In 1995, Avid Technology was looking for a way to reconfigure its nonlinear editing system, popular among production houses, into a practical product for TV newsrooms. Its solution was to buy BASYS, then a leading supplier of computer-based newsroom systems. The strategy was right on the mark. Not only did Avid acquire vital technology, but also a collection of savvy executives who knew the TV news market. Among them was regional sales executive David Schleifer.Seven years later, Schleifer leads Avid's broadcast division. And under his leadership, the division has thrived, doubling its client list to 60 in the past 12 months and helping to drive Avid's stock from $7.50 to $22 in the past year. The success, Schleifer said, comes from simply knowing your customer.
"I think that vendors need to evolve their solutions to the point of meeting broadcasters' expectations," he said. "IT-based technology will play a huge role in broadcast, but these technologies need to meet the expectations of broadcasters for reliability, throughput and predictability."Schleifer was born in New York City, but when he was five his family moved to Jerusalem, where his stepfather worked for NBC News and would eventually become the network's Middle East bureau chief. During his 12 years in Jerusalem, Schleifer was exposed not only to the region's culture, but also the hows and whys of news and news technology. He helped his father and his crews, serving as a soundman and filing radio spots.
There were, of course, the more typical experiences of boys—learning to play trumpet in the high-school band, and later flute, saxophone and guitar.
"When some kids in school were looking for a guitarist to play at a dance I started practicing the guitar and learned enough songs to play that night," he recalls. He even built his own acoustic guitar with the help of a luthier he included in a film he made about local industries.
After high school, Schleifer returned to the U.S. where he attended Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y.
"I met my wife there, so it was one of those small decisions that affects the rest of your life," he said. While there, he majored in music and fine arts, with an emphasis on classical music. But after graduation he went to work at WNYC(TV) New York [now WPXN-TV] in various capacities. He also worked at NBC News.
"I really enjoyed being a desk assistant at NBC, though I do not want to go back and take that job again," he said. "Working at 30 Rock was a fascinating experience, whether it was ripping and running scripts down to the studio for Tom Brokaw, or running into Letterman and the cast of SNL
[Saturday Night Live] in the halls. It was an exciting place to be."
In 1988, Schleifer began working for BASYS. At that time, the challenge of selling newsroom computer systems was much different than today, since most newsrooms were still using typewriters. Nonetheless, the value proposition for the typically conservative broadcast facility was the same as it is today.
"The single most valuable question you can ask [with respect to a product] is what problem does this solve," he says. "Listen to the users and focus on solving their problems."
Schleifer found out about the sale of BASYS to Avid while driving in his car. He was in the Boston area, where Avid is located, and heard the announcement on the radio. He pulled over and called family members to tell them the news.
Since that day Schleifer has been intimately involved with the Avid product line. Positions at Avid have included business development manager, broadcast marketing manager, product marketing managerand director, broadcast & storage. Today he helps set the broadcast vision for a company whose products were once seen as a nice novelty to the traditional broadcast facility. And given the current success it looks like his vision is just fine.
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