Acquisition fever spreads at IBC2009

With a variety of company acquisitions announced (or confirmed) at IBC2009 in Amsterdam, at least some equipment vendors appear to view the general economy as improving and the long-term viability of the professional production and post industries to be secure. While no financial details were available for any of the finalized agreements, conventional wisdom says that the sale prices were low (compared with what they would have sold for two years ago), but the value is high.

The acquisitions appear to be carefully thought out and fit in well with each company’s strategy to position itself for a tapeless production and post future that includes HD and 4K resolutions and stereoscopic 3D.

Among the sales agreements announced at the show is Blackmagic Design, with its acquisition of color-correction technology provider DaVinci Systems, EditShare’s acquisition of both the UK-based Geevs broadcast video server business and the Lightworks nonlinear editing platform, and Avid’s completed acquisition of Maximum Throughput. (Avid quietly acquired MaxT’s Sledgehammer and its other technologies in July.)

"EditShare is growing rapidly and to meet the needs of our expanding customer base, we need to broaden our offering," said Tara Montford, managing director of EditShare EMEA, in a statement.

Grant Petty, CEO of Blackmagic Design, said his company’s purchase of all assets of DaVinci Systems would allow it to offer DaVinci Resolve DI color-correction systems and DaVinci Revival film restoration products for sale worldwide. Black Magic Design makes and sells video editing products, converters and routers for the post-production and broadcast industries, including its Multibridge, DeckLink and Intensity family of products.

Petty said he believes Resolve and Revival represent the future of color correction and film restoration. DaVinci Resolve can handle complex color grades in real time, even at native 4K resolutions and in stereoscopic 3D. DaVinci Resolve and Revival engineering teams have already been expanded, and further expansion is planned.

Blackmagic Design will no longer market 2K systems but will continue to support existing customers. Going forward, engineering will focus on bug fix updates and small feature releases. The company said that annual support contracts will also immediately cease, and a new pay as you go system has been created to help customers through the transition period.

EditShare, which makes shared-storage solutions such as the EditShare Storage Series and EditShare XStream Series that allow editors and compositors to work collaboratively regardless of the platform or application, intends for its acquisition of Geevs and Lightworks technology to provide EditShare customers with expanded options for building fully integrated, tapeless workflows.

Meanwhile, details have emerged regarding Avid's acquisition of Montreal-based Maximum Throughput. Avid is said to have quietly acquired MaxT Systems in the weeks prior to the conference in Amsterdam. MaxT developed server-based media applications and storage systems, and Avid is said to have invested in the MaxT technology to complement its own R&D.

At IBC2009, Avid confirmed that it would not market any of MaxT's existing products, but it will honor existing service agreements. MaxT products include the Sledgehammer NAS and MAXedit Server Edition systems for collaborative workgroups. As part of the deal, several key MaxT employees now work for Avid.

"We are excited about the technology that MaxT has developed to date and the opportunity to leverage this technology as we innovate new offerings in the future,” said Gary Greenfield, Avid chairman and CEO. “Though we won't continue to bring Max-T's existing product line to market as it is today, we are looking forward to carrying the technology forward in ways that address the evolving needs of our customers."

MAXedit Server Edition is a multiuser, browser-based HD/SD editing system that facilitates local and remote native editing of centrally ingested material and reduces project costs by eliminating the need to transport people and tape. Avid likes the idea of remote project reviews, which could be performed on a laptop or other mobile device. MAXedit Web Edition offers customers a subscription-based online editing service model.

The sale announcement of Grass Valley was not finalized as of Sunday, Sept. 13, but Jeff Rosica, senior VP of the company, said exclusive negotiations with a single buyer were close and that he would have more to say “soon.”

While the economy has suffered in Europe like other places worldwide, overall confidence in the business remains high. Attendance at this year’s show appears slightly smaller than last year, but lots of activity is being reported from companies large and small exhibiting on the RAI Center show floor.