Q. What is your opinion on the current state of the broadcast market?
Broadcast is back! Well, of course, it never went away, but the recession hit many capital projects for broadcasts all over the world and it slowed significantly. Recently, we’ve seen a significant upturn in all areas, which is good for us all. Our business has been very successful this year and we’ve enjoyed a strong uptake in sales to broadcast facilities--in both the television and radio markets. We’ve recently seen this view reinforced more broadly with very positive trade show attendance across the US, Europe and Asia. Sales have increased across the board of products; I also think this reflects the breadth of our product offerings from compact to large-format and our ability to provide solutions that are scalable and customized exactly to the needs of any broadcast environment. Of course, this also represents an overall, worldwide resurgence in broadcast and a renewed vitality in the industry—something that we are all happy to see.
Q. How have the technological demands of broadcasters changed over the past couple of years?
There is absolutely an increased emphasis on compatibility between components—system integration and ease of use, especially as the freelance community broadens as we’re already witnessing—the onus is on us manufacturers to develop products that are optimized to work together seamlessly, to provide systems that offer unlimited flexibility for the end-users. Networking communication protocols have already started to change the way live sound systems are controlled and integrated and we’re working on broadening systems for broadcasters; increased compatibility between components, translating to a profound impact on workflow. This adds up to significant savings in time, manpower and costs.
While we strive to optimize our consoles to work with other products along the signal path, we also recognize the importance of shared features between Studer’s various console models. For example, at NAB we introduced the Vista 5 M2 console, which features the same advanced TFT metering recently launched on the Vista 9 console a few months ago (including the revolutionary ‘History Mode’ which has caught everyone’s imagination). This not only reduces the learning curve for users who might be familiar with one product but not another; it also means re-implementation of technology that has already proven successful in the field. This kind of reliability and trust is crucial to broadcasters.
Another example is the Vistonics user interface, which was developed on the Studer Vista range and now adopted in a lighter form on the Soundcraft Vi Series. Vistonics is a Studer patented technology that fully integrates rotary controls and buttons with touch-screen displays, where a simple touch on the desired function of the chosen channel opens the complete Vistonics parameter set of that function. We call it “where you look is where you control.” The benefit of Vistonics is that it provides the familiar tactile, intuitive operation methodoloty of an analog console, but with all the advantages of digital technology to improve the operator experience and speed up the workflow.
Countless engineers have told us that Vistonics is a main factor in what sets Studer apart from other consoles, and indeed our development of Vistonics was a direct result of listening to the needs of engineers in the field.
Q. How has your company been affected by the current economic situation and what are you doing to get through it?
While the economic downturn hurt most markets, not least the entire broadcast market, it’s also true that challenging economic times are often the breeding grounds for innovation. Our response to the economic situation was to invest in things we felt would benefit our customers most, including rolling out more products than ever before, and maintaining a strong focus on customer support to help see them through their own difficulties as well.
In March, we celebrated the one-year anniversary of our Customer Experience Centre in Potters Bar. Now that was a brave strategy amid the turmoil in the industry! We invested almost $5 million to develop the 900-square-meter facility just outside London, which hosts international distributor and dealer meetings, training courses, product demonstrations, industry society meetings and customer acceptance testing. In fact, just this week, the Centre hosted the first in a series of system integrator and freelance engineer training sessions and we will be rolling this certification out across the US and Europe in the next few months, with Asia later next year. The Centre also houses a fascinating museum showcasing famous, historical products from Soundcraft and Studer on display, including the Studer J37 Tape Machine as used at most top studios in the world including Abbey Road studios in the 1960’s and 1970’s, recording amongst others, the classic Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album. This is always a big hit with visiting engineers and students from schools and colleges—all frequent visitors.
Q. How is Studer positioned to succeed in the broadcast market?
Studer is a global organization with global resources, and as a Harman Professional brand, we are uniquely positioned to address the needs of our customers and have some of the most advanced and respected audio technologies at our disposal through our close ties with sister companies including AKG, Lexicon, JBL and many others. For example, in keeping with Harman’s strategy to establish Centers of Excellence for each brand, we recently invested heavily in the new Console Technology Centre in Regensdorf, Switzerland. This gives us a location that is specifically dedicated to new broadcast product development, project engineering and service with what we believe is the best broadcast team in the world, while our Center of Excellence in Potters Bar, UK is more dedicated to production, marketing, sales and support and live sound R&D.
To ensure we serve our customers well, we have recently appointed new key sales and service personnel in the US, South America, Asia and Europe. We are currently continuing this expansion of staff and already seeing very positive results.
In key regions throughout the world, Studer is taking broadcast trucks on the road with a fully kitted-out studio to showcase our offerings to potential broadcast customers, while doubling as a training and certification resource. This is designed to address another trend we’ve seen in the broadcast industry, which is that more and more freelancers are emerging. That means you have a lot of engineers working on a lot of different control surfaces, some of which are more familiar than others. A primary goal of our truck tours is to enable the engineers in the field to acquaint themselves with the Studer product line, which will in turn serve them well on projects where Studer consoles are being used.
Q. What can we expect from Studer in the coming months?
From a product standpoint more and more interoperability and connectivity, we’ll have some major announcements leading up to the IBC show in September and you can expect significant developments in our continuing drive to provide solutions along a continuum of price points and feature sets.
All in all, our vision for the future positions Studer as the clear number one choice for integrating mixing systems across the world; our strategy includes growth in the areas of R&D, support, sales and marketing, and a commitment to the next generation of broadcast technologies. We’re ambitious and optimistic, we see the market growing and we have a great expanding team—so we’re looking forward to a very exciting and successful second half of 2011 and beyond.