Ross Video Looks To Finally Penetrate Sports Truck Market With MCP Acquisition

After years of struggling to penetrate a remote–sports-production industry dominated by other, firmly established tech vendors, Ross Video has opted for a new strategy: cut out the middle man. With the acquisition of Mobile Content Providers (MCP) this week, Ross Video has officially entered the remote-production market for itself with the intention of building out a national fleet of full-service mobile-production trucks aimed at low- to mid-range live sports shows.

Toward that end, the company aims to develop a sizable pool of freelance operators and convince mobile-unit providers that Ross Video switchers, graphics systems, routers, media servers, and other gear is, indeed, a viable option for the truck market.

“It’s no secret that it has been a challenge over the years for us to break into the sports [remote-production] market,” says Ross Video CEO David Ross. “We do extremely well in stadiums, faith-based, entertainment, news, corporate events, and so on — but, in trucks, we are not a leader, and I think everyone knows that. But it’s not because we don’t have technology that can benefit those broadcasters and truck [vendors]. Rather, there is just a strong perception that there is not enough of a freelance pool of switcher and graphics operators to justify putting Ross equipment into a truck.

“Recognizing that,” he continues, “we have realized that the only way for us to [penetrate the truck market] is to just do it [ourselves]. The only way is to put our money where our mouth is with the belief that there are freelancers that are trainable, business that is accessible, and our trucks will work as a viable alternative.”

Building Out Ross MCP
The South Florida-based Ross MCP (as it will henceforth be known) specializes in offering budget-friendly, full-service remote-production packages that include facilities, equipment, and production and technical crew.

MCP’s small fleet of small-format vehicles already features a full complement of Ross Video gear, including Carbonite Series production switchers and XPression real-time motion-graphics system. The company intends to significantly grow the MCP fleet and will have a uniform equipment complement and setup across all its units. it also plans to offer clients social-media–management tools (likely its Inception platform).

According to Ross, the company is capable of rolling out a new MCP truck every six weeks — or even faster if it is built linearly — but the growth of MCP’s fleet will depend on the demand from the target market: high-end high school, low-end college, and other streaming and regional sports shows. Ross also notes that, unlike other ma-and-pa truck operators that play in this low- to mid-level space, financing for new trucks will not be an issue due to Ross Video’s strong corporate infrastructure.

“These are high-end high school or low-end college sports, so you need to get in and get out quickly and affordably — and the only way to do that is to change the model,” says Ross. “Everyone is already watching professional sports, and there is big money there, so, because everybody is making money anyway, there hasn’t been a whole lot of pressure to find more–cost-effective solutions. But now, with smaller sports and Internet streaming becoming of high interest, there is an emerging market that we believe is looking for solutions like this.”

The Ross-Centric Truck
Ross Video produces gear that spans much of the truck-equipment spectrum, including switchers, graphics systems, routers, and more — putting the company in a unique position to offer fully integrated workflows that revolve around its DashBoard control and monitoring system. In addition to outfitting all MCP units with this Carbonite-Xpression-Dashboard setup, it plans to offer these integrated solutions to other truck companies with special package pricing and support arrangements.

“For Ross, when you have the routers, servers, switcher, graphics, terminal gear, Dashboard, social media, and the apps, suddenly, we are a substantial portion in the total value of the truck,” says Ross. “All of the products we make that apply to trucks integrate with our Dashboard control system, which is free, so it makes every bit of sense to be able to put in Ross equipment that works under the Dashboard framework. That is where you will be able to find more operational efficiencies.”

Truck Market Remains Tough To Crack
The MCP acquisition is just the first step in the Ross roadmap for the truck market. According to its press release, Ross MCP will serve as a “friendly competitor alongside existing mobile operators and packagers.” The company clearly has its eyes set on much more than just building up MCP, looking to prove to the major remote-production providers that Ross equipment does, indeed, have a place in their trucks.

With Grass Valley production switchers in more than 80% of trucks and Chyron graphics in more than 90% of trucks (according to SVG’s most recent Remote Sports Production Gearbase, published in first quarter 2013), it will not be an easy nut to crack. The key will be cultivating an extensive base of freelancers who are comfortable with — or even prefer using — Ross equipment. In that vein, the company will also fund a freelance training initiative to enable this next generation of Ross tools to become more widely accepted.

“There are thousands of operators out there that can use a Ross switcher, but we need to make sure those are the same operators that are working in the sports trucks,” says Ross. “We need to start training people on the way to use a Ross. This [acquisition] is not just about Ross making a point about trucks; it’s about Ross creating the freelance talent pool to use our equipment.”