure.

“One of the things we wanted to do was to bring the voice of sales a lot closer to the executive team,” Sharp says. “Before, it all kind of rolled up through one person [Rosica] and what we were starting to see was that there was quite a lot of difference between some of the requirements in Asia and Europe versus the Americas. So we wanted to bring the voice of the other regions to the executive table. I think that was the main sort of driver.”

Sharp says that he and his marketing team will work closely with the regional presidents “to make sure we’re fulfilling the requirements of the customers in each of those regions….[W]ithout being too negative, we have had quite a U.S.-centric view of what was happening. If you look at the figures, our revenue is split roughly in thirds across Asia, Europe and the U.S.”

The new setup “gives us a much more balanced perspective.”

Cutting across each region are three market segments: Sports and other live production, news and distribution. Everybody at Grass Valley in products, sales and marketing should be asking the same questions, he says. “How do we best provide a complete solution for the live event market? How do we best provide a complete solution for the news? How do we best provide a complete solution for distribution.”

In surveying the TV production market, Sharp sees opportunity in the proliferation of smartphone and other digital media.

Most broadcasters, sports programmers and other TV producers today understand that producing for a conventional linear channel is only the first step, he says. To maximize revenue, they also want to repurpose their content quickly and efficiently for the digital media.

Multiplatform productions call for a solutions-based approach because it involves the entire workflow of program producer, he says.

Grass Valley was a pioneer in multiplatform production technology in TV news. For users of its Ignite news production automation system, it offered Media Fuse, which segmented live newscasts and produced clips for other media.

“What we are trying to do is take some of the principles that we developed for that and spread it across the whole process, bring some of the segmentation into the process earlier.”

Sharp declined to give a sneak peak of what Grass Valley will be showing at IBC, the international broadcast trade show that gets underway in Amsterdam on Sept. 7.

But he allowed that customers there will get a first glimpse of the new solutions marketing approach. “We operated until 18 months ago very much in different product silos. What we have done over the last year is bring those product silos together.”

At IBC, you will also see a lot of the products starting to work better together in integrated solutions, and then when you get to next year’s NAB Show, you will see more of the same, he says.

“There will be more new products coming and more integration where someone can go, ‘Wow, I can really see now how I can integrate these functions and bring efficiencies to my workflows and deliver to this multiplatform world that I have been thrown into.’ “

Asked if he had any special message for the TV station community, Sharp said he did.

“What I would like to say to those guys is, ‘Look, trust the company you have trusted for the last 50 years. We’re working on multiplatform. We’re working on efficiencies. Let us, Grass Valley, be the guys that help lead you into the Internet era.’ “


Comments (1)

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ken frierson says:

August 24, 2012 at 12:13 pm

Congrats to Grass Valley for they have a long history of outstanding products.


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