Harris Broadcast completed its transformation from part of the massive Harris Corporation to an independent, venture capital-funded entity in July by appointing Charlie Vogt as its new CEO. This is part of his first interview in the new job.
“I come from an industry that just transformed a TDM network to IP,” he said. “It happened very fast, a lot faster than a lot of folks thought. And I do think this whole digital to IP revolution in the broadcast space will come a lot faster than everyone thinks.”
Any revolution is an opportunity for start-up companies to come to the fore, but Vogt argues that the founders of new businesses are distracted by the need to find funding. That, he says, is why “nine and a half start-ups out of ten fail”. He sees his challenge is to take the financially secure Harris Broadcast and give it agility.
“We have an opportunity to take a company with $400 million in sales and nearly 4000 customers and create an entrepreneurial culture,” he argued. “Frankly, we are a company that has been starved inside a very large company. Harris Corporation really wasn’t focused in this space. It doesn’t matter how big or small you are, if you don’t have the focus, it’s just going to go sideways.
“The best thing that happened was that it was acquired by a private equity firm that was focused on investing in the company,” he continued. “They recognised early on that it needed some change, creating a better balance with intellectual property and domain knowledge to create the right kind of recipe going forward.”
What is that recipe going forward? Does it mean a fundamental shift away from the big infrastructure products – transmitters, routers, servers – for which Harris is famous? Vogt was careful to emphasise that traditional broadcast still represents 85 – 90% of the market today, and that will remain central to Harris Broadcast.
“The challenge for companies like ours is to continue to service that 90%, but also make sure we are putting the right level of time, energy and investment in innovation, so we can participate in where the industry is going.
“That is a big mind-shift inside the company,” Vogt said. “It doesn’t mean it is an easy road ahead. We have very capable competitors in this space, big and small. We have got to be better, we have got to be more responsive to our customers, we have got to create the right kind of product and innovation balance for today’s needs and where the industry is going.
“I think a lot of the folks that have traditionally participated in this market may get outflanked and blindsided, because there is a whole other world around how they are going to deliver and manage content,” he concluded. “We have a unique opportunity to have a big play in content management – and it’s mainly software.”