In an illuminating interview, Grass Valley's Chief Revenue Officer, Tim Banks, offers exclusive insights as he answers questions from film-tv-video.de. This dialogue provides a unique peek into the evolving landscape of media technology and its impact on the industry.
Link to the original interview: https://www.film-tv-video.de/business/2023/08/10/interview-mit-tim-banks-von-grass-valley/
Hello Mr. Banks, we can reach you in Germany. Would you like to tell us why you are currently here?
Tim Banks: There are two main reasons for this visit. One of them is to visit WDR, one of our most important customers here in Germany.
We have also had close technological cooperation with WDR for years. We both consider ourselves pioneers in our respective fields - and it is therefore important for me, as a representative of Grass Valley's management team, to learn first-hand how the market is changing here in Germany, how requirements are developing.
Grass Valley wants to be the best possible partner to our customers as we try to work together to find the best path through the next technological change.
I also took the opportunity to participate at Logic Media’s “Hallo Hybrid!” event - and was able to show our vision and some plans there. We also want to explain how we at Grass Valley are shaping our current business transformation.
Does the name of the event "Hallo Hybrid!" also indicate the best path broadcasters and manufacturers should take?
Tim Banks: From our perspective, the industry is in a period of unprecedented change, or more accurately, in an early phase of transition and transformation - on many different levels. Technology is changing, business models are changing, audience behavior and demographics are changing. And, of course, the broader macroeconomic, social and political environment is also currently undergoing changes that are impacting our customers' businesses.
We've identified a number of themes that are the same across the Americas, EMEA and APAC - and we're seeing a huge increase in the content that's being created. If we look at the last 5 to 10 years, the amount of high-quality content being produced has also quadrupled. In fact, the number of different platforms that our clients have to prepare that content for has increased tenfold.
But our customers tell us that their technology budgets have not grown. This presents our customers with a major challenge, because at the same time, in many cases, traditional business models no longer work. Today, it is simply no longer enough to bundle viewership of major TV shows or live events on linear channels.
More content needs to be produced and, in parallel, the average value of the content produced is falling. So our customers are forced to find ways to produce more high-quality content at radically lower costs.
We believe we have a good answer to this, helping and enabling our customers to meet this challenge. Our vision is that we can provide the platform and tools that enable our customers to combine and streamline both their broadcast operations and the other media applications they need to serve on a single common platform. For this reason, we have evolved, changed and repositioned. Grass Valley's agile media processing platform, AMPP, is a native, microservices-based software platform built from the ground up that provides an open ecosystem not only for Grass Valley's applications and for all of its products and solutions, but also an open ecosystem for the benefit of our alliance partners, with whom we work very closely.
How are your customers dealing with this new situation?
Tim Banks:Let me give you an example: Sky in the UK has turned around its coverage of Formula 1. This included, among many other measures, a concept of onboard cameras for each driver.
So now there's an interactive red-button service: viewers can choose which driver they want to follow at which race. And these feeds are activated via Sky's app platform.
Today, because of the architecture of the software platform, such digital add-on services can be up within 30 minutes before the race starts and down again 30 minutes after the race ends. So you don't have to hold and pay for such a service permanently today. You couldn't get that kind of elasticity and flexibility in a hardware-only environment. This is really a great use case for the high capacity that a software-based platform approach can provide.
Another great example of this is Discovery. At Eurosport, Discovery uses hybrid solutions for both asset management and playout. During the Olympics, for example, Discovery ramped up and then shut down more than 200 digital channels over a period of not much more than four weeks. No one could afford the time and money to do that with a hardware-only environment; it can only be done with cloud functionality.
At the same time, hardware still plays a big role in Grass Valley's business.
Tim Banks: It's still the lion's share of our business, but the software revenues that come from AMPP are growing rapidly.
But monetarily, they're dwarfed by the performance of the hardware portfolio. That's still the core of our business, the core of our revenue is cameras, switches, network infrastructure, multi-viewers, controls and monitoring.
We are clearly in a transition overall: it would be difficult if we only had the hardware business. It would be difficult if we only had the software business. And we think we are uniquely well positioned because we have the strengths and advantages of both. We believe we can be a stronger and better partner to our customers as they make the transition to more software-enabled workflows on their own timelines and with their own project and financial constraints in mind.
How many people are involved in AMPP's software development and how many in the rest of the hardware business?
Tim Banks: The number of R&D engineers is pretty balanced. So there's a good balance here between hardware and software. But I would say that we are adding more people in the software applications. For example, we hired about 200 R&D engineers in 2022, and we plan to hire another 200 R&D engineers in 2023, most of whom will go into software application development to take advantage of the power and benefits of the platform.
But we will also continue to make significant internal R&D investments in the hardware portfolio.
Perhaps one last question. There have been some supply chain issues in recent years, not only but also at Grass Valley. Where are we in that regard right now?
Tim Banks: We've thought hard about this internally and realized that one of Grass Valley's greatest strengths is the sheer breadth of the hardware portfolio that we have. At the same time, one of the biggest challenges around supply chain disruption is the sheer breadth of the hardware portfolio that we have. It's a dilemma. So the supply chain issues have been particularly challenging for Grass Valley. Demand and interest in all of our technology and solutions in 2022 and the first half of 2023 continued to be extremely strong. So our bookings and orders were on target or even exceeded our targets during the period when we had the most challenges. But we really made a significant improvement in the first six or seven months of 2023. I'm not at all saying that we're back to normal and back to pre-Covid lead times, but we're going to continue to see steady improvement - and significant improvement in predictability. So if we give a lead time, even if it's a little longer than we would like, we can consistently meet that time frame. This has taken considerable effort.
In many cases, for example, we've had to reallocate our research and development efforts in recent years to redesign existing products to improve availability. Of course, this was not the most efficient use of R&D efforts. But we always want to be the best partner for our customers - and move our partners forward.
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