Last week, Grass Valley announced the appointment of Dr. Andrew Cross as its new CEO. Cross was most recently President of Global R&D for Vizrt Group where he oversaw product development. Prior to that he was CEO of Newtek, which was acquired by Vizrt in 2019.
We recently chatted with Andrew about his vision for Grass Valley and industry trends as well his thoughts about the upcoming NAB Show.
The following is an edited transcript:
TV Tech: Andrew, first of all, congratulations. What do you bring to the Grass Valley that you think is unique and will help the company thrive?
Andrew Cross: Good question. Obviously I'm coming from the IP and the software side of the industry, which is where things are going. [At Vizrt and NewTek], we always made hardware too which means that I'm not just a pure software guy
TVT: Are there approaches that Vizrt and Grass take towards current media production trends that are the same or do they differ in any ways?
AC: We have quite different businesses, but there are clearly some things that are very similar. I think most of the big players understand that we're going to move to the cloud and software. Vizrt are very much focused on the graphics and news side of the business, so there's very little overlap between what Vizrt products do and what GV’s products do. So I think that the overall direction of where they think things are going are both similar—but I think everybody thinks that— but in terms of product mix there is remarkably little overlap.
TVT: Do you think GV is on the right path with the changes that it's taken recently or are there other things that you want to change at this point?
AC: So first of all, I feel incredibly lucky that people made the right decisions several years ago. The reality is that GV are unbelievably well placed, they made the hard decisions. Three years ago they started to do all the right things to position the company just perfectly for where the industry is going. Obviously that makes my life a lot easier and it makes me far more excited about what the opportunities are, because we're already really well positioned for everything we need. So now we just need to make some really disruptive moves to the industry, which is what I love doing.
TVT: GV and Vizrt are both examples of “pure-play” media tech companies that focus exclusively on broadcast and media production, but over the past decade or so, we’ve been seeing more companies outside of media production get a foothold in our industry, AWS being a good example. Do you think that creates more pressure on companies such as yours?
AC: My background has been Newtek, and so I was with one of the companies that probably came from the cloud, non-traditional broadcast side. But my view is that this actually offers great opportunity to companies like Grass Valley and Vizrt because what's happening in the industry is more and more people are producing video, which creates more and more opportunities, and with that, expectations of quality have to increase because that's how companies differentiate themselves from the plethora of other content that's getting created,
So the companies that have been the experts in how to build the tools that make great looking video are clearly where everything's going, so I think that Vizrt, Grass Valley, and others are going to continue to serve the big broadcasters as they move all of these secondary channels, digital channels, and beyond. I honestly think that it actually makes things a lot more exciting to look at all these new ways that we can expand our business out of just the tier one broadcasters.
TVT: Switchers have long been a staple of Grass Valley’s portfolio. The way Newtek approached the concept of switchers is perhaps a bit different than the way Grass Valley does. Do you want to bring more of a Newtek type of vision to Grass Valley switchers?
AC: I think both are different and since Grass Valley was such a serious player in switchers we had to differentiate ourselves. But if you look at the things that customers most value, GV has actually gone in those same directions as well. I think that all of us are driven by the fact that we want to make it easier to produce great looking shows, to make it easier to bring the content in and to bring the graphics in and virtual sets into an integrated production system and production environment. And those are things that I think Newtek did well, but just as important, what we're working on here already.
TVT: When the announcement of your appointment was made last week, you mentioned that you wanted to emphasize the “GV Media Universe.” What sets the GV Media Universe apart from similar initiatives from other media tech companies?
AC: I think, first of all, our technology focuses on ‘the cloud’—but with an asterisk—because a lot of what we're doing can run on prem as well, and it’s far ahead of anything else that I've seen. So we are technologically really far ahead because three years ago, GV had the foresight to start building this. But it seems wrong that a single company should say ‘we're going to make every product, our products are going to be the best and you have to choose us or company B or company C, for example.’
We believe—and I've shown this multiple times in my career—that if we can work with others, and we can open it up, it's better for everybody. And so the GV Media Universe was developed so that it benefits the entire industry and not just us. So if we move the whole industry to the cloud, that is not only good for us, but it's good for everybody else as well. If you want a practical example of this, just look at what Newtek did with their API—Newtek made big products that were very API-focused, but we gave it to the rest of the industry and that has benefited everybody, and we want to do the exact same thing here, to help us all move into the cloud.
TVT: What impact have the events of the past two years had on the industry in general and based on what you currently know on the TV side in particular?
AC: In terms of technology, the events of the past two years have actually been just great for our industry because I think that two years ago, we all thought that it would take 10 years to get to IP, to get to cloud and software. And it's taken about two years, so it's more than doubled the speed at which we adopt new technologies.
As an industry, we were all very set in our ways, just slowly moving forwards, but I think the pandemic forced all of us to take a step back and look at how to get there faster because we were forced to—and I think that that has been great for the industry as a whole. As I mentioned, GV had the foresight about three years ago to start looking at how we move from just being a developer of traditional hardware equipment to build on that with pieces of cloud, pieces of software so that they could figure out the whole picture. This has meant coming out of the past three years, we're just perfectly placed to take advantage of this accelerated adoption of IP and software-based approaches.
TVT: Is GV being seriously impacted by supply chain issues?
AC: No company in the industry would say “no” unless they're lying to you. But.we're probably as well positioned as anybody and I'm taking this as seriously as possible. You can not imagine the effort we go to make sure that we have everything so that we can supply customers. But this is a very real problem, and I think that a lot of people who are insulated from it just don't realize the true scope of what is going on in terms of the heroics that are needed by companies right now to find and build and deliver products. We're doing well, but it’s a real problem.
TVT: You brought NDI to the industry and it’s had a bigger impact I think than many people expected. Do you anticipate Grass having more of a partnership role with that standard?
AC: I am certain that we will. We want to support all the IP standards and NDI is an important one. And it's important for a lot of reasons, and because it is very software-centric, that makes it ideal for where the industry is going.
TVT: For the upcoming NAB Show what is the size of your booth compared to in the past and what trends are you looking at?
AC: Our booth is not as big as in the past but we’re going to have a large presence at the show. We think the show's very important and for us this is going to be one of the most exciting NABs ever. It's almost a “perfect storm,” because as I said previously, we started making this investment three years ago and there hasn’t been an NABs since, so we get to come to the show and really show what our vision is and show what we're trying to change, and I think it's going to be dramatically different. You will see a vision of where this all comes together and I’m very, very excited about that.
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Tom has covered the broadcast technology market for the past 25 years, including three years handling member communications for the National Association of Broadcasters followed by a year as editor of Video Technology News and DTV Business executive newsletters for Phillips Publishing. In 1999 he launched digitalbroadcasting.com for internet B2B portal Verticalnet. He is also a charter member of the CTA's Academy of Digital TV Pioneers. Since 2001, he has been editor-in-chief of TV Tech (www.tvtech.com), the leading source of news and information on broadcast and related media technology and is a frequent contributor and moderator to the brand’s Tech Leadership events.