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NAB Perspectives: CSI’s Seiden on Artel Acquisition, Fiber Link Future

April 14th, 2015 Posted in Headlines By Karen Hogan

The NAB Show often sees a flurry of mergers and acquisitions, and 2015 was no different. Just before the broadcast industry descended on Las Vegas, Artel Video Systems announced that it will acquire the portfolio assets of Communication Specialties Inc., which manufactures the Fiberlink Series of fiber-optic transmission systems for video, audio, and data; the Copperlink line of signal-distribution products; the Scan Do line of scan converters; and the Deuce line of intelligent video scalers.

SVG caught up with CSI Director of Sales Paul Seiden to find out what this deal means for Communications Specialties Inc. and the future of the company’s brands.

One of the big pieces of news to reach us before the show was Artel’s acquisition of Communication Specialties Inc. What does this mean for CSI?
The ownership of Artel and CSI started meeting a few months ago about merging the entities — really, an asset acquisition. Artel’s acquiring the assets of Communication Specialties Inc. It’s a very synergistic move because Artel has products in the fiber world at a different level targeting more telecommunications and very high-end broadcast for the networks; CSI has done some of the smaller broadcasters and networks and a lot of colleges and universities [and] on the pro-video broadcast level as well. We’ve done a lot of work with the NFL, the NHL, Major League Baseball, so it’s a really great merger to where one and one does make three.

The acquisition’s supposed to close next week, and, eventually, our New York office will be closing, and everything will be moved up to the Massachusetts office for Artel. The sales team for CSI, including myself, has agreed to stay on with the combined entity, so we’ll now be selling the Artel products with the CSI products. We’re trying to expand markets for both, so we’re already working on projects with Artel, adding some of our Fiber Link products to some of their quotes where some of their customers need rudimentary analog video/audio/data transmission with some of their CWDM and DWDM products.

I’ve already had a bunch of customers because I handle the international sales for CSI; a lot of our international customers have had requirements for some of the Artel products. [Artel doesn’t] have much distribution overseas; CSI probably has greater international distribution than Artel. So this is going to help Artel sell their products internationally. I’ve actually started quoting Artel products to our international customers, and they’re pleased with the portfolio of products that Artel offers as well. So, again, it’s going to help us worldwide grow the business. I see this as a great maneuver for both companies.

I’m sure there’ll be some challenges, and we’ll get through those during the merger. The Artel group will start manufacturing the CSI products moving forward, as I said, out of their Massachusetts facility, so it’s an exciting time. We’re happy we tried to move fast to make the announcement here at NAB. A lot has happened over the last 2½ weeks. I just was up in the Boston area two weeks ago, meeting with the Artel people, trying to learn them, meet them, and see how things are going to integrate and move together.

Are you going to maintain the CSI name and brand?
We’re going to maintain the brands — like Fiberlink, Scan Do, Copperlink, and Deuce — but the CSI name will eventually go away. You’ll still see the Fiber Link name out there under the Artel banner.

Obviously, this is your biggest news of the show, but is there any other exciting news or product launches?
As far as products, our new SDI Flex allows you to transmit bidirectional 3G-SDI Ethernet, stereo audio, contact closure, RS data over one fiber, all real time, uncompressed. We also have a version that just does audio for a lot of intercom requirements that don’t [need] the 3G channel or the SDI channel — just the audio, data, contact closure also over fiber.

The newest product is what we’re calling our Big Box. This is a higher level of CWDM, where we can do eight or 16 channels of 3G-SDI over fiber and, depending on the boards you put in, you can also add bidirectional SDI and, again, that audio, data, [and] Ethernet. In essence, it’s blending some board similar to the SDI Flex and putting multiple in one chassis and then using more external CWDMs to blend it over one or two fibers.

What are your goals for the show?
It’s always meeting new people and seeing existing customers. We already had people come by that use our products and say, “Hey, I installed one of your products for the first time, and it worked perfectly. It went easy, and I want to thank you.” That’s where people are just getting into fiber — when they’re used to the copper or IP world and they get into fiber for the first time — and they’re getting over that fear when they use it and connect and see how simple it is. It really is plug-and-play. They’re happy, and they want to come by and share that with us. That’s always the best news; seeing people come by in different shows — especially NAB — to share that with us.

Then again, seeing our existing customers and meeting new people in new markets. [We’re] always looking to expand to different parts of the world, different horizontal and vertical markets within sports. Sometimes, we get some of the universities where our stuff’s already at their football complex but now they want to connect maybe some of their medical buildings together or just [add some fiber for] audio, data, and video communication.