Peter Savage asks: Is the 1980s vision still relevant today?


TV-Bay Magazine
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by Peter Savage
Issue 82 - October 2013
The focus of this issue of tv-bay acquisition takes me back to the very beginning of my involvement in broadcast.

In the late 1980s, the whole of the broadcast world changed for what, I believe, was the better. The BBC introduced Producer Choice, which meant that commissioners of programmes were for the first time allowed to look outside the BBC to make programmes. A consequence was that people could employ freelancers, rather than having to rely on heavily-unionised staff, and it was this new direction that probably led to the strikes at TV-am in 1987.

Inspiration and vision in 1988

In 1988 I set up a leasing company, Fineline. We financed a camera for a customer and I did as all good sales people should do I spoke to the dealer and asked whether he had any other customers. That dealer was John Quincey who traded as Visual Impact out of his friends mothers living room in Teddington which, spookily, was where I lived. There started a friendship that has endured for 25 years.

The first customer John introduced me to was a picket line busting TV-am cameraman called Phil Baxter (of CVP) who inadvertently gave me the blueprint for my business. The camera he wanted to buy was £30,000 from Visual Impact. He was paying £1,800 a month in hire charges and my lease cost was £1,000 a month. It is purely an economic argument, Savage, he said. I dont like borrowing money but you can make me more money by leasing me that camera. And there started another 25-year long friendship that was so tragically brought to an early end last month.

But his and Johns visions live on and, I believe, are even more relevant in todays market.

A simple equation

In the 80s there was limited choice in cameras, and they were really expensive. Shooting kits were probably £60,000 to £70,000, especially when broadcast turned digital. Meanwhile, dealers in the UK were making cameras available at well below the listed manufacturer price. A simple equation of hire cost versus lease cost showed which made most economic sense. Leasing not only made the cameras affordable, it also meant cameramen could become owner-operators, or even set themselves up as small hire companies, breaking the two strangleholds of the day: internal staff costs and the hire companies.

Today the market is different. There has been a proliferation of cameras at really affordable prices, but there are so many of them that the former economic argument doesnt work, as one day you will be shooting on this format and the next day on another. Hire companies are holding 20 or 30 different cameras and, yes, leasing for the owner-operator of these types of camera is limited.

However, there are still cameras such as the Alexa XT or Sony F55 that, at around the £25,000 to £30,000 mark, are the same price as camera bodies were at the end of the 80s. Add a half-set of prime lenses and it takes the cost above the £100,000 mark. So, despite 25 years of technical development and three changes of main format, we are back at the same place: how much does it cost to hire versus how much does it cost to buy using finance?
More vision

This brings me round to the last of the visionaries I met in 1988: Steve Green. Steve runs the hire company Video Europe. He used the cost of buying argument to buy huge amounts of stock, especially DVW-A500s in the 90s, but he also took on board the stack em high, sell em cheap philosophy followed by Jack Cohen of Tesco and worked out that, if he hired his stock out at £150 a day when everyone was hiring out at £300, then so long as everything was out on hire, he would make more money than if he had half his decks on the shelf. If you spotted and picked the product of the moment, and had large amounts of stock out at cheaper prices, you would make great money.

He has stuck rigidly to that model with DVW, SRW and 2K. Those of you who hire cameras and decks at £150 a day have a lot to thank him for, even if he is not the favourite person with other hire companies.

When to hire, when to buy

In summary, I have been very lucky to have worked with some of the very best visionaries in the broadcast markets the people who, between them, have shaped both the hire and sales camera markets as they are today and whose argument, despite everything, still stands the test of time: if your monthly hire cost is more than the lease cost, then buy; otherwise hire. Phil Baxter RIP.

If you would like to know more about leasing and how we work with broadcast companies, do contact me at peter.savage@azule.co.uk and/or write to the tv-bay editor. To read more of these articles, see our website: www.azule.co.uk


Tags: iss082 | azule finance | tv-bay | acquisition | 1980s | bbc | producer choice | vision | relevant | article | [author]
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Articles
The Biggest Toy Shop in the World
Emma Morrison When Nigel Woodford started his career at BBC Wood Norton in 1962, television was black and white and BBC Two had not yet been launched. In 2018 Nigel will retire, and Richmond Film Services, the pro-audio equipment rental company set up by Nigel in 1973, can count numerous contributions to iconic moments in British cultural, sporting and film history over this time.
Tags: iss133 | richmond film services | audio rental | auction | liquidity | go-dove | Emma Morrison
Contributing Author Emma Morrison Click to read or download PDF
Live audio contribution over wireless networks
Pablo Rodrigues Altmann Wireless “live” contribution from anywhere at any time, this is the ultimate goal for most news reporters. The old favorite of using ISDN is becoming harder and much more expensive to access easily. Today most of us use wireless daily, in particular Wifi and HSPA/LTE 4G networks. These are now mature technologies and widely used for many applications in the home and whilst out and about. However there are still some professionals who prefer to persevere with the traditional, costly and limited ISDN communication technology before jumping into the wireless era.
Tags: iss133 | adrl | wireless audio | isdn | cellular audio | Pablo Rodrigues Altmann
Contributing Author Pablo Rodrigues Altmann Click to read or download PDF
Peli Air 1507 Review
Phil Vinter Originally named after a bird that carries its precious cargo through the skies, it was, perhaps, only a matter of time before Peli released its Air range.
Tags: iss133 | peli | peli air 1507 | trekpak | Phil Vinter
Contributing Author Phil Vinter Click to read or download PDF
Fast-moving productions need multi-cam RF reliability
Darren Bilton Wireless acquisition creates a level of freedom not possible with any other form of filming yet only a decade ago the technique was barely possible. The technology enabling live real-time connections over radio frequencies has advanced leaps and bounds such that there is barely an entertainment, documentary, sports or news format today that doesn’t benefit from at least one link system. That means the demands on the kit continues to rise and includes the need for fail safe multi-camera operation, ease of use and backwards compatibility all within a small, lightweight and budget-friendly package.
Tags: iss133 | boxx tv | wireless | mpeg-4 | multicam | rf | multi-cam | Darren Bilton
Contributing Author Darren Bilton Click to read or download PDF
Trade shows and their role in the wired world
Richard Baker Historically trade shows afforded an opportunity to collect the latest brochures relevant to the visitor's chosen industry or career path. Today there seems little reason to store data of any kind, let alone paper brochures, when information is so easily accessible online. Brochure back-packing at exhibitions has become a rare sight, rarer still since the security clampdown on visitor luggage at exhibitions. Today's efficient show delegate need only carry a mobile phone and, in deference to tradition, a bundle of business cards. The phone doubles as a snapshot camera, video camera, dictaphone, email reader, internet browser, Skype communicator, and so on.
Tags: iss133 | finepoint | ibc | nab | kitplus show | bve | Richard Baker
Contributing Author Richard Baker Click to read or download PDF