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Imagine CEO Charlie Vogt on Buying OpenTV's Eclipse

FRISCO, TEXAS—He will remind he’s moving aggressively.

“I have your headline: ‘We’ve been here 18 months, and Imagine Communications is setting tone with its third acquisition in less than a year.”

And so it is. Imagine this week acquired the Eclipse advertising software line from OpenTV, a unit of the Kudelski Group. Transaction value was undisclosed. Imagine acquired Digital Rapids last April, and was itself acquired by Harris Broadcast last December. Harris Broadcast was purchased from its eponymous parent by Los Angeles-based investment firm, The Gores Group in late 2012. It had three years to shed the Harris name and thus became Imagine last March.

Vogt actually came as CEO in July of 2013 with the blessing of board chairman, Carl Vogel, and a mission to get in front of the media IP transition, which Vogt considers inevitable despite the industry’s vigorous attachment to baseband. He predicts a five-year transition when facilities will use both.The Magellan SDN Orchestrator control system for hybrid IP/baseband architectures was introduced at September’s IBC to help address the transition.

A veteran of the telecom IP transition, his vision is one of creating a software-based, all-IP media facility that will move all types of files in, out and around; each piece of the process in communication with the other. A sort of facility operating system in which any number of inputs and outputs are universal, despite source and destination, unlike today’s systems that require complicated, customized architectures and multipoint interventions.

Harris had long been a major facility provider in the broadcast TV space, offering routers, asset management, automation, master control and various other components of a media facility workflow. Vogt went work to cover the gaps, first with Imagine for its adaptive bitrate transcoding and its access to the MSO cable space, which the company is targeting for its adoption of advanced ad platforms. Digital Rapids brought in workflow management and more transcoding. Vogt visited with TV Technology about what the OpenTV Eclipse acquisitions means to the grand plan.

TV Technology: Why this, the OpenTV Eclipse suite of ad software. Imagine has the Landmark/Novar portfolio, which covers everything from agency/station and network sales to rights management and analytics. Is this a user-base move?

Vogt: It’s three things. Certainly, there is an intersection between traditional TV networks, station groups and [multichannel video providers]. Our platform, Novar, and the OpenTV Eclipse platform, share most of traffic and billing with MSOs in the United States. This gave us a chance to strengthen the traffic and billing in the U.S.
It also accelerates roadmap we’ve been working on for the last 12 to 18 months, that takes advanced billing across platforms. There are lots of portfolio and customer synergies, and this brings in a lot of key people.
Also, we’ve been talking about Imagine’s capability to integrate advanced ad automation. You will see us deploy true, real-time interactive advertising capability. Landmark is the brand at the core that Eclipse will be integrated into.
Landmark has four elements: U.S. stations, TV and radio networks and MVPDs. They’re all operating on different market strategies and platforms. The base core elements are the same, but different functions are required.
We think as more U.S. customers look at impression-based adds, like we’ve been doing for years with Sky, it will allow us to collapse some of these functions. MPVDs will help us accelerate that.

TV Technology:What percentage of the user base, if any, does Imagine have with the OpenTV Eclipse portfolio?
Vogt: We certainly share a lot of customers with OpenTV. With all of the consolidation of the MSO base over the last decade, almost every single MSO has Novar markets and Eclipse markets.

TV Technology: Comcast experimented with an Eclipse iteration back around 2007-08, I believe, with Comcast Spotlight. Where did that go?
Vogt: Comcast and Time Warner Cable are two of OpenTV’s largest customers. Between what we have and what they have, we have a pretty significant presence there.

TV Technology:What is the combined reach of these platforms in terms of pay TV subscribers?
Vogt: We can certainly reach 100 percent of MSO market with these two, but we’re probably represented in 80 percent of MSO market.

TV Technology:Has it been integrated with Imagine’s automation and asset management platforms anywhere? If so, where; if not, will it be?
Vogt: We are accelerating the integration to give customers ability to do real-time ad insertion. There’s really today no ability for our customers to do last-minute buys and ad insertions, because of the inability to link the ad platform with playout and scheduling. So why buy Imagine versus WideOrbit or Sintec? Integration with automation and asset management.

TV Technology:Will it be integrated into Imagine’s Microsoft Azure-based Zenium software-defined network workflow announced at IBC?
This software is really tethered across all of our product portfolios. This is a grand strategy that I think this industry has to go to.

TV Technology:Will the Eclipse team continue to be based in Switzerland?
Vogt: They’re in Sunnyvale, Calif. We are certainly going to be leaning on that team. They’ll be quickly integrated into media systems team. It’s mainly the technology and R&D and services team that we acquired.

TV Technology:How many?
Vogt: About 100 people.

TV Technology: You’ve said previously the Imagine IPO is targeted for 2015. Will the Incentive Auction delay will affect that target?
Vogt: We certainly want to continue. We’re laser focused on growth, and on control of our own destiny. We don’t have a magic date in mind. We will grow double digits in 2014 compared to 2013, and we’re expecting double digits again in 2015.
We’re always thinking about ways to finance and capitalize the business. An IPO is one of those options.


October 30, 2014,
Imagine Communications Buys Into Ad Traffic

July 30, 2014
, Imagine Communications CEO Charlie Vogt on TV’s IP Migration

April 7, 2014,
Imagine Communications Acquires Digital Rapids

December 12, 2013,Harris Broadcast Acquires Transcoder Imagine Communications

July 9, 2013,Charlie Vogt Named CEO of Harris Broadcast

December 7, 2012,Harris Broadcast to Be Rebranded in Next Three Years

December 6, 2012,Harris Sells Broadcast Division to Equity Investor for $225 Million