SVG Sit-Down: Evertz’s Mo Goyal on the Studer Acquisition and Broadcast’s Migration to IP
How the audio-console manufacturer fits into a cloud-based strategy
In February, Evertz Technologies Ltd. closed on its acquisition of Studer’s technology and related assets. Studer, once a leading brand of broadcast-audio consoles, had lost much of its luster in the past decade and slipped further as corporate giant Samsung subsumed Studer parent Harman International, impacting budgets and R&D. In addition, industry consolidation, particularly around the console sector — for instance, Calrec, SSL, and DiGiCo now share common ownership — presented stiffer competition.
Sitting down with SVG, Mo Goyal, senior director, international business development, live media production, Evertz, discussed why the acquisition took place, what a reimagined Studer means as Evertz moves further into cloud-based broadcast media, and the landscape of broadcast in an increasingly IP-based environment.
Audio hasn’t historically been a very large part of Evertz’s product lines. What’s behind the Studer acquisition? Is audio going to become more integral to Evertz’s broadcast strategy?
The evolution of the business for us has been moving in a couple of directions. One is this growing desire to create content and build more content and deliver more content in different places. So we started to invest into a lot of the production tools and things like that over the last seven, eight years, starting with our DreamCatcher platform. And one of the things that had started to become clear, especially over the last year and a half, was the transition to cloud production.
The question that kept coming up was, how are you going to handle audio? We saw an opportunity with Studer to see how we can leverage some of that technology and do things in the cloud as part of our larger production-tool sets within Bravo and DreamCatcher. Studer had been on our radar for a while. I think this just became an opportunity for us to pick up the assets from Harman at a fairly reasonable cost and take a look at what was there. We saw an opportunity and figured that this was a very good investment on our part.
An Evertz press release says, “Evertz will invest in Studer to develop next-generation products to meet broadcast customers’ future needs while creating synergies between its current product suite and the Studer product environment.” What are the potential synergies, and how do they engage with its current product lineups?
In the last couple of years [at Studer], there hasn’t been a great deal of investment in terms of product development and such, but there’s still a lot of great IP and technology there: [for example,] the Vista One platforms and Glacier. We saw this as part of our strategy of enhancing our live-production-tool sets. From the video or the visualization side, we’ve got DreamCatcher; we’ve got a whole bunch of other technologies that solve that part of the production problem. The pieces that we found within the Studer library excite us because a lot of those can be migrated and fit into that overall strategy of content creation and [we’re] able to do that both on-premises and in the cloud.
Is Evertz going to become an audio-console manufacturer?
That’s part of what we’re evaluating right now. At this point, we’ve taken a look at the portfolio that we’ve acquired, and we’re identifying the [products] that we think are best-suited for us moving forward. Then we’ll start to invest some time and resources into those that we think have the best success.
Studer had moved much of its manufacturing to China and Eastern Europe. Any changes expected there for manufacturing or R&D?
Harman is part of a larger Samsung family, so they were able to do that. We manufacture everything in-house as much as we can, and we have assembly and manufacturing here in Burlington [ON] as well. That’s one of our value-adds. We have control over our own production and everything else here. That’s a key differentiator in the market, and we want to continue that. We’re in the midst of evaluating the relationships with the current providers, and we’re seeing which ones make sense to continue with and which ones we’re just going to bring forward in-house.
Will current Studer product lines and existing warranties continue to be supported?
That’s something we’re looking at as well. The ones that we want to move forward with will likely be the ones that we’re going to continue to support. We are acquiring some distressed assets, meaning there wasn’t a lot of investment put into them. There will be likely a part of the existing Studer portfolio that we won’t be able to continue to support. We’re in the process of finalizing which ones move forward and which ones we aren’t able to continue to support.
How many Studer employees are part of the acquisition, and what departments are they from?
That part I unfortunately can’t share. We did get a team from them, but I can’t divulge too much detail
Can you tell us if they’re U.S.-based or Europe-based?
They’re internationally based. So, a combination.
Evertz is a Canada-based company, and Studer is already a favored brand there, with consoles and related systems in 512 Canadian radio stations. How important was that installed base in the acquisition?
The reputation and brand recognition of Studer was always important. That gives us confidence in the brand, the technology, and everything else. What was always a positive was that Studer was a recognized brand. And we feel that the brand will help us move forward with additional technologies that we invest in.
How does Studer help Evertz further the migration of broadcast into IP?
In the audio space, there’s this [ongoing] transition supporting Dante and networking and fitting that into the [SMPTE] 2110 world, where we’ve been very successful and an industry leader in addressing the transition of SDI to IP. I’m going to be able to do things in the cloud, but how do I handle audio? That’s the next challenge, I think, for the industry. We think that we have a great deal of experience on the transition to the cloud, as well as in-house engineering, and taking some of the IP that we get from Studer is what we want to focus on.
What are the challenges that broadcast audio faces, and how might the Studer acquisition address them?
I think it goes to, first of all, the transition to IP and then the transition into the cloud. And I think it alludes to the first point you make: why is Evertz interested in audio? Solving that and getting into the cloud and being able to do production there: audio tends to lag behind that.
That’s the biggest challenge that we’ve heard from a number of [conference] panels and such. How are we going to do audio in the cloud? What are the challenges; what do we need to be able to do? What can be done, what can’t be done? I think is this challenge is, how do I take all the things that we currently do on-premises and move it into the cloud?
That’s the big challenge. One of the things that we saw within the Studer portfolio was maybe some technology that helps us address that.
You’ve stated that Evertz has had some partnership with Calrec and other audio-console manufacturers. However, that sector is largely dominated in broadcast by Calrec and Lawo and a few other brands. Does that argue against trying to become a console manufacturer?
We’ve worked with Calrec, for example, on a number of projects as part of moving the industry toward IP. At this point, we see that the players are still going to be there, and I think there’s still going to be a market for everyone to play in. The reality is that, like anything else, everyone will want to have the freedom of choice to have different options. We’re looking at it from a perspective of, first, taking the technology that we’ve acquired and, then, [moving] forward with the opportunities. That’s going to be our kind of primary focus.
Then, which assets make sense to move [forward] with, and how does our supply chain and how do our manufacturing capacities fit with [Studer’s assets]? If you look at the Studer catalog, are we going to carry everything? No. We’re going to carry certain parts that make sense. And then we’ll continue to look at the market and be able to provide our customers an option.
Addressing the larger competitive landscape: Evertz remains in litigation with Lawo, contending that Lawo infringes patents related to Evertz’s IP-based video-routing and -switching technology and multi-display video-processing technology. Will the Studer acquisition give Evertz another competitive front in the broadcast sector by adding more audio technology?
I don’t think the primary motivation of the acquisition of Studer was [that] we’re going to get completely into the audio-console business. That was never our primary focus. Our primary focus was with the industry moving towards cloud and cloud production.
What were we missing within our existing portfolio? An audio mixer. So we looked at the technology that was available, and we saw an opportunity to take some of that IP and move out into it.
For us, the main focus leads into our direction as a company in terms of content creation, providing value to our customers and engaging their audience in many different ways. Bringing in consoles, I think, maybe gives us an opportunity, but that wasn’t really our focus.
Our focus now is more how we take the technology to enhance some of the products we have from a cloud perspective and less about what we needed to have an audio console to complement something here.
Anything else you want to mention?
I know that there is a lot of excitement or interest in our acquisition of Studer. I think there are some parts that we’re still going through. In some cases, we may not have the immediate answers at the moment, but we’re definitely going through the process to make sure that we’re going to get the real value out of the acquisition and leverage that brand and the knowledge that we gained from the Studer acquisition to advance the industry.