Senior Communications Manager of Ross Video, Stuart Russell, talks to BFV about how the company is continuing to grow globally and how the firm has expanded beyond the broadcast industry.
Hi Stuart, thanks for taking the time to speak to Broadcast Film & Video.
What a successful year it has been for Ross Video. The firm continues to excel and grow annually with many new product launches and major investment announcements…
That’s very kind of you to say so! I’ve seen enormous change and progress since I joined the company in 2013, especially in the EMEA region. We’ve doubled turnover in EMEA in the last three years and we’re continuing to grow globally at around 18% per year. I can’t think of any other company in our industry with that kind of success profile – it’s an enviable situation – and it’s a testimony to David Ross (our CEO) and the senior management team who have been prepared to invest in our region, and a fantastic group of determined people in-situ who have worked very hard to get us here. It’s been amazing to see the profile of the company develop during my six years; we’ve really gone from being a small but ambitious brand in EMEA with only a dozen or so employees to being an important manufacturer that works with major international broadcasters, sports teams/venues and esports companies. It’s a terrific story and I’m most proud of the fact that we’ve managed to achieve our success without compromising on our values. Ross has always stressed the importance of great customer service and that is a core part of the company’s DNA; we’ve managed to attract some important customers in the region and build the team and the infrastructure without losing the sense of passion and enjoyment that David values. Being an employee-owned business is a massive benefit in this sense – we all share in the company’s success and we have a much greater ability to define our own destiny.
You mentioned acquisitions earlier – our range of solutions is now arguably the most comprehensive in the business and that situation has come about thanks to our acquisitions and the resulting organic growth. David has bought some great products (and great people!) over the years and every new addition has very positively complemented our operations. I know the Board of Directors carries out detailed due diligence before we acquire a company, and that includes qualitative elements as much as quantitative. David cares about the motivations of the people he works with and I think that approach has served us very well. We manage to make the whole greater than the sum of the parts, and that’s a tough thing to do where acquisitions are concerned.
The company works with many broadcasters in terms of live events and sports. Sports production is continuing to evolve at a rapid rate. The firm recently supported Broadcast Rental for coverage of the 2019 WAFU Cup of Nations Football Tournament. Can you tell me more about the project?
Sports and esports have become incredibly important for Ross – we’re now working with an impressive number of sports teams, venues and esports companies to help them make their content more impressive and engaging, as well as more efficient to produce. I think at the last count Ross solutions are being used by more than half of the combined NFL, NBA, NHL and MLS venues in North America, and we’re getting a bit of a reputation as a ‘go to’ problem solver for sports venues looking to improve their match day experience for fans and to simplify venue control. The West African Cup of Nations project with Broadcast Rental (one of the Netherlands best known rental and service houses) was an interesting one insofar as they had some very specific requirements for a 4K UHD flypack solution for the football tournament but also had one eye on future live events, so wanted a package that would be powerful but very flexible. It’s a common request – anyone building a flypack these days wants plenty of performance horsepower but also has to be conscious of factors including weight, set up time, cabling, cooling and so on, and futureproofing is always top of mind. In this sense, I think we’ve scored an impressive goal in the sports market (pardon the pun!) with our Ultrix routing and AV processing platform. It’s a 144×144 router at heart, but has an array of additional tricks up its very compact sleeve, including audio embedding/de-embedding, clean/quiet switching, up to 24 MultiViewers, frame synchronizers and UHD gearboxing – it really is ‘infrastructure in a box’ and the 5RU version can replace up to five whole racks of traditional infrastructure kit. Broadcast Rental wanted the Ultrix-FR5 at the heart of their flypack for that very reason. It’s a great example of an innovative and disruptive product developed by people who are passionate about what they do and who understand the challenges faced by our customers because they’ve worked in live production themselves.
Ross Video has expanded beyond the broadcast industry and now has customers in a number of different markets. How has this come about and can you tell me more about the company’s breadth?
That’s a very good question. Ross has always had an absolute commitment to live production (our tag line is ‘living live’) but a live production can be anything from a news bulletin to a sports match, a music recital or a legislative assembly. Our expertise is just a relevant here, so it makes sense that we have solutions to offer to these markets. David Ross always talks about building a successful business with multiple strands that is ‘hard to kill’; that makes a great deal of sense commercially and obliges us to look beyond our traditional markets. We’re very open-minded when it comes to our strategy on acquisitions and every company we acquire has to offer something that will slot very neatly into the existing range of solutions and complement what we do. That does sometimes take us into new markets – our pro-xi® workstation integrator is a great example of a solution that certainly has broadcast applications but is probably more likely to be found elsewhere (command and control environments in this case). We’re very fortunate insofar as we see a great deal of potential growth in the broadcast industry globally (Ross is still something of a challenger brand in some regions outside of North America) but we’re also seeing a steady increase in the number of customers working in AV, corporate, sports, esports, house of worship and educational environments. When it comes to content look and feel, many of these verticals are taking their references and cues from ‘traditional’ broadcast and are looking to achieve similar production values but with solutions that are a) more cost effective and b) easier for people from a non-broadcast background to configure and control. We therefore see much wider use of configurable touchscreen control panels amongst these customers, for example, and a great many of the questions we get asked relate to ease of use and training. All of that said, all customer problems can be categorised as either business, creative or technical. The language and vocabulary used may differ slightly from market to market, but our job remains the same – helping customers overcoming these challenges and make more impactful content, more efficiently.
What do you think the next year will bring for Ross Video?
As the saying goes, only a fool predicts the future. So…I should probably stop talking now! It’s always hard to discuss the year to come because the R&D team at Ross has expanded enormously (we’ve added more than 70 R&D engineers this year) and there are developments going on right across the 18 different product lines we offer. I know it’s a glib answer but when someone asks me what the main area of focus is at Ross, I can only reply by saying “everything”! In general terms, I think there’s the possibility of at least one acquisition from Ross in 2020. We’re actively expanding the sales and technical support teams and that will inevitably give rise to the need for additional regional offices. Speaking of offices, the team that works on the Piero sports analysis solution will be moving into a brand new, dedicated office in White City, London, next year and it’ll be great to have a place in central London as well as the EMEA HQ in Reading. As far as products are concerned, it’s impossible to pick out any one family that will be more important for Ross next year than the others, but I would like to highlight what we’ve been doing with production switchers. We started out as a switcher company and it’s still a very important part of our business. We’ve got some innovative plans for our production switcher range for next year and I think we’re going to really change people’s perception of what a switcher can do. Given our historical pedigree with the Carbonite family (it’s the world’s most popular midsize switcher family), that’s got to be exciting. Without dropping too many hints, I’d make a point of coming to see us at NAB Show 2020!
Just as a final comment, I know that everyone at Ross is very grateful for the success that we’ve experienced over the last few years, and it’s definitely not taken for granted. We’ve focused very hard on the blend of great products, customer care and ambitious partners, and that seems to have been a winning combination for us. Our customer retention rates very clearly indicate that people enjoy the experience of working with us and value what we do. The recruitment page on our web site is also consistently one of the most popular in terms of visits and I think that shows people also want to work with us, as well as becoming part of our customer family.