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Head in the Cloud: Investing in an Agile Future (Part 2)

In the second of a two-part blog series, Grass Valley CEO and President Tim Shoulders examines the decisions facing senior broadcast executives as the plan for an increasingly complex future

By Timothy Shoulders II, CEO & President at Grass Valley

We have seen massive growth in demand for remote production borne out of necessity as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the long run, it is also permanently shifting the perception of what can be done remotely by shining a light on a dramatic improvement in resource utilization and other significant benefits around Capital Expenditure (CapEx) reduction.

This shift has led most senior executives in the industry to an underlying strategic question: What is the longer-term operating model that will best drive the business for the next decade and beyond?

From Grass Valley's point of view, we need to think about how industry players build technologies — usually by incremental addition. The CapEx-oriented approach has traditionally focused on assembling hardware and creating physical connections to build systems.

However, the modern broadcast environment is significantly more complex than it was even a few years ago. We've seen a transition to a broader and more diverse array of software, IP, cloud, and multiplatform technologies. A customer I visited recently has over 70 suppliers and nearly 50 software applications used by the business, and the number is still growing.

Finding a sustainable model for the future

Trying to get everything to work and stay connected as software is updated or new tools are added is becoming a perpetual game of whack-a-mole that is exhausting and probably unsustainable. Moving everything to IP may help simplify the connections, but it does not solve the inherent complexity of getting different hardware, software, cloud and service elements to work together reliably — and at scale.

This overriding industry challenge has led Grass Valley to envision a new future. We are investing thousands of hours of engineering time each month to build a platform within which our product teams, customers, partners and even rivals can create entire production workflows. This platform approach is based on an Operational Expenditure (OpEx) model driven by a desire to offer a pay-per-use option to our community.

This approach also brings us to the decision that senior TV executives must face: do they carry on fighting fires with short-term fixes, or start building towards a unified, platform-based approach that utilizes a set of shared, common technology components that act as the glue to bind everything together?

A new Media Universe

To enable the OpEx-driven model, which I believe best suits the future of our business, we launched the GV Media Universe. This virtual broadcast ecosystem embodies our long-term mission and fundamentally aligns with where the TV industry is heading. And we are already seeing this approach working in other technology sectors — think smart devices, where the Android and iOS have created integrated and connected environments.

We understand that the boardroom may not readily accept a sudden swing to OpEx-based cloud technologies, so we want to ensure that all our customers have the option to leverage their existing technology investments for as long as feasible. And when they do move to the cloud, we need to ensure that everything — existing hardware and all — connects and works together smoothly. That's good for our business and ultimately builds on the trust we have established at Grass Valley over 61 years.

The move to an OpEx-centric, cloud-driven model won't happen overnight. Every customer is on their own journey, and some may choose different options for various parts of their unique infrastructure. In fact, you can start small with GV Media Universe. You could choose to invest in a distributed multiviewer solution or various live production toolkits. These don't cost a lot to run and will let you experiment and get your teams comfortable with the technology. Also, everything we are building as a cloud-based, OpEx option inside the GV Media Universe continues to have available alternatives as hardware/CapEx — and we envision these worlds will coexist in the foreseeable future.

We see OpEx taking a leading role over the next 10 years or so, but we know that our customers won't all be ready at the same time. Wherever broadcasters are in this journey, we can support them. We aim to make the GV Media Universe open and comprehensive enough that innovators already in our industry and others on the horizon can integrate with whatever technologies broadcasters have invested in, empowering our customers to execute their own strategic vision.