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16 TVBEurope Forum Systems Integration in association with Investigating the integrators

Continuing the series of TVBEuropeForums introduced last year, Philip Stevensseeks the views of leading Systems Integrators from across Europe and the Middle East on the state of their business and what new technology offers

SYSTEMS INTEGRATORS (SIs) bridge the gap between customers and suppliers and are, therefore, in a unique position to evaluate what is happening on both sides of the broadcast industry. Their opinions and observations about the current state of their business and what new technology will mean are well worth investigating. Taking part in this latest TVBEurope Forum are (in alphabetical order) Kalvis Baumanis, board member of Hannu Pro; John Cleaver, sales director, Dega Broadcast; Gabriel Dusil, vice president Marketing & Corporate Strategy at Visual Unity; Tim Felstead, head of Sales and Marketing, ATG Broadcast; Jon Flay, managing director OKNO TV; Martyn Hales, managing director, VSC Design; Tom Haye, managing director, Broadcast Networks; Dr. Dirk Jaeger, CTO Divitel; Kevin Moore, managing director, Eurotek Ireland; Kevin Moorhouse, chief operating officer and MD Gravity Media Group; Werner Osselaer, Sales and Marketing manager, Studiotech; David Phillips, managing director TSL; Sebastian Wainberg, general product manager, Promovisa: and Paul Wallis, sales director at Salam Media Cast

These are tough times economically. How has the SI business been affected?

Baumanis:We still see a lot of opportunities, as more than ever broadcaster and customer technology changes. These fast changes stimulate customer purchases to keep up in this competitive market. HD upgrade is still required, but now this move is accompanied by nonlinear production workflows and multi-screen delivery investments. In short, we would say there are smaller budgets, but more action in the market! Cleaver: Dega Broadcast Systems has just completed its busiest three years ever. The nature of the systems business is that you always have fluctuations in workload, but they rarely seem to follow the general financial climate. Dusil: The economic climate has been a wake-up call for broadcasters looking to streamline their workflow and cut costs. Throughout the economic downturn the need for System Integrators has been consistently strong. This is because of the need to migrate legacy-based tape arrangements to an internet-based file system requiring expertise in both technologies to realise a successful installation. Emerging, dynamic markets such as Central and Eastern Europe, Africa and the Middle East have been a cushion for Systems Integrators to be able to operate internationally. Felstead:What has affected

the SI business is evolving technology to an increasingly file-based workflow environment. We are being asked to be ever more innovative in our proposals to improve workflow-related efficiencies. Flay: The whole industry has

been affected by the current economic climate and broadcasters are taking longer to commit to long-term projects. In some cases non-critical upgrades are being delayed or even abandoned. In many other parts of the world there’s still the matter of digital switchover and the associated issues. The

SI involvement in creating a television production gallery (OKNO TV)

Kalvis Baumanis: “If we talk about solutions created by SIs then the next ‘big’ thing would be IP infrastructure and detached control surfaces”

economic downturn and financial crisis hitting the UK and Europe – the US, too – has encouraged Systems Integrators to look further afield for new business. Hales: We have a healthy

mixture of overseas and UK clients and whilst we noticed a slowdown in the UK-based SI work a couple of years ago, our overseas business has been largely unaffected. Haye: There are certainly less

large or mammoth projects in the broadcast SI arena — which means that the smaller projects have to be shared out. Many customers are looking at refurbishment rather than replacement. Jaeger: Tough times for the economy have proven not to interfere with TV business under all circumstances. Watching television is a leisure activity which has limited cost burdens

John Cleaver: “Cost and timescale have, without doubt, become the prominent factors in requirements”

for viewers. Divitel has built up its entire business in Germany and the Caribbean during the last two years. Moore: Well, it’s certainly a lot

more competitive. The chances of having a tender document that addresses the entire requirement for any project is pretty slim. One of the challenges is to make sure that, as an SI, you’re not left exposed to shortcomings in the design due to incomplete information being provided at proposal stage. It’s also becoming more challenging to agree reasonable terms. SI companies are not banks, and we can’t cash- flow projects for clients, but it can be pretty hard to agree a sensible stage payment programme with some customers. Moorhouse: We have not

really seen a slowdown – although companies that have

projects in mind are becoming more aware of doing things for smaller budgets. Osselaer: Despite the current economical situation, with heavy pressure on cost savings and efficiency, there are clearly still growth factors. We see in our market an ever-increasing demand for IT-related solutions, such as archive management systems, multi-screen solutions, satellite uplink, media servers, streaming and fully integrated file-based workflow. This is in contrast to the declining ‘traditional’ studio market. Phillips: Customers of SIs face a significant challenge right now. Global economic times are tough, yet the rate of change of technology and the way in which consumers are now demanding and using content is accelerating at an ever-increasing rate. We see many systems opportunities as content providers continue to invest in new technology, and especially in additional channels in HD, MAM systems and playout to the many diverse platforms now in existence. This investment need is tempered by a strong economic restraint on what’s desirable and what’s financially realistic. This results in a longer sales cycle and reduced margins for the SI and the equipment manufacturers. Wainberg: The economic crisis has a direct impact on our business. The budget restrictions and decrease in advertising has created a whole variety of additional complexities in our market. Local and regional channels are closing or being privatised, with a lot fewer local productions in general. Wallis: The economic decline

has forced many broadcasters to think smarter about their investments. Manufacturers are now looking to make direct deals with end users to bolster their own profits. As a result, SIs are diversifying their business services, looking into new broadcasting technology as well as maintaining high levels of customer service in their traditional offerings. March 2013

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