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Leitch Gets Graphic

Broadcast equipment-maker Leitch has enlarged its business. The company just bought Inscriber Technology, known for its graphic and character-generation technology, for approximately $14.5 million.

“Graphics has been a major hole in our product offerings,” says Leitch CEO Tim Thorsteinson. “We want to be viewed like Thomson Grass Valley or Sony, not simply as a player in the modular or server market.”

Leitch’s product line runs the gamut from routing switchers to nonlinear editing systems to storage units. And Thorsteinson is aggressively moving to add more items in 2005.

Upping the company’s offerings goes beyond growing its inventory. In the mid-to-late-1990s, expanding product lines fell out of favor as broadcasters feared any massive investment that tied them to one company’s technology. But now that products have become more software-based and less proprietary, that worry has eased.

Because customers are again interested in broad systems from a single company, acquiring a graphics division was a logical step for Leitch—and a beneficial one. Thorsteinson says that giving customers a comprehensive product base means building a sustainable support structure. “We’ll be able to do after-sale support more easily,” he says, “and that will drop the total cost of ownership for our customers.”

For Inscriber’s part, it pulls in about $15 million a year in revenue and has 90 employees located in Waterloo, Ontario, about a 75-minute drive from Leitch’s Toronto headquarters. Thorsteinson says the Waterloo facility may actually gain employees as some of Leitch’s workforce moves in to help integrate Inscriber’s software into existing company products.

Leitch had a similar experience when it bought router maker Videotek earlier this year; the vast majority of employees simply melted into Leitch’s framework.

Inscriber has been gaining industry buzz in recent years, particularly in the character-generation market. Due to its Canadian heritage and quiet presence, however, it has been overlooked in the American marketplace.

“Inscriber is a growing and ascending company, and I don’t think they’ve had the access to the broad customer base we do,” says Thorsteinson. “We can now provide them with the access to grow their business.”