BroadcastPro ME caught up with Charlie Vogt, CEO of Imagine Communications and GatesAir at NAB last month, for an exclusive chat on the launch of the two companies and the roadmap for the future What led you to create two separate companies? We had a limited window after we divested from Harris Corporation to use […]
BroadcastPro ME caught up with Charlie Vogt, CEO of Imagine Communications and GatesAir at NAB last month, for an exclusive chat on the launch of the two companies and the roadmap for the future
What led you to create two separate companies?
We had a limited window after we divested from Harris Corporation to use the Harris name. Timing is everything. We felt that where we were taking our enterprise software, playout automation and networking business was very different from the way we needed to be investing in our over-the-air transmission business. It was a great opportunity, therefore, to create two separate companies and allow them to focus on their individual technology specialties. The timing around NAB was perfect to do this and it signals our aggressive technology campaign in areas such as IT and IP.
One of our challenges was how to lead an industry that needs to navigate through a pathway, where a lot of proprietary hardware-centric networks need to be transformed into off-the-shelf computing platforms that can take advantage of unique applications defined by software and software-defined workflows. Thats really the charter from a technology perspective of where we are taking the company. It was a great opportunity to brand our vision and strategy with the new company name, which we knew we had to do at some point.
Likewise, GatesAir was the perfect name for our over-the-air transmission business. Bringing back a brand that is 90 years old was in itself an advantage for us. The name reiterates the fact that whatever we are doing in that space is over-the-air.
Judging by the response we received at our launch party during NAB, it is clear that people are very interested in the direction our company has taken. We had more than 1400 people at our launch party.
I see that the Harris Broadcast office in Dubai is presently called Imagine Communications? Will you be bringing GatesAir to the region as well?
Absolutely. You have to give us some time. Its only a few weeks old. On March 17, we introduced the two companies. We are selling our transmission products in the Middle East. Its a very important market for us and Alain Pecot, who is heading International Sales for GatesAir, used to run the Middle East operations for Harris Broadcast so he is very fluent in that space. Likewise, we have Mehmet Balos, who is very familiar with the region and used to run the operations for a huge reseller there.
The Middle East is a growing market for us with tremendous opportunities.
We are already very strong in our transmission products space and the industry will see both Imagine Communications and GatesAir as two separate entities focused on their respective product lines.
How will the acquisition of Digital Rapids add value to your company?
We are very excited about this transaction. This whole concept of consumers wanting to watch whatever they want, wherever they want, on whatever device they want, is starved for want of technology and innovation in the compression space.
What I like about the Digital Rapids acquisition is that what they were creating in the compression space is very different from what we were developing. So, our solutions are complementary. They were innovating a lot on file-based and software-based encoding and developed some secret sauce around how workflows can be optimised. This acquisition will result in us announcing two new product lines and a new workflow management platform that will be embedded in our Selenio product line which is our compression-based encoding and transcoding product line.
We have already launched SelenioNext and will be announcing two new products that will be a direct result of the Digital Rapids acquisition.
I hear there are more acquisitions in the pipeline?
We are busy. Digital Rapids is a classic case of a company that has done a great job on the innovation side but they just dont have the scale to benefit from deploying their technology around the world. This is the case with most of our smaller peers, who lack the resources to establish a sales and marketing network. For technology companies, the single biggest expense is sales, marketing and operations. Getting 30 engineers to come up with some great new technology is fairly cost effective but when you want to actually start selling it, it starts getting really expensive. Thats where we come in.
We are a company on a global scale; we are in 185 countries, have more than 200 sales resources and more than 300 resellers so that should be exciting and inviting for a lot of small innovative technology companies who want to be a part of us. We are fortunate that we were able to do something with Digital Rapids. Most of their staff are in Toronto, which is just down the road from our networking group so theres a lot of facilities synergies as well. All in all, it was a great transaction for us.
Where are the gaps in your current workflow that you need to address?
Im not sure we have gaps. Acquisitions are defined by three things technology gaps, customer gaps which could be geographic gaps and people. We could benefit from having a stronger relationship with certain customers which comes as a subset of certain acquisitions. We have laid out a very clear and concise vision for our product roadmap and go-to-market strategy.
Its really less about what technology we need to develop to be part of our product vision versus the time to market it.
In business, its all about timing. Often, you get companies big and small that bring great technologies, which, at times, dont get adopted for four years. What does that mean? It means they dont make it because they didnt time the market. Small companies unfortunately do not have the muscle or the ability to move the market. We are in an advantageous position, where we have the ability to move the market, and we are already doing it.
In a short period of time, we have turned peoples attention to areas that were not in focus. People in the broadcast sphere were not talking about IP or how important it was going to be to the transformation of this industry or how networks ought to be defined by software or how to leverage computing platforms.
Take Digital Rapids for example. There was nothing on their roadmap that wasnt on our roadmap either but they helped us get there two years sooner and frankly, I think the things that they were doing helps us time the market better.
It was really about advancing our roadmap and timing the market better.
What are your plans for the Middle East?
Its one of our fab five markets. We have to do more in the Middle East region.
The Middle East is a challenging region, which to me, presents opportunities. Its very fragmented, very diverse and very opinionated. Unlike North America, for instance, where you have one population for the most part trying to do the same thing, in the Middle East, you have countries with a very strong opinion on what they want to deliberately do different from each other. That makes it very challenging for the equipment suppliers.
We need to have a stronger influence on the region to have everyone better aligned on what the technology direction ought to be for them to benefit from it. The broadcast industry in the region needs to differentiate itself based on content and content availability but it should standardise its technology. This industry has made it way too hard on itself trying to differentiate on the technology platforms. My recommendation is to pick companies that are developing great software and innovative apps and differentiate your business based on the content and how you distribute that content.
The technology needs to take a common direction so that the broadcasters benefit from it.
How does it feel to be the CEO of two different companies?
We are a half-a-billion-dollar company that is divided into two separate companies with two great management teams. My first order of duty was to create two very capable and senior management teams so I can focus on my core strength, which is creating the vision and the strategy and the go-to-market campaigns.
Its exciting and a little more work than managing one company but Steve Jobs did it and so have many other CEOs on much larger scales.