SVG Sit-Down: Grass Valley CEO Andrew Cross and CMO Neil Maycock Discuss the Future of GV and Technical Innovation
In a change environment, the next big transition is the move into the cloud
This month, Grass Valley named a new CEO: Andrew Cross, who played a key role at NewTek for more than 20 years, including CEO from 2015 to ’19 and then as Vizrt president, global research and development. Cross and CMO Neil Maycock spoke with SVG about the future of Grass Valley, what attracted Cross to the role, and more.
What attracted you to Grass Valley?
Andrew Cross: Grass Valley is an interesting company in that it has merged with or bought almost all the players in the high-end part of the industry. There’s SAM, Miranda, Quantel, and I think that shows the strength of the technology and portfolio.
I should emphasize this is a pretty big change for me because I’ve been with NewTek for my entire career, 23 years. I’ve only ever had two first days on the job, and one of them was two weeks ago.
While I was at NewTek, I always thought it was important to be involved in what is next and the disruptive things that would change our industry. That’s why we started so early on with software-based real-time live video and why we got super involved in IP.
Now I’m pretty sure that the next big transition for our industry is going to be moving towards the cloud, and, when you look closely at the Grass Valley technology, it’s well-positioned to do that. That was the foresight of the people at Grass Valley four years ago, when it wasn’t that obvious and also when they were a very hardware-centric business. They saw that the world was going to go there and started building the technology. I came here to help be part of that, and I’m genuinely excited about that.
What kind of skills that you developed at NewTek do you think translate to your new role as CEO of Grass Valley?
AC: At NewTek, we looked to allow more people to do video in more ways, and that’s a big, common thread across all vendors: we are looking to grow the market. We’re looking to get more people into video. We’re looking for new ways of creating video. So that’s kind of number one. Obviously, I was heavily on the software and IP side of the industry, which is very valuable here at Grass Valley. Our goal is to be not just a strong cloud company but a strong company that gives our customer our all to help them generate content in the cloud, and we want to work with everybody else.
[In NewTek’s Network Device Interface (NDI)], we created something that had influence well outside of NewTek. That’s what I’m excited about helping do at GV: making our cloud solutions not just really great GV cloud solutions but helping take the whole industry there. We’ll be at the center of that because we believe we’ve got great cloud solutions. That’s good for us, and it’s good for everybody else. That’s something that you’ve seen me do before, and I love doing it because it’s exciting.
Historically, NewTek gave a lot of people an entry point into video and then took them on a journey upmarket. Grass Valley is clearly established at the top of the market. Many see cloud as a way to democratize content creation. How do you think the evolution of cloud production will change Grass Valley?
AC: That’s a really good question. First of all, I totally agree with your assessment. But to understand what we’re doing at Grass Valley is, most large TV stations run on some form of our infrastructure technology that brings everything together. Our cloud-based approach is not just to say we are going to start running some SA services. We’ve actually built on top of all the existing Grass Valley infrastructure, as a way to start moving that video on the cloud, move it between locations, and use the cloud to move between studios.
It’s a continuum. We were with one of the biggest broadcasters here yesterday. They have unbelievable infrastructure, and what we are doing allows them to start moving little bits of that to the cloud. Right now, when they have small four-camera shows that are going on to their digital channels, those four-camera shoots need to be done within the huge TV station. What we are doing is probably the only truly realistic way of helping tier-one broadcasters start to move parts into the cloud and also appealing to the tier-two, tier-three broadcasters, digital channels, sports leagues, and so forth.Neil, what’s your take on having Andrew join the team and the future of Grass Valley?
Neil Maycock: The reaction to Andrew joining has been incredibly positive as he has been an influential figure in the industry. What’s very interesting for me personally is that Andrew and his businesses have disrupted the industry, and that’s exactly what we see Grass Valley doing and in a positive way.
Our customer base is facing multiple challenges in terms of how they move forward and how they change their operations to scale and do all the things that they know they have to do. It’s not gonna be possible by doing lots of point pieces of technology and building it together like we would’ve done in the old hardware days. Where we are at Grass Valley has fantastic potential and raw material, and Andrew can help us capitalize on that. It’s fantastic, and there is genuine excitement and energy in the business with Andrew starting.
NewTek has always been seen as a company that embraced disruption, and. when Grass Valley Executive Chairman Louis Hernandez was CEO of Avid, he made that company disruptive. Andrew, do you see us in an age of disruption, and are you comfortable in change environments?
AC: I don’t know that I consider it a change environment as we aren’t passive here. We want to lead the industry, not follow the industry. It’s nerve-wracking to see an industry change around you, but, if you are the company that helped make that change, then it’s really positive.
When you were at NewTek, the company also was big on partnering with other companies, and Grass Valley is as well. Do you see partnerships with other vendors as a requirement for cloud-based environments?
AC: I’m sure that there are plenty of companies that feel that it’s important that they win and that they’re focused on themselves. I think it’s important to know who you are and what makes you different. When you see it that way, competition seems like something different.
I’ll give a very more modern example. When I was at NewTek, people asked me a thousand times if SMPTE ST 2110 and NDI were competitors. People don’t believe me, but they absolutely aren’t as they serve entirely different purposes for different markets. That doesn’t make either one right or wrong. The same is true for video switchers as they have different workflows.
It is better for everybody that we find ways to work together. If we aren’t really in competition and we know where we fit into the market and are confident enough in that, I think working with partners can be great. It has always made us stronger.
I very clearly remember when I suggested to NewTek that we give NDI away for free to everybody. The first question was, you want to give it to our competitors? That was the best thing ever because that’s what made it much bigger than it ever could have been if it was just part of NewTek.
You mentioned earlier that this is only the second time you’ve had a first day on the job in 23 years. What was that like?
AC: I thought it would be very hard, but I felt really welcomed here. I expected to have butterflies in my stomach on the first day, and I didn’t feel that. I felt very good about it. I had a lot of people around me saying how happy they were that I joined. I had a lot of people congratulate me from outside. I was nervous because I was leaving behind my babies after 23 years, but it feels really good, and I feel very welcome here.