PubliTronic, a privately-held, Netherlands-based provider of multichannel, integrated, automated playout systems has been bought by Grass Valley, whose new K2 Edge playout system is based on PubliTronic technology, writes David Fox.
Integrated playout is one of the fastest growing segments in broadcasting and Grass Valley, together with its investors at Francisco Partners, targeted this area as part of its expansion strategy.
“When we decided to expand our playout offerings to include an integrated approach, we had a choice: do it on our own or invest through an acquisition,” said Alain Andreoli, Grass Valley's President and CEO (pictured).
“As we learned more about PubliTronic’s technology and people, it became very clear that a combination of our talents and resources could allow us to offer innovative and compelling products to our customers quickly. This second acquisition this year after Evolution, exemplifies our strategy of entering fast growing, new segments to take full advantage of all opportunities, as it presented a key growth opportunity for the K2 server family and Grass Valley. What this acquisition brings to customers is much more than a simple 'channel-in-a-box' solution. Our next-generation K2 Edge server is a sophisticated and very powerful multichannel, integrated, automated playout system that delivers benefits to our customers from day one.”
While admitting that there are benefits for some facilities invested in traditional playout automation to continue with that approach, Grass Valley argues that it is too expensive and unnecessarily complex for many new players. A fully integrated system not only offers a lower initial capital cost, but total cost of ownership is reduced by streamlining the playout workflow as each tool (server, graphics, master control, and the automation system) is integrated and built to work together.
PubliTronic began operations in 1997 by developing some of the earliest integrated playout systems, primarily for the European market, and saw its revenues double in each of the last several years. Its systems now range from small disaster recovery solutions to addressing the needs of large multichannel service providers. It has an installed base of more than 800 on-air channels, with customers such as Red Bee Media, Encompass, Nickelodeon, the BBC, and Turner. It sees its main competitors as Miranda’s iTX and Snell’s Morpheus ICE for larger facilities, and PlayBox for smaller installations. All of its 32 employees have joined Grass Valley.
“This acquisition by Grass Valley is great for PubliTronic's customers as the entire team in Apeldoorn can now enjoy the resources of a true multi-national company, complete with deep knowledge in video and server technologies,” said Harold Vermeulen, VP Media Playout Solutions, Grass Valley and Founder and former Managing Director of PubliTronic.
“PubliTronic is a great complement to the Grass Valley team,” added Charlie Dunn, Executive VP, Products and General Manager, Editing, Servers & Storage Product Group for Grass Valley. “They have well engineered products and the same values and focus on the importance of leveraging IT technologies in broadcast as we do. This will not only help to quickly extend the K2 media server product family, but will help to deliver more complete solutions to our customers more quickly.”
Before making the acquisition, Grass Valley evaluated several companies as possible takeover targets, but concluded that PubliTronic offered the most modern technology, up to date software tools, a great suite of products and core technology that it can use in other products. The fit on the sales and marketing side was also good.
The new K2 Edge will be the centrepiece of Grass Valley's integrated playout systems. The 1RU device is a Linux-based system with a purpose-built, high availability architecture for 24/7 playout applications.
It will be available in three versions: K2 Edge Express, for entry level channels with minimal graphics needs; K2 Edge Pro, for main-line channels with more sophisticated graphics such as picture-in-picture; and K2 Edge Elite, offering switching for up to four HD sources and multichannel 2D and 3D graphics complete with DVE moves including credit squeeze. Customers can migrate via a software license to any level of capability.
Each K2 Edge system includes two features developed by PubliTronic: the K2 TX/MAM asset management system, with a central database, and Cobalt playout automation software (pictured). The MAM server uses a web-based GUI to control all assets including video clips, audio clips, captioning, metadata, and graphic elements. Cobalt manages all on-air events, and for increased reliability, runs independently of the database.
To help create the on-air look of a channel, Grass Valley Channel Composer (formerly PubliTronic Channel Director) is optional software that manages the import and animation of 2D and 3D graphics, creates animations, and links graphics templates to data sources for real-time on-air presentation. It is a fully-integrated channel graphics composition and management tool, running on Windows or Mac, and is integrated with the K2 TX/MAM server where templated graphics and a data stream can be defined and then referenced together as live elements in the on-air playlist.
“The K2 Edge server gives Grass Valley an immediate market leading position in the integrated playout segment,” said Vermeulen. “With its purpose-built and mission critical architecture, service providers and broadcasters of all sizes will immediately be able to benefit from the cost savings and operations benefits of the K2 Edge multichannel, integrated, automated playout solution.”
“The integrated playout market is not just about adding a PC to an existing automation system for clip playout,” added Dunn. “To address our customer’s needs, we wanted to take a more integrated approach, especially in the area of on-air channel design with the management of all on-screen elements. That’s what we liked about PubliTronic—their system was integrated and built from the ground up, not some 'lite' version cut out of a high-end playout system. With K2 Edge, our customers will see immediate benefits, both on-air and on the bottom line.”
K2 Edge will start from $25,000, with delivery expected to begin in November.