NAB Reflections: In New Role, Charlie Vogt Charts Course for ATX Networks

Having left Imagine Communications in December, Charlie Vogt was at NAB 2018 in a new position: president/CEO, ATX Networks. It’s a solid fit for an industry veteran who has been most closely associated with the kind of services and products that ATX Networks offers: network-infrastructure systems and commercial video solutions that make it easier for sports venues to deliver quality video, audio, and connectivity to the multitude of screens and devices demanding it.

“ATX helped define the original RF world for cable MSOs and, in the last several years, has expanded its optical-access portfolio,” Vogt says. Increasingly, the company is focused on moving the CMTS (Cable Modem Termination System) out to the edge and closer to the device and making use of Remote PHY and MAC/PHY connectivity and circuits.

ATX Networks’ Charlie Vogt

Two acquisitions have helped ATX Networks continue its evolution: in 2016, InnoTrans Communications, a move that gave ATX additional fiber-optic solutions; in 2017, Pico Digital, a provider of customer-premises equipment. Those two moves gave ATX Networks an end-to-end offering.

At NAB 2018, one of the products on display was Pico Digital’s PD1600, an ultra-compact “headend in a box” for secure delivery of cable, satellite, and IPTV content to MDUs, to headend in the sky (HITS), and to hospitality-video clients. Scaling from a few channels to 96 transponders of video content, the PD1600 platform offers the highest density available on the market, the lowest cost per HD channel, and an unmatched feature set.

“The PD1600 is a unique platform for us to put on-premises and expand unified distribution capabilities,” Vogt says. “We have spent a lot of time with stadiums, and that is an opportunity for us.”

Products aren’t the only thing making news for ATX. The following appointments were announced this week: Ben Newell chief strategy and business development officer; John Ryan chief sales officer; Jeff Liening SVP, North America sales; and Kim Lee EVP, marketing. These additions to the company’s senior ranks represent steps ATX is taking to fuel aggressive growth plans across a variety of market sectors and align with a new vision and strategy to shape the future of media delivery.

“These new appointments,” says Vogt, “amplify our commitment to customer-led innovation and global expansion, as service providers around the world usher in faster, smarter, and more flexible networks designed to support today’s digitally empowered consumer and workplace. These highly accomplished leaders bring a formidable combination of customer-first values and a continuous drive for innovation. Their experience and winning attitudes will complement and enhance ATX’s ability to meet the needs of our customers as we continue to provide quality, innovative products to the marketplace.”

The traditional broadcast and cable industry finds itself increasingly challenged with respect to new competitors in the battle for eyeballs as well as from cord-cutting and falling ad revenues.

But Vogt still sees plenty of reasons for optimism: “One thing I have been saying for 20 years is, if you own spectrum and you own connectivity to the customer, you have a business. The cable, wireless, and satellite companies own spectrum, and they own connectivity. Their business is not going anywhere, in my opinion. The biggest thing will be knowing when to pull the purse strings and try to cannibalize their own businesses.”

Vogt cites Dish’s launch of SlingTV as the kind of bold move that companies will take as they ready their current business for next-generation demands. “And then,” he adds, “someone like Disney is making bold moves with its own platform that will be direct to consumers.”

One of the challenges facing the traditional MVPD market is the launch of 5G wireless services. The 5G platform for cellular data delivery will offer a minimum 1-Gbps speed and other enhancements, assuring industry analysts that it will open the floodgates to delivery of high-quality video content without the need for a broadband connection.

Vogt, however, is confident that the incumbents can remain relevant in a 5G world.

“A third of all homes are served by MSOs and satellite,” he points out, adding, “There is a lot to be said for being the incumbent, whether you are on the service-provider side or the equipment-provider side. When you are the incumbent, it is a lot easier to transition or enhance the service for an existing customer than to acquire a new one.”

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