Harris Broadcast Splits Company Into Imagine Communications, GatesAir

Harris Broadcast has announced that it will split its business into two segments: Imagine Communications and GatesAir. Imagine Communications will focus on creating software, IP-networking, cloud-based, and TV Everywhere solutions for the media and entertainment market, while GatesAir will encompass Harris’s TV- and radio-transmission operations.

Harris Broadcast President/CEO Charlie Vogt announces the company's plans to split into Imagine Communications and GatesAir during a media event at Madison Square Garden

Harris Broadcast President/CEO Charlie Vogt announces the company’s plans to split into Imagine Communications and GatesAir during a media event at Madison Square Garden.

The move comes just 13 months after Harris Broadcast was acquired by the Gores Group from Harris Corp. Charlie Vogt, who was named president and CEO of Harris Broadcast in July, made the announcement during a media event at Madison Square Garden on Monday afternoon. He will stay on in that role, overseeing both Imagine Communications and GatesAir.

“This decision was very deliberate,” he said. “It isn’t that we don’t love either one of the businesses. They are just two very different technologies, and we feel like both businesses are headed in slightly different paths. We know we share a lot of the same common customers. What we want to do over time is truly separate these two companies so they can truly be independent, standalone companies that take on their own path — whatever that ends up being.”

Vogt made clear that the splitting of the two companies does not represent a spinoff but rather the creation of two independent companies that will continue to serve customers in both sides of the business.

“[In those cases], you will see us enter into a partnership agreement where we have customers — and we do today — that give us one order and we fulfill it across our entire product portfolio. That is something that we will still be able to do,” said Vogt. “I feel like we have a good path in satisfying what our customers are most concerned about. Ultimately, we want to take a path that is going to foster innovation.”

Imagine Communications will be headquartered in Dallas, with additional locations in Denver, Toronto, Los Angeles, Tel Aviv, and Beijing. GatesAir (named after the Gates Radio Co., the predecessor to Harris that was founded by Parker Gates in 1922) will be headquartered in Cincinnati, with its manufacturing, supply chain, and fulfillment center in Quincy, IL.

Imagine Communications
Former Comcast VP of Premises Technology Steve Reynolds will help lead the new Imagine Communications as its CTO. At the media event, Reynolds unveiled two of the company’s chief new offerings: MediaCentral and MultiService SDN.

MediaCentral is Imagine’s cloud-based integrated, end-to-end ad-sales, -traffic, -scheduling, -automation, and -playout platform that virtualizes key capabilities that were previously provided only in distinct, separate, and often premises-based platforms, according to Reynolds. MediaCentral creates an underlying architecture of modular, IP-based services that can fully support the integration of media and playout functions, such as live log integration, simplifying operations, and providing advanced service velocity for operators.

Imagine Communications also introduced its Software Defined Workflows (SDW), a capability enabled by the company’s MultiService SDN architecture. SDW allows a broadcast facility’s entire workflow to be software-defined, bringing all media into the IP layer and separating the media-content components from control.

“The world is changing, so we are changing the way we do things in order to move forward,” said Reynolds. “We are going to do a lot more of our product development using software-defined neworks to change the way video moves through these systems. We are going to move toward network virtualization. We are going to build our products so that we have the ability to virtualize those functions, run them in the public cloud [and] the private cloud, and run them on off-the-shelf hardware that leverages the expansion of IT and IP infrastructure.”

Reynolds also said that Imagine will move toward a service-based architecture, with its latest line of products to be unveiled at NAB 2014. These products will be built on top of service-oriented architecture so that they can be hosted in the cloud.

“The most important thing, we are moving towards an ecosystem model that is based on the notion of a reference architecture,” said Reynolds. “Having that architecture for how things work from end to end, from ingest through to distribution, so that products can be fit into that reference architecture and we have the ability to move faster. We will be moving faster so you will be able to move faster. if we can innovate with a faster pace of change, then our customers can innovate at a faster pace of change.”

GatesAir will continue to focus on over-the-air TV and radio with a keen eye on digital conversions, new use of spectrum and licenses in many countries, and spectrum auctions and TV-band repacking.

“The ability to focus on what we do best is really going to give us opportunities for exceptional growth at a time when the industry has an awful lot of change going on that we are going to be able to take advantage of,” said Rich Redmond, who will serve as GatesAir’s chief product officer. “The ability to focus on the wireless-broadcast market for radio and TV around the world allows GatesAir not only to capture the energy and capabilities within our teams but to be better able to connect with our customers and get that customer intimacy.”

Impact on the Industry and Plans for NAB 2014
The split marks the third major deal within the broadcast-production–tech sector in just six weeks, following the announcements of Belden’s planned acquisition of Grass Valley (and subsequent merging of operations with previously acquired Miranda) and Quantel’s deal for Snell. Although Vogt said he is confident that splitting Harris will position both companies to compete against these new entities – specifically saying that Imagine will “out-innovate” Belden – he also promised that the companies will remain open to potential acquisitions in the future.

“I think you are going to continue to see us be very opportunistic,” he said. “There are some really great innovative companies out there that align with our strategy, and, if we can [achieve our goals] faster with them, then you are going to see us be pretty bold and aggressive on the [merger-and-acquisition] front, especially over the next year.”

The deal comes less than three weeks before the opening of the 2014 NAB Show. Imagine Communications will be releasing additional details on its plans in the coming weeks, both before and during the show, where it will demo MediaCentral, TV Everywhere, and Multiservice SDN/SDW at Booth N2503. GatesAir will also be releasing additional details on its plans in the coming weeks and exhibit its solutions at Booth N609.

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