SVG@NAB Perspectives: SAM’s Maycock, Thorsteinson on Profitability and the IP Production Pathway
“It’s 12 months since I started, and we have hit business targets four quarters in a row,” says Tim Thorsteinson, CEO of Snell Advanced Media (SAM), a company formed by Quantel’s 2014 acquisition of Snell and rebranded last September. “The business has returned to profitability, with solid gross-margin improvement. We’ve had a strong first quarter of 2016. We’ve enjoyed a record year in playout; we’re the largest playout player in the industry.
“It is only seven months since rebranding the business and creating SAM,” he continues. “We’re lucky in that we have a group of investors at Lloyds who have allowed us to invest in engineering and R&D. We have more new technology here at this show than either company [Quantel or Snell] probably had in the last 10 years.”
Commenting on the new budget-priced switcher range announced at the show, SAM EVP Neil Maycock says, “Kula is the single biggest product introduction, complementing the Kahuna family. It brings a new level of power, flexibility, and reliability and is aimed at applications like regional news, outside broadcast [OB], flyaway production, houses of worship, and corporate and educational.”
Adds Thorsteinson, “We’re known for selling Bentleys and Rolls Royces — and people are buying Chevrolets. Kula is the first product from SAM that you’ll see [at lower price points]. It will mainly go through channel [sales], and we’re building that third-party distribution network right now. We believe there will be a long SDI tail, and price points are key.”
SAM is a founding member of the AIMS Alliance, which “is taking the work of standards bodies and doing real-world implementations, to make sure vendors’ products work together,” Maycock observes. “I liken it to the early days of MXF, when we needed to get [from theory] to specific implementations.
“The key to IP is interoperability,” he continues. “For a while now, you have been able to buy IP solutions if you buy from one vendor. AIMS is helping to change that situation.”
Regarding 4K and HDR, the company believes it is uniquely positioned to lay the foundation of the future’s broadcast workflows for live production and playout. This is evidenced by success in various markets, including working with production company Timeline to launch the UK’s first 4K/UHD channel, for BT Sport’s Ultra HD channel. Other examples are SAM’s recent major live 4K production and playout sale to Rogers Media and its work with MediaPro in Spain to produce this spring’s El Clasico soccer match in 4K.
Earlier this year, SAM inked a deal to provide a range of technology for Rogers Media’s new 4K service. The announced programming package to be delivered includes more than 100 live sports events, featuring every Toronto Blue Jays baseball home game and more than 20 NHL games. SAM provided a Kahuna 9600 switcher — featuring a 16-input A/B cut bus — for the MCR alongside Morpheus automation and ICE Channel-in-a-Box units. Rogers has also installed main and backup 4K sQ servers in addition to a range of SAM infrastructure products.
Having announced its intention to pioneer 4K, Rogers began a period of broad market research to evaluate playout options, followed by a series of technical trials. This included a visit to BT Sport in London, the broadcaster leading the way with 4K in Europe via its recently launched Ultra HD channel. BT Sport’s production partner Timeline TV installed SAM 4K technology in its new OB truck, which was deployed last year to service Ultra HD.
SAM’s new IP-Edge, announced at NAB 2016, attempts to remove the complexity from hybrid and pure IP rollouts. IP-Edge–enabled products include routers, switchers, IQ Modular processing, servers, and playout systems. Broadcasters can invest with confidence, according to SAM, knowing that IP-Edge closely follows the interoperability goals of AIMS. A major product launch in this area is the IQ-Edge processing solution made for interoperable processing of media in IP environments.
In the area of monitoring and workflow, SAM’s Media Biometrics enables monitoring systems to track content throughout a media workflow. By purchasing products that include Media Biometrics — such as SAM’s switchers, multiviewers, routers, and XFile and IQ processing solutions — broadcasters can implement monitoring by exception and maximize cost savings. Media Biometrics is now shipping in products across SAM’s portfolio, including the new Sirius 800 integrated multiviewer that offers sophisticated monitoring capabilities.