Whats in a name

Dick Hobbs. TV-Bay Magazine
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by Dick Hobbs
Issue 88 - April 2014

That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.

Juliet, being a bit too passionate for her tender years, thinks that Romeo would, if he were not Romeo calld, retain that dear perfection which he owes without that title.
When I was Juliets age, and had done something which deserved a treat, I would choose favourite confections like a Marathon or a packet of Opal Fruits. And although I know them to be the same thing, I cannot conceive of Snickers or Starburst smelling as sweet.

I am brooding on names because, just a day or two ago, one of the biggest, longest-established names in the industry announced its self-immolation. Harris Broadcast is no more.

Well, we knew that, as a name, it had but a short time to live. The deal when it was sold off by the Harris Corporation was that it had to rebrand itself in three years. The deed has been done two years early, that is all.

The business has also been split in two, and there are obvious reasons for that. The name Harris has long been associated with transmitters for television and radio. In fact, the company can trace its routes back to one of the very first manufacturers in broadcasting, the Gates Radio Company, founded in Quincy Illinois in 1922, or the year before the BBC started broadcasting.

Harris bought the transmitter business in 1957, and it is still making them in Quincy. And in 2014 the old name is making a comeback: the transmitter part of the business is now called GatesAir.

The rest of the business is to be called Imagine Communications. I struggle with this, I am afraid. I know it is the name of a major business, in IP delivery, that Harris Broadcast bought at the end of 2013. But it sounds more like a small-town PR agency than a major force in broadcast technology to me.

If you are reading this on the plane to NAB, then discovering the big stand in the entrance to the North Hall is now shared by two companies, Imagine Communications and GatesAir, may still come as a shock. And it will not be the only one, as there has been a recent flurry of mergers and acquisitions, all of which will require some late design changes to exhibition stands.

What seems like an age ago, Miranda acquired Grass Valley. This was virtually a perfect fit: Grass Valley brought cameras and production switchers, Miranda brought graphics and delivery. Both companies have channel in a box automation products so there will be a bit of argy-bargy there, but otherwise this was a match made in heaven.
Except we are back to Juliet and her rose. What are you going to call the business? Both Grass Valley and Miranda are great brand names. Do we want to lose one? Surely not. I heard one rumour that the solution was that the joint business would be called Grass Valley, but with a Miranda purple logo. I cannot believe this purple grass is a very different product of the 1960s but it looks like we have to wait for NAB to find out the answer.

Then there was the linking of two great British brands: Quantel and Snell. The only slight surprise here apart from the fact that they had not done the obvious a long while ago is that Quantel has been assiduously moving out of hardware for the last few years, and is now firmly back in the business of soldering chips onto boards. They were always very good at it.

Even hotter news at least at the time I am writing this is that Pebble Beach Systems has been acquired by Vislink. From Vislinks point of view this is the safest form of market expansion: Pebble Beach is a terrific company. Indeed, because Vislink is listed on the AIM stock exchange it has to disclose details of the transaction, and according to the press release Pebble Beach is an extraordinarily good buy.

I also like Pebble Beach as a company because I worked with its founders in the dim and distant days when software house Logica was a player in the broadcast business. A nicer trio of chaps to put seven figure sums into their pension funds it is hard to imagine. I also know they will not find it possible to leave the company because they love what they do, so it will be business as usual.

A big flurry of news, even before we get to NAB. Pebble Beach, Quantel and Snell will continue as brand names. Miranda and Grass Valley may or may not smell as sweet in the future. Imagine Communications and GatesAir: will the names have an impact on their businesses?

It is an interesting question. Marketing managers devote days of anguish to finding the right brand name and the right if intensely irritating way of using illiteracy in an effort to make it memorable (even GatesAir, despite its historical origins, has no space). Will changing the name make any difference? Deny thy father and refuse thy name.

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Contributing Author Dick Hobbs.

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