Grass Valley’s Hillsboro, Oregon Development Center serves as the Canadian company’s U.S. headquarters.
As broadcasters continue to wrestle with developing new types of signal distribution infrastructures, so too are major equipment vendors trying to figure out how to re-ignite their businesses and help their customers move forward. Over just a few weeks, three major vendors (Grass Valley, ChyronHego, and Imagine Communications) have replaced their top executives in an effort to improve sales and develop strategies for the next generation of technology solutions.
One of the those companies, Montreal, Canada-based Grass Valley (owned by Belden), recently appointed Tim Shoulders as its new president to lead the way. Shoulders takes over from Marco Lopez, who served as president since 2012 and has left the company to serve as CEO of broadcast graphics provider ChyronHego. Shoulders was appointed president on January 1st, after serving as vice president and general manager of Belden’s global Industrial Cable business. Prior to that, he led Belden’s global Broadcast Cables business.
Shoulders said he’s excited to lead a company that has already transitioned many of its main camera, server and production switcher products to software-centric and cloud-based solutions that make the technology more affordable to a wider range of users. He’ll continue this transition as he works closely with customers to develop solutions that fit their needs of creating high-quality (HD, 4K) content and delivering it in various formats across multiple distribution platforms.
In an exclusive interview with The Broadcast Bridge—during his first week on the job—Shoulders outlined his vision for Grass Valley going forward and how its customers will drive the strategy for what types of technology gets developed and how soon.
The Broadcast Bridge (TBB): How will your past experience running Belden’s global Industrial Cable business help in your new role at Grass Valley?
Shoulders: I’ve been to various trade shows exhibiting with the Grass Valley brand, so that has helped expose me to some of their customers.
Tim Shoulders takes the reigns of a new era for the company.
We have a proven process within Belden that will be helpful for me going forward. It’s called the Belden Business System, which is made up a series of tools that we have for managing companies in different market segments. It includes things like lean enterprise, lean manufacturing, and deploying our Strategic Deployment process —which is taking an overall strategy and pushing it down through the entire organization.
(TBB): What’s your vision of the marketplace? (It’s been tough for many vendors). How/where will you find new opportunity to grow the business?
Shoulders: Well, it’s clear that the old models of content distribution have changed. OTT and TV Everywhere viewing has disrupted traditional linear broadcasting. Our customers are trying to deal with how to monetize their content across more platforms while their budgets are decreasing. We as a company have to figure out how to help them adapt to some of this change.
We as Grass Valley have to be able to anticipate some of these changes and lead the market with the best solutions that make business and practical sense to our customers. We’re well on our way to that goal, but we do need to keep the customer first in our minds when we develop new technical solutions and platforms. We have to focus on what their needs are and make sure we have good customer touch. I think it’s a real of advantage for customers that are working with Grass Valley, given the combined experience of our customer-facing associates. I have a lot of good people on my team and I think this will help ensure our success.
But we also have to have processes in place that allow us to quickly develop products that address some of these changes.
(TBB): The key to success will be finding new business in a relatively stagnant buying market. Where will these new customers come from?
Shoulders: As Belden we have relationships with many cable, satellite and OTT providers that we are working very closely with. Certainly that is and will continue to be an opportunity for us going into the future, but as of right now, I’m really focused on addressing the Broadcast market and delivering solutions to meet its specific needs. As we go through our strategy planning process, we will look at any and all opportunity.
Grass Valley’s LDX 82 series cameras are software upgradeable via a tiered GV-eLicense pricing structure.
TBB: Over the past 18 moths several key executives have complained that there are too many competitors trying to serve an ever-shrinking Broadcast equipment industry. Do you agree with this assessment?
Shoulders: I attended the NAB and IBC trade shows in 2016 and it was obvious that there’s a very fragmented market for what I'd call a niche IT space with a lot of vendors. So, I would agree with that assessment. Fortunately for me, I have the financial backing of a parent company like Belden, which is a great asset because Belden’s balance sheet is very strong.
So we plan to be in this business for the long haul. This should give customers the assurance that we will be there in the future when they need to migrate to a new platform, add a new service to their operations and to honor a support agreement. That’s a really valuable advantage we have here at Grass Valley, in terms of our attractiveness to the customer, and not a lot of vendors in this space can say the same thing.
TBB: At Belden you were involved with numerous M&A projects, integrations and cross-business initiatives. How do you plan to grow the Grass Valley business: organically or by additional acquisitions?
Shoulders: We’ve had a strategy here at Belden to grow the Grass Valley business organically, so let’s develop solutions that allow us to take share from our competitors and leverage our advantages. Also, Belden has not been shy in publically expressing its desire to acquire companies when it makes sense. As new opportunities arise, we look at: does the product portfolio fit well? Is it a good cultural fit? Etc.
TBB: What’s the Belden's benchmark for success with Grass Valley? What goals do you have for the business?
Shoulders: We measure both customer satisfaction and our internal employee engagement throughout the year, through survey processes and a series of interviews. And we benchmark ourselves against other successful high technology companies.
My goal is to put Grass Valley in the top tile of core technology companies, in both customer satisfaction and employee engagement. We believe that by doing that, we’ll be able to produce the financial results Belden is looking for. It’s developing processes and people in our organization that will allow us to be a top tile core supplier.
TBB: Do you anticipate any employee restructuring or closing of facilities around the world?
Shoulders: I’ve been on the job for about a week and I really can't say anything at this point. We’ll always be looking for new ways to more efficiently run the business. We make those decisions with maturity and a level of common sense. Right now there are no plans to fundamentally change our existing operations.
Grass Valley’s STRATUS Playout is the company’s next generation of automation and playout solution.
TBB: Looking at the Grass Valley product portfolio, what technology excites you the most?
Shoulders: I’m hands-on guy and an early adopter of technology in general, so that’s been a really great experience for me personally to see all of this great technology working and helping our customers in their daily production activities.
I was recently in our Hillsboro (Oregon) Development Center and I went through a demo of our GV Stratus [a video production and content management system]. It allows customers to upload content to social media accounts very quickly and easily. They can then track their online audience’s views and impressions with great precision. I think that’s very cool stuff for broadcasters. I’m sure I'll have a lot more cool things to talk about at the NAB Show in April.
TBB: What’s your opinion of using emerging technologies like VR and AI for TV broadcasting?
Well, if this is something our customers begin to show an interest in, than it’s certainly worth our looking into. First we need to understand what type of implications these and other technologies have for our products, as they exist today. And then we’ll see how it fits their workflows and business models. While they carry the wow factor, these technologies are certainly not for everyone.
TBB: How do you see the future of the Grass Valley?
I’m really excited about our future. Over the past few years, as part of the Belden leadership team, I’ve watched the Grass Valley business and thought its support and co-founding of the AIMS initiative was a pretty bold move. We placed a big bet on open standards that tales a lot of hardware and turns it into off-the-shelf, where historically it was proprietary boxes.
The recent completion and adoption of the SMPTE 2110 video over IP standard is the culmination of that effort and I’m excited to see how our solutions we've develop under that open standard are adopted by the industry. I think the future is bright for Grass Valley and I’m looking forward to working with our customers to put these IP technologies into their hands. And, help them adjust their business models to address some of the disruptive changes that they are seeing today.
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