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Steering the good ship Grass Valley

TVBEurope talks to Grass Valley’s Neil Maycock about the company’s short - and long term - strategy

2018 has seen a raft of mergers and acquisitions within the media and entertainment industry. From the on-going saga around Sky/Disney/Comcast to Caledonia Investments’ acquisition of Cooke Optics, future-proofing and consolidation seem to be the buzz words on everyone’s lips. One of the biggest announcements was in February when Grass Valley confirmed its acquisition of Snell Advanced Media.

Eight months on Neil Maycock, VP global marketing at Grass Valley, tells TVBEurope the company is ready to consolidate the message it first discussed at NAB. “Fundamentally, at NAB our priority was to reassure our customer base that there was going to be good continuity with the product lines and that we weren’t going to ‘end of life’ anything and disrupt our customers’ businesses,” he explains.

“That message was well received. Post-NAB obviously everyone wants to know the next level of detail and they want to know the ‘so what?’

Maycock says there’s been a lot of work in terms of integrating the product lines, as well as engaging with a lot of customers to give them the detail of Grass Valley’s plans and how they will benefit their business. “What’s interesting I think is that on the face of it, there was massive overlap between Grass Valley and SAM,” he says. “We both had switcher lines, we both had router lines. Actually when we got into the detail of all those products, and looked at it from a portfolio perspective, we now have a richer portfolio.”

“Practically, that means in our IP portfolio, SAM had been investing very heavily on the higher bandwidth connectivity, Grass Valley had invested in some of the lower bandwidth connectivity, and focused their R&D efforts on software defined networks. So when you put those together, we actually have very complimentary product lines. We both had an IP portfolio, but combining them gave us a richer portfolio so we could target more projects.”

Maycock says a lot of time has been spent on looking at strategy in the business going forward. While analysts might say the traditional broadcast market is flat, or even in decline, Maycock believes Grass Valley’s customers are shifting their investment into supporting new media platforms. That means the company is looking at how to address a price sensitive market where they can cement their market-leading position. “The other question is how do we evolve our product offering to move into this wider media space from traditional broadcast television?” he continues. “You’ll see a lot of initiatives coming out of the business in that area.

“The industry is in a classic glass half full/glass half empty situation. You can take a defensive position regarding all the disruption within the industry, which frankly I think is completely wrong because ultimately there’s some very big guys out there that will eat your lunch! Or you can say well ‘hey look there’s more media being consumed than ever before, what are the opportunities for us and our customers’? How do enable our customers to embrace that wider opportunity?”

As well as considering its strategy for the next 12/24 months, the team at Grass Valley have also been discussing the long term plan of action. “Trying to anticipate what that world will look like is very interesting and exciting,” says Maycock.

“I think what we’re really interested in is in trying to envisage the end game. With strategy, it’s like steering a big ship, you turn the rudder and it takes a bit of time for the ship to turn round. But understanding what Grass Valley needs to look like as a business in five years time and understanding market trends is really important. Yes, there’s the broadcast market, but then we’re looking at the segments within broadcast: what’s happening with subscribers around the world? What’s happening with advertising revenues? What’s happening with live content versus thematic pre-recorded content? We are looking at all of those dynamics in terms of how do we model our business for the future?”

In the short term, Grass Valley is of course in Amsterdam for IBC where Maycock says the company will be consolidating the message it first gave to the industry at NAB. “It’s really about sustaining that confidence within our customer base and giving them that certainty about what our product lines are now, what they’re going to be for the next 12 to 24 months, and the substance behind that.

“Layered on top of that, the icing on the cake, is there are lots of unexpected benefits we’ve found now that the business has come together that we might not have fully quantified at NAB,” says Maycock. “There are some nice pluses we’re finding across the product portfolio where we’re finding if we have this and this, we can do that! And there’ll be some of those little gems coming out at IBC as well!”