Posts Tagged ‘private cloud for broadcasters’

As Media Companies Increase Cloud and IAAS Deployments, Amazon Reveals Scale of AWS

Analysis | Posted by Joe Zaller
Apr 28 2015

In a change that provides increased visibility into its cloud business, Amazon.com now breaks out the performance of Amazon Web Services (AWS) as a separate segment in its quarterly financial reporting.

This is a significant development for the media technology sector because AWS has become synonymous with discussions of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and public cloud usage by media companies.  The topic has matured in the past few years and is now a central part of future technology strategies at media organizations.

However, Amazon  did not specifically address how much AWS revenue was attributable to the media industry.

Amazon reported that AWS revenue in the first quarter of 2015 was $1.57 billion, up 49% versus the same period a year ago. The reported figures for AWS consist of sales of compute, storage, database, and other AWS service offerings across all customer verticals.

AWS operating income in the first quarter of 2015 was $265m (a 16.9% operating margin), up 8% versus the same period a year ago. Excluding the favorable impact from foreign exchange, AWS segment operating income decreased 13%.

 

Amazon AWS Q1 2015 TTM Revenue and Operating Income - with source

 

In a letter to shareholders, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said AWS is “a $5 billion business and still growing fast — in fact it’s accelerating.”

Management attributed the growth to a rise in customer usage, though partially offset by reduction in pricing to customers.

The impact of pricing decreases is material.  AWS disclosed ‘usage’ growth in the fourth quarter of 2014 of 90% year-over-year. Though not a like-for-like comparison, it is a directional guidance for the gap between usage and revenue caused by pricing decreases.

 

Amazon Q1 2015 AWS Segment Results

 

On the company’s earnings call, Amazon SVP and CFO Tom Szkutak highlighted how the company continues to drive down the cost of AWS, saying “In terms of AWS, we’ve had 48 price decreases since inception. The team is doing a terrific job in terms of working on behalf of customers to pass on savings as they see it. So our model over the long-term really has been to innovate and to use our scale and position to be able to pass savings along to customers.”

For the first quarter of 2015, AWS contributed approximately 7% of the Company’s total revenue.  This was an increase versus the 5% of revenue AWS represented during the first quarter of 2014.  Despite representing only 7% of Amazon’s revenue, AWS contributed almost 38% of the Company’s operating income.  This is because AWS is a meaningfully more profitable business than Amazon’s traditional online retail operations.  AWS operating margins were nearly 17% in Q1 2015, which compares favorably to Amazon’s other businesses that in aggregate had operating margins of 2% during the first quarter.  A focus on operating margins ignores the interest expense attributable to the financing of equipment for AWS, which is not disclosed.

Even though growth was substantial at AWS during 2015, there is some curiosity around how the business scaled.  While revenue increased by 49%, operating income increased only 8% since operating expenses increased 61% over the same period.  The Company attributed the expense offset to investments in technology infrastructure to support business growth.  Some caution is necessary before drawing broader conclusions on how the business will scale since we have only limited data points at this time.

Additional disclosures in Amazon’s filings are illustrative of the level of investment in technology infrastructure.  The Company’s capital expenditures (cash) were $871 million in Q1 2015 and $1.1 billion in Q1 2014. A majority of this investment was attributable to AWS.  Property and equipment acquired under capital leases (non-balance sheet items) were $954 million in Q1 2015 and $716 million during Q1 2014. Again, the investments are primarily due to investments in technology infrastructure for AWS.

Discussing the ongoing investment required for the AWS business, Szkutak told analysts “from our perspective its business that’s still really in day one. A lot of potential innovation in front of us we believe. And so you can see we’re putting a lot of CapEx obviously there and including capital leases and we think over time we will be able to generate significant free cash flow with stronger ROICs.”

Whatever percentage a majority represents the resulting aggregate investment is considerable.  Media companies leveraging AWS are benefiting from a technology infrastructure built by investments made possible from expansive operations in other industries.  To put the scale of Amazon’s infrastructure in context to the media technology sector, consider the Company’s 2014 cash capital expenditures and equipment purchases under capital leases totaled a combined $8.9 billion (AWS is the largest driver of this spend, but does not consume all of this number).  This figure represents approximately one-third of all annual product sales in the media and broadcast technology sector based on the latest results of the IABM DC Global Market Valuation Report (www.iabmdc.com).

In his shareholder letter, Bezos said that even though AWS is highly capital-intensive, it is far less capital-intensive than the model it’s replacing.  Bezos cites utilization rates for internal data centers as almost always below 20%.  By aggregating workloads across customers AWS can then achieve much higher utilization rates and correspondingly improved capital efficiency.

This point was highlighted on the earnings call by Brian Olsavsky, VP and CFO of Amazon’s global consumer business, who said “It’s probably is worth adding that, although prices are factor, the primary factor for customers choosing with AWS is really around their ability to move quickly and to be nimble and agile. And so we’re very pleased with the kind of continued adoption and usage growth we’ve seen and obviously the benefits of AWS around their ability — customer’s ability — to be nimble as a primary factor.

CFO Szkutak added that the 48 price decreases since the launch of AWS is “one factor customers save a lot of money, but the primary motivator is really around the innovation that AWS enables and the ability for developers to move really quickly.”

Speed and agility are increasingly important to media companies, yet the specialized technology products used in media workflows often have low utilization rates – especially those used for certain types of news and sports applications.  In an environment where media companies are focused on greater efficiencies in technology infrastructure, improving these rates are a natural place to start.

The amount of revenue attributable to media and entertainment use cases is left to the imagination.  Amazon has stated publicly AWS has more than a million active customers.  Companies using AWS range across all sizes and business segment.  Media and entertainment examples include Netflix, Major League Baseball, PBS, and News Corp. During his fireside chat keynote at Shifting Media Economics: Impact on Strategy, Finance, and Technology” the annual conference co-produced by Devoncroft and organizers of the NAB Show, Bob Bowman President of MLB Advanced Media had high praise for AWS as a technology supplier.

To Amazon’s credit, the company participates at industry exhibitions including the recent NAB Show and the team is similarly visible at other industry events.  We are evangelists for broader IT vendors engaging with the industry vendor community and customer community.  Such focus has proven episodic from many large IT vendors historically, so it will be interesting to track Amazon’s engagement with interested parties in the sector going forward – a $5 billion business has many distractions.

AWS specifically and cloud vendors more broadly, are benefiting from a secular trend toward cloud usage among media and entertainment sector.  Included below is a slide taken from a Devoncroft presentation at the recent NAB Show; it offers context on the adoption of cloud by media companies. One of the benefits of having seven years of Big Broadcast Survey data is the ability to reflect on year-over-year trend information – even if the data is in the form of broadcaster commentary.  As illustrated in the below, the ‘cloud’ benefited from an embrace by technology purchasers during the 2013 calendar year.

cloud evolution

 

This increasing adoption and deployment of cloud technologies and services is in stark contrast with perspectives provided only a few years earlier.

Of course, any discussion of Cloud naturally transitions to a discussion of security given the recent high-profile security breaches.  We heard this multiple times from at the recent 2015 NAB Show during conversations with major media companies, broadcasters, and service providers.

Security of media assets in the cloud was also an important topic at “Shifting Media Economics: Impact on Strategy, Finance, and Technology” the annual conference co-produced by Devoncroft and organizers of the NAB Show. During a panel session featuring senior technology buyers from major North American media companies, it was observed by participants that businesses such as AWS are likely spending far more time, money, and resources on security than even the largest stand-alone media company could muster.

Whether such logic is extensible will translate into a shift of media infrastructure to public cloud providers such as AWS remains to be seen.

Our research shows that while many in the media industry are using AWS today for a variety of tasks, most high value content is currently being managed via private cloud implementations.

An interesting data point on the subject of private versus public cloud adoption in media was offered by Avid CEO Louis Hernandez, Jr. at the Jefferies Growth Conference earlier this year.  While describing how the company’s licensing models are evolving at different customer types, Hernandez said “Our large enterprise clients are sticking with on premise [implementations]… [they] are moving to a floating license and flexing in a pre-negotiated subscription on a project basis. Who’s buying cloud and subscriptions? Individuals.”

Nevertheless, AWS is a formidable business.  Amazon’s ability to continually invest the huge sums needed to greater compute, network, and storage performance at ever-lower prices can undoubtedly drive increased efficiencies for media companies.  Thus the market potential for AWS in the media space is potentially vast.  In his letter to shareholders, Jeff Bezos summed up as follows, “I believe AWS is one of those dreamy business offerings that can be serving customers and earning financial returns for many years into the future…I believe AWS is market-size unconstrained.”

 

 

Related Content:

Press Release: Amazon.com Announces First Quarter Sales Up 15% to $22.72 Billion

Q1 2015 Amazon.com, Inc. Earnings Conference Call Slides

Amazon Q1 2015 Form 10-Q Filing

Amazon.com Q1 2015 Letter to Shareholders

Industry Thought Leaders to Discuss “Shifting Media Economics: Impact on Strategy, Finance, and Technology” at 2015 NAB Show

 

© Devoncroft Partners 2009 – 2015. All Rights Reserved.

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Commercial Drivers and Obstacles for the Deployment of Cloud-Based Technology in the Broadcast Industry

broadcast industry technology trends, broadcast industry trends, broadcast technology market research, technology trends | Posted by Joe Zaller
Sep 24 2012

This is the eighth in a series of articles about some of the findings from the 2012 Big Broadcast Survey (BBS), a global study of broadcast industry trends, technology purchasing plans, and benchmarking of broadcast technology vendor brands. Nearly 10,000 broadcast professionals in 100+ countries took part in the 2012 BBS, making it the largest and most comprehensive market study ever conducted in the broadcast industry.

 

Cloud computing is one of the hot topics in the broadcast industry in 2012, but our research shows that it’s still early days for deployments of this technology in the broadcast industry.  This article looks at the commercial drivers for implementing cloud technology, what potential buyers view as obstacles to deploying cloud technology, and to whom cloud technology is most important commercially in 2012.

 

About this time last year, we met with a large number of industry executives to discuss what broadcast industry trends to add, if any, to Devoncroft’s annual global study of the broadcast industry, the Big Broadcast Survey (BBS).

During our meetings with more than 50 industry executives, one trend was mentioned virtually every time – “cloud computing / cloud-based services.”  However, when we asked what specific information about cloud technology these people wanted to know, there was a wide divergence of opinion.  Some were interested in how broadcasters plan to use cloud technology, and what parts of the workflow broadcasters might migrate to the cloud first.  Others wanted to know if broadcasters would simply transfer existing workflows to the cloud, or whether cloud technology will enable entirely new workflows.  And finally there were some who confessed that they didn’t actually know what they wanted to know; they just wanted to understand more about cloud technology and its implications for the broadcast industry.  Ultimately, we added questions about cloud technology to the 2012 BBS in an attempt to answer some of these questions.

As seen in Figure 1 the nearly 10,000 respondents to the 2012 BBS who we asked to prioritize the commercial importance to their businesses of a variety of broadcast industry trends, ranked “cloud computing / cloud-based services” #7 out of 16 in our 2012 BBS Broadcast Industry Global Trends Index.

Although cloud technology ranks in the top half of our 2012 Trends Index, it is significantly below other topics such as multi-platform content delivery and other traditional drivers of spending such as the transition to HDTV, and the move to file-based workflows.

Figure 1: The 2012 BBS Broadcast Industry Global Trends Index

 

Commercial Drivers and Obstacles for Cloud Technology in Broadcast

To better understand the commercial drivers behind the answers of these respondents, we asked, we asked those respondents who said that “cloud computing / cloud-based services” was the most important trend to their commercial success in the future why they feel this is the case.  The results are shown in the table below.

 

Figure 2: Commercial Drivers for Deployment of Cloud Technology in Broadcast Industry

 

The top commercial drivers cited by broadcast customers for deploying cloud technology in the broadcast industry highlight the fact “cloud technology / cloud services” are principally viewed today as way to enable new workflows and increase efficiencies.  While potential cost savings — achieved through increased efficiencies, shifting costs to OpEx, and SaaS services —  are arguably the most straightforward rationale for deploying cloud technology, these results imply that customers also see the cloud as a potential driver of revenue, particularly if it enables new workflows, drives collaboration, and increases the overall utilization of content.

While the benefits of deploying cloud technology are relatively clear, it is also useful to understand the obstacles that customers feel may prevent them from deploying this technology today.  These are shown below in Figure 3, which since we are discussing cloud, is displayed in the form of a word cloud. Keep in mind that the people describing these obstacles to deploying cloud technology / service, are in fact a representative sample of the biggest proponents of cloud technology in the broadcast industry.

Figure 3: Obstacles to Deploying Cloud Technology in Broadcast Industry

 

Even those who regard cloud technology as the most important commercial driver for their business over the next several years note a wide range of obstacles preventing them from deploying it today.  The most commonly cited factors are budget/cost, availability of bandwidth, content security, and the perception that cloud technology is too immature for broadcast applications.  Other factors cited as obstacles include lack of skilled personnel, rights issues, internal bureaucracy, and disruption to existing workflows.

Despite these obstacles, customers are seriously investigating this technology, and technology vendors are investing in the development of a wide variety of cloud technologies and services.

 

Relative Importance of Cloud Technology

Given the hype surrounding cloud technology, and the level of investment from vendors, it is perhaps not surprising to find that technology suppliers — represented in the chart below by systems integrators and vendors — see cloud technology as more important to their commercial success than do their customers.

 

Figure 4: Technology buyers versus sellers: Relative importance of cloud technology

 

 

Indeed, it turns out that those respondents who are most interested in, and have the most to gain commercially in 2012 from “cloud technology / cloud services” are the parties whose business is developing and selling cloud technology.

 

Figure 5: Commercial Importance of Cloud Technology by Respondent Type

 

This does not mean that the concept of cloud in broadcast is not important.  Our research confirms that there is considerable interest in deploying cloud technology and cloud services in the broadcast industry.

However, it appears that significant issues, including immature technology, cost, security, bandwidth, and viable business models, must be overcome before cloud technology can deliver commercial success that lives up to the hype it has generated over the past year.

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A previous version of this article appeared in the 2012 IBC Daily News.

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The information in this article is based on select  findings from the 2012 Big Broadcast Survey (BBS), a global study of broadcast industry trends, technology purchasing plans, and benchmarking of broadcast technology vendor brands. Nearly 10,000 broadcast professionals in 100+ countries took part in the 2012 BBS, making it the largest and most comprehensive market study ever conducted in the broadcast industry. The BBS is published annually by Devoncroft Partners.

Granular analysis of these results is available as part of various paid-for reports based on the 2012 BBS data set. For more information about this report, please contact Devoncroft Partners.

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Related Content:

The 2012 Big Broadcast Survey – Information and available reports

The 2012 BBS Broadcast Industry Global Trend Index

Tracking the Evolution of Broadcast Industry Trends 2009 – 2012

Analyzing Where is Money Being Spent in the Broadcast Industry – The 2012 BBS Broadcast Industry Global Project Index

Ranking Broadcast Technology Vendors Part 1 – The 2012 BBS Overall Brand Opinion League Table

Ranking Broadcast Technology Vendors Part 2 – The 2012 BBS Net Change of Overall Brand Opinion League Table

Ranking Broadcast Technology Vendors Part 3 — 2012 BBS Global Brand Opinion Leaders League Table. 

Ranking Broadcast Technology Vendors Part 4 — the 2012 BBS Broadcast Technology Vendor Innovation League Table

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© Devoncroft Partners 2009 – 2012. All Rights Reserved.  No part of this article, including but not limited to charts, images, data presentation, and numerical findings may be reproduced without written permission from Devoncroft Partners.

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Impressions of IBC 2012: M&A, Cloud, Multi-Platform, 4K, Efficient Operations, CiaB, and the “Return of Grass Valley”

broadcast industry technology trends, broadcast industry trends, broadcast technology market research, content delivery, market research, technology trends | Posted by Joe Zaller
Sep 20 2012

A previous version of this article appeared in the “Tech Thursday” Spotlight Section of TVNewsCheck

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Against the backdrop of the ongoing European debt crisis and the afterglow of the 2012 Olympics, nearly 51,000 visitors made their way to Amsterdam for the annual IBC trade show. Major themes of the five-day broadcast technology jamboree included vendor consolidation, buzz about new technologies for multi-screen content delivery and social TV, futuristic technology demonstrations, and several important new product introductions.

The broadcast vendor community got a little less fragmented on the first morning of IBC, with a merger announcement by two Norway-based video transport technology providers — Nevion and T-VIPS

Although no additional deals were unveiled at the show, vendor consolidation was one of the most discussed themes at IBC, and according to statements made by some of the leading vendors, there is potentially a lot more consolidation on the way.   

Newly acquired Miranda technologies made its debut as a “Belden brand” at IBC, and Belden EVP Denis Suggs was on hand at the show to meet customers and explain his company’s vision for the broadcast industry, and why they decided to buy Miranda in one of the largest broadcast technology M&A deals in recent years. 

In a nutshell, Belden saw the opportunity to acquire a cash-generating company with a top-class management team that’s growing faster than the overall market and jumped at it. Including Miranda, Belden now generates approximately $450 million a year in broadcast-related revenue, making it one of the industry’s largest players, and it appears they are not done doing deals in this space. 

Suggs said Belden views Miranda as a platform from which is can further expand its broadcast industry operations, and that it intends to support Miranda’s existing plan for further acquisitions.

Grass Valley CEO Alain Andreoli echoed a similar sentiment at his company’s press conference. He said that Francisco Partners, the private equity firm that owns Grass Valley, has a $3 billion fund behind it and will support Grass Valley’s efforts to become an industry consolidators.

When the dust settles, he said, Grass Valley may not be the largest player, but it will certainly be in the top three. Last year, Grass Valley bought PubliTronic, a provider of channel-in-a-box (CiaB) technology, to gain a larger foothold in the playout market. Expect to see Grass Valley and other players making additional strategic moves that help them enter attractive new market spaces.

But most IBC M&A talk centered on Harris Broadcast, which is currently being divested by its parent company. Although rumors were flying at the show about who might buy the division, its executives were tight-lipped. Harris Broadcast President Harris Morris would only say that the deal is progressing according to plan, and is on track to be completed as soon as the end of 2012.

New products and services based on cloud technology, multi-platform content delivery and social TV services dominated many demonstration and hallway conversations at IBC, particularly in the “Connected World” pavilion, where dozens of new and established firms displayed a host of products aimed at securing a place in this emerging ecosystem.

Despite the enthusiasm of vendors, many buyers publicly and privately expressed caution about the technology.

Critics of cloud technology cited immature technology, bandwidth limitations, security, and an unproven business case as barriers to its adoption. Likewise, broadcasters and content owners expressed concern over the “disconnect” between the desire of end-users to receive and consume video content on an ever-increasing number personal devices, and the ability of broadcasters to create sustainable and profitable multi-platform business models.

Cloud-based discussions at IBC ranged from real-world case studies of how EVS helped broadcasters set up private clouds to facilitate remote production of the Euro 2012 soccer championships and London Olympics, to practical solutions from Signiant and Aspera for managing the delivery of file-based content over IP-enabled and cloud-based infrastructure, to new solutions for cloud-based video production.

Cloud-based production is an emerging trend, but initiatives such as the ‘Adobe Anywhere’ initiative will prove to be a catalyst in this area. Taking cloud-based production to the “next level” are new firms like VC-backed start-up A-Frame, which is building from the ground-up a complete cloud-based video production environment that marries the experience of broadcast and post-production experts with forward-thinking IT-based software experts. 

On the multi-screen front, Ericsson introduced its first encoder based on HEVC/H.265 compression technology. The company says that its HEVC implementation offers the potential for users to reduce bandwidth by up to 50%, thereby enabling more efficient delivery of content over multiple platforms, including mobile networks.

Harmonic unveiled a new version of its ProMedia transcoder, aimed at enabling its customers to deliver an integrated multi-screen experience to their subscribers. Harmonic also introduced new members of its senior management team: CMO Peter Alexander, and CTO Krish Padmanabhan, who recently joined the company from Cisco and NetApp, respectively.

Noticeable by their absence on the Harmonic booth at IBC were the familiar Omneon and Rhozet brand names, which have now been absorbed into Harmonic. “Harmonic is a branded house, not a house of brands, and our singular focus is delivering excellent video quality to consumers everywhere,” said Alexander.

The Sony/SES Astra demonstration of live delivery of 4K images over satellite drew a lot of attention.

For many years, 4K images have been trade show “eye candy” for visitors, but at IBC 2012 Sony and SES showed that technology exists today to transmit high quality 4K images over satellite at a manageable 50mbit/s using h.264 compression technology.  The stunning live video images were delivered via an SES satellite to an 84-inch Sony Bravia 4K display.

The demo prompted speculation that 4K will be the “next HD” in terms of consumer adoption and broadcast infrastructure upgrades. Other observers took a more practical approach, saying that the industry might see 4K being used as a high-end production format in near to mid term, but that it will be a long time before broadcasters who have already spent millions on the transition to HDTV decide to upgrade again to 4K.

Indeed, when it comes to broadcast infrastructure upgrades it is operational efficiency, not higher resolution, which appears to be the primary demand of broadcasters. Thus, many vendors at IBC were promoting solutions designed to help broadcasters transition their operations to file-based and IT-oriented workflows. 

One of the ongoing initiatives in this area has been the development by a large number of vendors of integrated IT-based playout technologies, more commonly known as channel-in-a-box (CiaB).  These systems offer the promise of increased operational efficiency and significant cost savings through the integration of previously disparate playout and master control functionality into a single IT-based platform. Over the past several years, major vendors including Grass Valley, Miranda, Snell, Harmonic, and Evertz have offered products.

At IBC 2012, Harris became the latest entrant into the market with the launch of Versio, a CiaB system based on several of the company’s existing technology platforms including the Nexio server family, ADC automation, and Inscriber graphics. 

When describing the new Versio product at the company IBC press conference, Harris Morris said the No. 1 requirement for automated IT-based playout systems is reliability, and that this is an area where Harris Broadcast excels. Morris also emphasized that CiaB platforms rely heavily on automation technology, where Harris Broadcast is an established leader, making the company a natural choice for broadcasters considering integrated IT-based playout.

Although Harris Broadcast touted the fact that their Versio platform is based on the company’s existing technology platforms, it stopped well short of saying that the new system is a direct replacement for its current products, particularly its popular Nexio server family.

Instead the company described Versio as a robust cost-effective way for broadcasters to quickly add new services and digital subchannels channels, and to provide backup in emergencies.

“Channel-in-a-box should be about opening up new possibilities rather than limiting how a broadcaster can operate across multiple on-air scenarios,” said Andrew Warman, senior product manager at Harris Broadcast. “It’s limiting to look at channel-in-a-box as a system replacement for servers, automation, and other play-to-air systems. Broadcasters need freedom to build appropriate workflows for their operations, including external components.”

However, other vendors clearly see the CiaB market differently, and have taken a very different approach than Harris Broadcast, especially those firms that do not have an existing playout server business to protect. 

Snell Chief Architect Neil Maycock said that his company’s ICE platform is not only “ready for prime-time,” it is on the air today delivering high value content for major broadcasters.  Maycock also said that ICE has a unique architecture that enables it to scale from a single channel implementation, through a multi-location centralcasting model, to a large multi-channel playout environment.

PlayBox CEO Vassil Lefterov said he has built his entire business on disrupting the traditional server-based playout market. “We believe our singular focus on this application is a key advantage,” he said.  “Playbox has thousands of live channels on the air today and is working to re-define playout operations for many of our customers.”

Grass Valley, which like Harris has a significant video server business, took a more pragmatic approach.  SVP and CMO Graham Sharp said that “it’s likely CiaB and other IT-based playout systems may ultimately impact everyone’s server business, so we’ve taken the decision to cannibalize our own products where necessary by embracing IT technology, because if we don’t do it to ourselves someone else will.” 

Grass Valley was among the vendors with significant new products. Introductions included a new LDX camera platform that scales from a basic model to a high-end super-slow motion system; a new video server family, and brand new electronics for the Kayenne and Karrera production switchers.  Grass Valley said all its new products feature native 1080p processing, and provide straightforward upgrades via software.

Grass Valley also made bold claims about its future product plans, stating that by 2014 it will have replaced its entire portfolio with all new 1080p, IT-focused products. 

GV’s Sharp also hinted at a major NAB 2013 announcement from Grass Valley: “Next year we will introduce a completely new integrated IP-based platform that is totally format agnostic.” he said.  “We believe this new platform will enable a new way of working that we call non-linear production….”

All Grass Valley products, including those launched at IBC 2012, will be compatible with the new architecture, he said.

Sharp concluded GV press conference by saying: “If there is one take-away from this presentation about Grass Valley, it’s this: We’re back.”

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© Devoncroft Partners. All Rights Reserved.

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