Harris Broadcast Does The Splits

NEW YORK – Harris Broadcast is no more. In name, anyway. And a bit more.

The company, just eight months after Charlie Vogt took the helm as CEO, announced here at Madison Square Garden during its first annual media day that it has shed its old name and separated itself into two separate operational units – Imagine Communications and GatesAir.

Imagine Communications, adopting the brand of the video encoding and transcoding firm that Harris Broadcast bought in in January, will focus on video and multimedia software and processing products for media, broadcast, MSO, and government and enterprise customers. It is headquartered in Dallas, with hubs in Denver, Toronto, Los Angeles, Tel Aviv, and Beijing.

GatesAir, meanwhile, will focus on over-the-air technology for broadcasters and other wireless media distribution partners.

Vogt, who will remain CEO of both companies, said he thought the move to create two operationally independent companies was necessary as both units blaze their own paths, believing the separation will help each side innovate faster.

“Harris Broadcast basically created two standalone companies; it is not a spin-off,” Vogt stressed. “We need both companies to stand on their own.” But he acknowledged that both companies do share several customers and left the door open to collaborative deals that involve both GatesAir and Imagine Communications.

Vogt noted that the rebranded and refocused companies will have a significant presence at the NAB conference, which gets underway on April 5 in Las Vegas.

In response to questions from analysts and reporters, Vogt said the newly structured company will be “very opportunistic” when it comes to M&A, noting that the market is flush with small, innovative companies that Imagine or GatesAir might find attractive. . “We’ll be bold and aggressive on the M&A front, particularly over the next year,” he said.

Talking Vision

Vogt and other execs also used the event to outline the visions for each company.

Steve Reynolds, the former Comcast exec who is now CTO of Imagine Communications, said he will lead the division as it helps partners transition toward IP and more agile, software-defined architectures.

Reynolds, who joined what was still known as Harris Broadcast late last year, highlighted several macro-level trends that the company will focus on, including including IP-delivered multiscreen video, improved compression, cloud-based, centralized operations, and addressable/targeted advertising, 

As Imagine shifts into a model based on software-define networking (SDN) and networks functions virtualization (NFV), it will also shift from purpose-built hardware to off-the-shelf gear and an open “ecosystem around a reference architecture” that starts with ingest and ends with distribution.

Along that path, Imagine on Monday also launched MediaCentral, a cloud-based platform that integrates ad sales, traffic, scheduling, and playout.

Imagine also introduced Software Defined Workflows (SDW), a video management system  that is tied to its new MultiService SDN architecture that aims to bring all media into the IP layer and separate the media content components from control. Imagine said its investments in TV Everywhere will use the MediaCentral and Multiservice SDN frameworks.

As for GatesAir, the Cincinnati-based will focus on digital over-the-air TV broadcast opportunities around the world, while also addressing what’s on the horizon, including Ultra HD and LTE broadcast technologies, explained the division’s chief product officer, Rich Redmond. GatesAir will release  additional details on its portfolio and roadmap in the coming weeks, the company said.

And Redmond had a message to those that believe over-the-air is a dinosaur.

Noting that the globe is only 55% penetrated by digital TV, Redmond said wireless video is poised “to leapfrog wired TV connections,” noting that broadcast is still an efficient way to deliver the same content to the masses. “Over-the-air broadcast is the most reliable means for media distribution around the globe,” he added, noting its ability to cover great distances at low infrastructure costs.

Looking ahead, he said GatesAir feels there is a way to “harmonize” the delivery of video via traditional broadcast and mobile carriers.