SVG Sit-Down: Ross Video CEO David Ross and EVP/CMO Jeff Moore
Ross Video designs, markets, manufactures, and supports a wide range of innovative products for use in broadcast, distribution, live-event, and production applications. In 2013, after a number of successful acquisitions, the company acquired Mobile Content Providers, created Ross Mobile Productions, and will show off its openTruck Sprinter-van production unit at NAB 2014.
SVG recently visited Ross Video’s R&D facility in Ottawa, ON, and sat down with CEO David Ross (only the second CEO in the company’s 40-year history, following his father, John) and EVP/Chief Marketing Officer Jeff Moore to discuss the company’s venture into mobile production, its commitment to the sports-venue market, the Ross rebrand, and what customers can expect at NAB.
Let’s talk about Ross Video’s venture into the mobile-production market, acquiring Mobile Content Providers and creating Ross Mobile Productions. How are you integrating mobile production into the Ross Video business model?
David Ross: I like to think about it from a customer-centric point of view. One of the things that we know is that, with our work with some of the major broadcasters for a lot of the colleges and universities, they were already putting in a lot of Ross equipment, particularly our graphics and our production switchers. Some of them want to [achieve high production] standards, but they didn’t have budget for a control room, they didn’t have a program in their universities, [or] they just didn’t have any students doing it. Being able to go in [with openTruck] and provide those schools the same level of functionality was really important, and [we were] able to do it ultimately on a national level because these schools are pretty much everywhere.
What we found was that the big truck operators didn’t have our products in [their trucks] even though that’s what was going into [production] facilities. So there wasn’t even a place for our customers to go to get a broad coverage of our products. There were some smaller operators, but nothing at the scale of what we’re talking about, so I think that was one advantage [to building openTruck]. Another advantage that we see is that, often, [colleges] will have a control room and they may even be using it but these are big schools and they often have more than one sporting event going on at a time. [We can] go in and complement what’s going on — say, if they’ve got a volleyball tournament going on exactly at the same time as they have a football game going on. They can run the football game with their staff, and we can go in and even use some of their additional staff, some of their own students to work with us in our truck so they can cover more than one show at once. That’s another huge advantage in being able to work with these schools. And I think as well it’s been great advertising for the technology that we have.
Jeff Moore: It’s a response to the demand for content and being able to get these sports televised — either on a cable channel or on the Web and other forms of delivery — [and] being able to keep the production levels high but get the costs down. The way you do that is through integration and building a different kind of model of production, and that’s what we’ve been able to do with Ross Mobile Productions. That need is very much in existence in the marketplace, and that’s what’s driving our approach to this.
It’s not just about their facilities. It’s about training students, training that next generation of staff on these new workflows, which are very tightly integrated, quite different from the old way of doing things. It’s smaller trucks, tightly integrated production gear, and different crewing expectations in terms of what the operational staff is capable of doing.
One of the things we’ve noticed recently is your commitment to sports venues. Obviously, you’ve been making production switchers for some time, but how are you specifically addressing the sports-venue market and the in-venue show?
JM: It’s all about the involvement we had in the market. We were probably one of the first vendors to go to IDEA [Information Display and Entertainment Association Conference]. … [Sports venues are] different than broadcast television, so most of the other [vendors] were doing production switchers designed for the networks. We do that, too, but we also build in features for the unique needs of the stadium marketplace. They don’t have just one screen; they’ve got a bunch of screens to feed.
Our people that go out and do training are exceptionally talented. We’ve got this group of 30 or 40 people that travel the world to train our clients and people that specialize in stadium events. … Part of what’s happened with Ross over the past several years is, we’ve evolved from being just a hardware company to a hardware and software company and now a services company. The services component is really important to our clients. They don’t want just a box that’s dropped off; they need the expertise that goes with it to make use of that … Our people help our clients be successful and take their productions to the next level.
For the 40th anniversary, you’ve unveiled a new logo with a new tagline: Production Technology Experts. What was the reasoning behind the rebrand?
JM: A big part of the value that we bring is, it’s not just about the equipment, it’s about what you’re going to do with the equipment. The end result is [what] you’re going to be able to generate with it — and the services that we can provide along with that.
DR: It ties into the entire Ross strategy. If you’re doing a rock concert or something like that, we can come in and help you with the graphics look and everything to do with that. If you’re putting in a legislative system, we make sure that that system works. If you’re doing news, we put in OverDrive, and we live on-site with you for sometimes months, making sure it all happens. If you’re going to do virtual sets and augmented reality, that is a complicated interconnected system. We’re doing this because we need to as well. We’re not just moving boxes. We are selling systems now that are interconnected. The primary value that’s added is the way Ross pieces of equipment work together.
When you look at the old logo, it’s a crossfade, which stands for, ever since the days of analog switchers, one piece of video fading out, one piece of video fading up. How does that relate to robotics? How does that relate to graphics? And so it’s almost like it’s our own fault people think that Ross is a switcher company still. It was, I think, important to restate who we are and to make people [say,] oh, Ross changed their logo. Are they under new management? What’s happened at Ross? I don’t care what question it makes them ask, but I want them to ask, because, if they came to Ross Video four years ago and got a plant tour and five hours of PowerPoint [presentations] of everything that we did, they don’t know Ross today. They know what we’re like as people — and that hasn’t changed — but they really don’t know what we do. We’re moving so fast that we need people to keep looking.
What can people expect from your booth at NAB 2014?
DR: Surprises [laughs]. It’s kind of like Steve Jobs’s one last thing. You want people to pay attention. … If you start with the most exciting thing leading into NAB, then nobody’s going to really pay attention to all the other stuff. It’s going to get drowned out. It’s actually not a bad strategy: make sure people [are] up to date with all the advancements that we’re doing but don’t expect the biggest thing to be in our press releases. That’s going to show up the Sunday night before the show.
JM: There are a few things that we have already announced that we can talk about. One of them is, customers can come and see the first openTruck at the show. We’re going to have openTruck right there on the floor; it will be set up, and anybody can come by and have a look at it. We encourage other truck companies to come by and have a look at it, as well as potential clients. And we can talk about openTruck and what it’s all about.