Grass Valley Sees Q3 Business Recovery from Fallout of COVID-19

(Image credit: Grass Valley)

MONTREAL—Grass Valley announced ES Broadcast has purchased 50 Grass Valley LDX 100 IP cameras with an option to buy 50 more before the end of the year—one of several positive indicators of recovery following a downturn created by COVID-19 discussed during an online Grass Valley press conference.

ES Broadcast, a U.K.-based HD and 4K equipment hire company, made the purchase to prepare for major sporting event coverage around the world expected in 2021, Grass Valley said.

Live production is a major part of Grass Valley’s product portfolio and business, and the company—like other vendors and broadcasters—suffered from the months-long shutdown of sporting events,  professional sports leagues, tournaments and collegiate contests stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“So, with the disruption in live sports, of course, we’ve seen a disruption in the normal demand pattern for our business,” said Grass Valley CEO and President Tim Shoulders. “I am proud to say, and happy to say, that we have seen the business recover throughout Q3 from the COVID-19 demand-related declines, and we’ve been working throughout the process with our channel partners and our customers to help them weather the storm.”

Another factor helping to propel the rebound has been the company’s focus on developing and launching cloud workflows in 2020 to assist customers in “working around… pain points” created when social distancing mandates made on-premise workflows untenable for many broadcast and media organizations, he said.

“We’ve also watched as our customers’ priorities changed throughout the process. There’s one thing that will stick with us as a result of the pandemic. I think it has had an effect to slay all of the sacred cows that were in media around security and concerns around moving to cloud-based workflows,” said Shoulders.

Describing Grass Valley’s IP product portfolio as “the on-ramp to cloud for our customers,” Shoulders said it has remained “very resilient” from a demand point of view during the pandemic.

“Over the years, we’ve made significant investment in R&D and simplifying the IP experience—in particular, the user interfaces and experience with our GV Orbit product,” he said. “This has been paying off significantly with our customers as the COVID crisis has pushed them to be more open about adopting IP workflows.”

The company’s GV Media Universe strategy, which allows media companies to produce anywhere and distribute everywhere, has proven helpful in transitioning organizations to the cloud. Contributing to the popularity of the cloud-based tools is its pay-as-you-go model, which relieves media companies of the burden of heavy capital outlays for technology. Currently, six media organizations—three of which are live—are on air with GV Media Universe, he said.

GV AMPP (Agile Media Processing Platform) technology makes the company’s cloud strategy possible, providing customers with exposure to the elasticity of the cloud and the ability to deploy their particular solution in a public cloud, on-prem or hybrid environment, said Shoulders.

Shoulders also discussed the acquisition of Grass Valley by Black Dragon Capital. It’s been about 90 days since the acquisition closed, and Shoulders said it’s clear the private equity has a “love for the broadcast and media community” and a desire “for the long term” to build a company that provides a “world-leading portfolio” of technological solutions. 

Sydney Lovely, Grass Valley CTO and general manager of the company’s networking business, said the company has focused not simply on making IP work, but making it work for the user to enable new workflows.

He laid out the company’s dynamic IP blueprint, the pillars of Grass Valley’s IP solutions, including dynamic infrastructure management, device management and software processing—all of which are powered by GV Orbit, the company’s dynamic system orchestration software.

Marco Lopez, general manager for Grass Valley’s live production business unit, added that GV Orbit handles configuring, managing and controlling large IP-connected systems so users can focus on creating and producing more content.

Lopez also discussed some of his division’s new products, including the LDX 100 native IP camera with a new imager and processing unit that supports full-raster, triple-speed 4K UHD. When used with GV Orbit, the camera can begin streaming within seconds, he said.

He also highlighted the new Grass Valley K-Frame XP production switcher that makes no compromises when working with full-raster 4K UHD signals, he said. The 8RU compact frame switcher offers an 80x40 I/O configuration. A “big brother” 4K UHD version is planned and will offer 192x96 I/Os, he said.

Grass Valley also began shipping its Edius 10 editor in September. The latest version includes a new Motion Tracking tool, including a chase and anchor modes, he said.

Lopez highlighted recent IP-connected 4K UHD OB vehicles featuring Grass Valley IP and production technology, including Timeline Television and All Mobile Video, which also recently acquired 12 GV LDX 100 cameras.

Neil Maycock, CMO and general manager of Grass Valley’s Playout business unit, discussed what the company views as challenges with playout.

“It’s often… conceptually very simple, but quite demanding technology-wise to deliver what our customers are looking for,” said Maycock.

Live is particularly demanding when it comes to playout, said Maycock, citing schedule manipulation during a live event as an example of the challenges.

Because playout is generally regarded as the “cash register” of the business and manages the brand identity of broadcasters, the expectations for performance are some of the toughest Grass Valley faces in its business, he said.

To meet these and other challenges surrounding playout, Grass Valley introduced AMPP Playout, a new playout application written from the ground up to be an AMPP-native application, which makes available all of the capabilities and characteristics inherent in the AMPP platform.

The press conference concluded with questions from the press. During the Q&A session, the company confirmed that integrating AI and machine learning tools into its solutions is on its product roadmap. 

Grass Valley also confirmed that there is interest among some broadcasters currently reliant on baseband infrastructures to skip the step of converting to an IP-based infrastructure, such as a SMPTE ST 2110 architecture in house, and moving directly to a virtualized workflow in the cloud.

The company announced it will hold an online event next week for the industry at large. The virtual meeting is being called “GV Live Presents Engage 2020” and is scheduled for Oct. 13 at 11 a.m. ET. 

Phil Kurz

Phil Kurz is a contributing editor to TV Tech. He has written about TV and video technology for more than 30 years and served as editor of three leading industry magazines. He earned a Bachelor of Journalism and a Master’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism.