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Grass Valley Executive Chairman Louis Hernandez on Cloud-Based Future, $31M deal with Broadcast Solutions Group

IBC went virtual this week, and so did Grass Valley’s press conference. And it gave Grass Valley Executive Chairman and Black Dragon CEO Louis Hernandez Jr. and the Grass Valley team a chance to update the public on the company’s direction in light of the departure of President Tim Shoulders and others last month. Hernandez says Black Dragon is in a unique position to build market leaders like Grass Valley for the long term.

Grass Valley and Black Dragon’s Louis Hernandez Jr.: “I believe open [systems] and more flexibility lower costs and allow you to be more agile as a media organization.”

“That’s exactly what we’re trying to do with Grass Valley,” he says. “We own 100% of Grass Valley and have tremendous flexibility and a long-term horizon to invest. One thing we loved about Grass Valley is, it has one of the most comprehensive product suites in the industry and incredible IP. They’re number-one or -two in every category, a great brand, and have some of the most sophisticated clients in the world.”
As for the future, he expects a fairly significant expansion in current products and continued investment in the current product suite.

“You’re going to see us lead with cloud-based solutions and more-flexible business models, such as subscriptions combined with traditional capex models,” he explains. “I think you’re going to see the most open integrated system that we have in the industry. During my time here in this industry, I believe open [systems] and more flexibility lower costs and allow you to be more agile as a media organization.”

One of the challenges facing the industry, he says, is that, although there has been an increase in consumption per capita, the yield per asset is dropping, along with revenue or viewership per asset.

“And that’s at a time when tech budgets, while they’re increasing, are not increasing as fast as the increase in demand for content creation and the new forms of digital distribution,” he says. “This is exactly the kind of challenge that Grass Valley is trying to take on with the native shared cloud Grass Valley Media Universe.”

Being cloud-native is important, Hernandez notes, because it was built from scratch as a digital-technology platform where individuals, groups, and organizations can work together on a shared ecosystem and platform.

“We have connected hardware devices, software-only–solutions alliances, all sharing this global platform in this new digitally connected community that has been created by Grass Valley,” he says. “It’s a really exciting development, and it’s now starting to accelerate and capturing the imagination of the industry. The business reason we’ve created it is, we want to drive down [customer] costs so that they can use the best products in the world and shift more of investment dollars to new revenue streams.”

Grass Valley’s Neil Maycock: “We want to innovate not just with our technology but with our commercial models and how we engage with customers.”

At the center of that universe, says Grass Valley CMO Neil Maycock, is the AMPP Agile Media Processing Platform.

“Think of it like an operating system that is enabling all these new business models and technical capability,” he explains. “We want to innovate not just with our technology but with our commercial models and how we engage with customers. We’ve introduced radical commercial-agreement models. And we’re working to build alliances and partnerships that allow the GV Media Universe to be much broader than what we can offer with our portfolio.”

Key, he says, are enterprise agreements that give both the customer and Grass Valley the certainty and shared savings via multi-year commitments. “They lower the unit economics, which makes the elements that our customers are using from Grass Valley more cost-effective and cheaper to deploy. We can work together in a true partnership to realize better value.”

Playout capabilities are only one aspect of the functionality of Grass Valley’s AMPP Agile Media Processing Platform.

A new enterprise-pricing deal between Grass Valley and leading production-truck manufacturer and systems integrator Broadcast Solutions Group hints at that kind of future relationship between technology provider and client. Under the deal, Broadcast Solutions will commit to an investment of $31 million over five years to deliver on its strategic vision to develop mission-critical premium live-content solutions for global media companies. The deal underlines Grass Valley’s mission to be the digital transformation partner of choice for the world’s leading creators and providers of premium live content. As part of that commitment to be at the cutting edge of cloud-based technologies, Broadcast Solutions Group’s Nordic Team will establish a competence center in Helsinki based on Grass Valley’s AMPP and will build scalable, state-of-the-art Live Production Solutions.

Says Antti Laurila, managing director, Broadcast Solutions Nordic, “Our customers are at the forefront of the best-loved premium live content and rely on partnerships that ensure they have the best workflows available. The enterprise agreement strengthens our partnership with Grass Valley and supports our ambition to be the leader in the media-systems–integration and –services market in the Nordics. Both our companies are trusted brands, and together we are able to help customers as they navigate a transitional period in the media and entertainment sector by bridging legacy and future technologies.”

The companies are also working on the Grass Valley edition of IP mobile units, known collectively as Streamline. These trucks support 12-24 camera setups and will be ready next year. With its Streamline series, Broadcast Solutions Group has transformed the manufacturing of a mobile production unit from a highly complex and planning intensive project to a nearly “off-the-shelf” product.

“Our worldwide customer base will benefit greatly, both technically and economically, from the new Grass Valley IP Streamline OB vans,” says Broadcast Solutions Group CEO Stefan Breder. “Utilizing the expertise and knowledge in live content production, IP-based technologies, and modern workflows from both companies, customers can be sure that they can rely on an OB van that fulfills and exceeds their requirements and needs.”

Maycock notes that also important is that the company now has the whole product portfolio tied into AMPP. “Cameras, switchers, IP infrastructure, all of this comes together as part of a combined solution set for our customers. And what’s really exciting is the new operating models that we can enable with them. We’ve done really innovative workflows, particularly during the pandemic where we had a step change in the demand for remote operations. We were able to combine traditional products with our cloud platform and distributed model and enable these whole new ways of working.”

That extends, he adds, to the Alliance program, on which things get really exciting: “Our Alliance partners add capabilities that we don’t have [and they expand] the ability to innovate and create new operations.”

Grass Valley’s Sydney Lovely: “Our applications build on top of elastic platform services, which can also be built on by partners and customers themselves.”

According to Grass Valley CTO Sydney Lovely, the platform itself starts with a set of agile management tools that let customers design complex workflows, easily deploy them, and spin them up or down as needed.

“They can do that in a public-cloud environment, in a private-cloud environment, or in a hybrid environment, all from a unified user experience,” he says. “That set of tools leverages a whole host of cloud-scale elastic platform services that we’ve built with open APIs. And all our applications build on top of those elastic platform services, which can also be built on by partners and customers themselves.”

One of the important pain points AMPP looks to address is the complexity of building, installing, and connecting services and devices.

“That is a very time-consuming and costly process that just simply doesn’t exist anymore in a native-cloud environment,” Lovely says. “The software’s always on; there’s a full continuous integration, continuous delivery path. We’ve completely eliminated the notion of these big complex software-upgrade and roll-back cycles, and we’ve also eliminated the customization bottlenecks.”

Hernandez adds that “heritage media companies” are trying to manage the challenge of producing the best content possible in an environment where they are looking for new revenue streams but also seeing a falling yield per asset. One of the ways to make that more manageable is to lower overall costs with things like SaaS.

“Gone are the days when you are letting each creative group make their own decisions,” he says. “I think that’s why you’re seeing people move more business to Grass Valley and others with trusted brands who can offer a better, more attractive bundled price for multiple products.” SVG

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