NAB 2016

Louis Hernandez Jr addresses Avid Everywhere progress, ‘content explosion’ challenges

avidDuring a far-reaching opening keynote at the Avid Connect event held pre-NAB in Las Vegas over the weekend, Avid chairman, president and CEO Louis Hernandez Jr charted the latest stages in the development of the Avid Everywhere ‘ecosystem’ – and provided a few hints regarding its future.

It is now just over three years since Hernandez Jr assumed the reigns at Avid following what it is widely acknowledged to have been a challenging time for the technology giant. Reflecting on his own origins – “Latin, very religious, immigrant mentality; we always felt there was something we should have been doing better” – Hernandez Jr says it was always clear that with Avid a large amount of the role was to continue “building a family. There were high expectations and a great sense of purpose, but [it was evident that] tough conversations needed to take place in order to move forward.”

Soon after taking the helm he commenced upon an intensive period of “going around the globe talking to people about their aims and challenges” – and he admits that “some were sceptical of the [Avid Everywhere] vision we were laying out before them.”

First and foremost, there was a need to counter the perception that Avid was a closed shop. As one observer remarked to him back then, “‘Avid not only stays in the box, it nails the box shut.’” But at least the main solutions were in place – Pro Tools, Media Composer, iNews Interplay, ISIS – so that Hernandez Jr’s team could press ahead with “making everything more seamless, easier and more comprehensive” – the ultimate goal being “a global ecosystem with all working together seamlessly and [where] everyone can share tools. It’s been fun – and really challenging, too.”

Building the ACA

Developing the Avid Customer Association (ACA) community of media and entertainment industry professionals has been integral to the success of the project, he underlined. “There was an effort involved to get the first 100 to join the ACA, but now we are at 5500, which is really incredible from a standing start,” said Hernandez, describing the Association as “our secret weapon”.

The addition of Orad’s real-time graphics, video servers and related asset management technologies through acquisition in 2015 was cited as an important factor in the growth of the Avid family. Overall platform sales were reported to have increased by 54% during the past year, while other headline figures included a 400% growth in subscriptions, a 48% rose in digital sales, and a 38% uplift in audio business. Some 200,000-plus first-time users were also recorded.

At this point, added Hernandez Jr, Avid is in a good position to optimise its “incredible brand heritage and amazing relationships with media professionals around the world”.

But whilst Avid’s own position in the media firmament now seems more defined, the challenges for end-user remain fluid. In broadcast, customers are dealing with “the content explosion” and, specifically, “the need to create more distinctive content. That puts more pressure on the [economic aspect of businesses] as content has to go to more devices and platforms.” The drive for “greatest efficiency” in workflows will continue unabated, he implied.

The issues highlighted in the music industry – whereby the conventional artist payment model is in flux (with average payouts said to have decreased by 40%) in the same period as streaming service revenue is soaring – seem more open-ended and intractable. But whilst Hernandez Jr acknowledged that “the [music industry] system is broken and needs to change,” he believes that Avid “can have an impact”.

Times they are (still) a-changin’

Looking at the overall media landscape, he said it is evident that “everyone is in the middle of some change. [Issues include] how to manage and store content efficiently, how to do more with less… Avid’s role is to help navigate forwards – that is what the platform is all about.”

Continued investment in R&D was highlighted – a new hardware design facility in Taiwan is among the latest additions – with Hernandez Jr claiming that “we are now spending smarter and more efficiently.”

And with the ACA now well-established and the process of internal change drawing to a close (“most changes will be finished this year, with the remainder to close next year”), the emphasis will indeed be firmly on fresh developments. As we move into 2017, “the focus will be on new products, applications and services so we can really get this going.”