Satellite and facilities group Arqiva has invested over £5 million in its OB unit Scanners, writes Adrian Pennington, with the bulk of the investment aimed at building two HD trucks to service renewed contracts for Sky Sports.
The contracts, which start in August and are an extension of existing ones, include 100 Carling Cup football and Coca-Cola League matches per year and all of Sky's Speedway coverage.
Both trucks have been kitted to Sky's specifications and include Sony MVS 8000 vision mixers, a total of 24 Sony HDC 1500 cameras, five EVS XT servers and Calrec Alpha digital audio consoles. A Sony 3x Super SloMo camera has also been ordered for delivery in the autumn. Both trucks feature double expanding sides with integrated onboard VT facilities for 11 operators. Coachwork is by Spectra with delivery in June.
Scanners' existing OB1 truck, which currently covers Sky contracts in SD, will also be upgraded, enabling the firm to run three identical HD vehicles on the road up to the 2012 Olympics.
The investment reflects Arqiva's long-term strategy for growth in the sector which includes rebranding Scanners as Arqiva OB, and acquiring broadcast and corporate OB outfit Shots Television for an undisclosed sum.
Aside from Shots' proximity to Arqiva's Gerrard's Cross base, Arqiva OB MD Mick Bass says the acquisition provides access to the entertainment and corporate markets "which we have not been strong in so far" and brings two SD 16x9 trucks to the fleet.
Shots TV MD, Chris Butler, and former ITV Sport's technical operations manager, Simon Bowler, join Bass with a remit to generate new business.
"The rationale is whether we invest now at a premium for equipment in order to gain market share of HD business or do we wait 18 months until the kit is cheaper but potentially lose ground," says Bass. "We've got 100 guaranteed days work a year which is a comfortable position to be in and we've also got the capacity to take on work around the Sky business.
"We want to be working on the big contracts and be a serious player and that means putting money where your mouth is," he adds. "You have to invest heavily in HD otherwise you operate on another level. We were out in the wilderness at NTL, whereas Arqiva has really stood behind us, not only with the investment, but in adding to the backbone of the company with staff, rebranding and access to its sales force."