Media darlings

With its industry’s largest R&D engine at its disposal, Grass Valley, a Belden Brand, has become the trusted long-term technology partner to a who’s who of the world’s leading broadcasters, news organisations, content/rights owners and media service providers

If you are one of the many millions of people to have had the pleasure of watching some of the biggest sporting or cultural events in recent memory, from the UEFA Champions League Football Final and the British Formula 1 Grand Prix, to a Royal Wedding or a large outdoor concert, you are probably also blissfully unaware that specialist kit created by Grass Valley (GV) is being used as part of the systems that record, process, convert and playout the TV signals back to your home.

“We manufacture a full-suite of television-enabling technology, such as the high definition cameras and the control desks in TV studios that are covered in flashing buttons and sliders, and also the really clever kit sitting in air conditioned server rooms and in Outside Broadcast Trucks,” explains GV’s Head of Newbury, UK Operations, Paul Lucas. “We also provide the systems that effectively automate TV stations, loading and running an entire day’s output, automatically checking that everything is in sync.”

Itself a part of Belden, a $2.5 billion US manufacturer of networking, connectivity and cable products, GV is one of the world’s largest producers of systems for the Broadcast Media industry. A high-tech player of great repute, it has a worldwide workforce that includes more than 600 engineers and a total of 360 patented innovations at its disposal. “We design, manufacture, distribute and support in-house, which is a strategy driven by the very specialist and complex nature of our products,” Paul continues. “In the UK, our lineage can be traced back to a series of well-regarded brands like Omnibus, Snell Advanced Media (SAM), Snell & Wilcox, Probel and Quantel, and today GV UK represents a sizable portion of the GV workforce, with sites in Newbury – where manufacturing activities take place, Cambridge, Havant and Castle Donnington.”

In an ever-changing media landscape, where content remains the most important element, GV’s customers are faced with the need to create and support new workflows, while continuing to operate their legacy workflows, simultaneously broadcasting through traditional channels, Over-The-Top platforms, and Video-On-Demand, as well as to PCs, tablets and mobile devices. For its part, GV provides the innovative tools and expertise to help improve the efficiency of its customers’ operations. With GV’s integrated solutions enabling flexibility, cost-effectiveness, quality and scalability, broadcasters and content creators have at their disposal what they need to sustain their businesses.

GV’s customer base is truly global, and includes all of the major national broadcasters such as the BBC, ESPN and Sky, as well as the many providers to said broadcasters, for example Outside Broadcast specialists. GV also supplies post-production editing hardware and software to film production companies. The company is focused on empowering its customers to create, control and connect content wherever, however and whenever it is consumed.

The most recent stage of GV’s evolution came in February 2018, when parent company Belden confirmed its acquisition of SAM and its plan to merge GV and SAM into a single operation under the GV brand, with its headquarters in Montreal. “Belden recognised the benefits of scale in leveraging the significant R&D investment needed in this industry, and had already successfully merged Miranda and Grass Valley prior to its purchase of SAM,” Paul details. “Prior to this, SAM was roughly half the size of GV, but boasted just as wide a product range to develop and support. SAM and GV had very complementary product portfolios and had differing geographical strengths. Altogether, this made for a very good match.”

From the first day of the acquisition and onwards, Belden has shown itself to be a parent company more than prepared to invest the capital its businesses require to grow and succeed. Amongst countless examples of such investment that one could pinpoint, one of particular note has been the complete re-configuration of GV’s Newbury factory, which is now 90 per cent complete. “Belden is dedicated to applying Lean Manufacturing techniques, and the new factory layout is a result of a large, cross functional Kaizen project,” Paul states. “The factory flow is now far simpler, enabling us to see bottlenecks and inventory excess or shortages, and we can more accurately identify where and when to move our resources to respond to a massively varying day-to-day sales mix.

“We were already in possession of state-of-the-art SMT equipment, but we have more recently invested in the ancillary kit needed to reduce change-over and kitting times, thus maximising run time. At the same time, we have refreshed our Automated Optical Inspection and Flying Probe kit to further improve PCB quality, essential when we are producing relatively small batches of highly complex Multi-Layer PCBs. We are also joining the rest of the group in rolling out new Factory Management and ERP systems, enabling us to leverage our inventory, spend and capacity across our Montreal and Newbury plants, and indeed the rest of Belden.”

Firmly established as a leader in its field of expertise, GV now intends on leveraging the combined product portfolio and sales reach of GV and SAM in order to continue growing its revenue and profitability. Paul adds. “We continue to be at the forefront of IP technology, which places us nicely alongside the next investments that will be made by the big players in our industry, and in our plants in Newbury and Montreal we have the expertise and capabilities to provide the solutions our customers demand.”

Grass Valley
Products: Content and media technology