Richard Waldner: ‟Industry partnerships are critical to our customer-first culture.”

Our Technological Portal had the pleasure to meet Richard Waldner, Director Channel Sales EMEA of Imagine Communications in "#FutureofTV ", a very successful event held in May 2017 in Athens, Greece by AmyDV and Imagine Communications. The discussion we had with him covered a lot areas of the industry and extracted meaningful messages for broadcasters, content owners and TV services providers.

Text: Andreas Tzanakos
Images: Richard Waldner and Imagine Communications Archive Before we start this discussion, tell us a little about Richard Waldner. Where you come from and what you are most interested in professionally? What are your drivers and your objectives inside the organization of Imagine Communications?

Richard Waldner: Andreas, before joining Imagine Communications I worked in several positions for Avid, Adobe, Exterity and Apple. My driver inside Imagine is to bring the next generation of business (SDI to IP, OTT) to our partners and customers. Tell us a little about the recent years under The Gores Group umbrella and the transition from Harris Broadcast to Imagine Communications. Some people are still mixed up about who acquired who etc. Can you tell us a little about the company?

Richard Waldner: We tend to view Imagine Communications as having the attributes of a startup — innovative and agile — but with a rich and decades-long history in the broadcast industry, stemming from our Harris Broadcast heritage. As you mentioned, the acquisition of Harris Broadcast by The Gores Group was completed in 2013. About a year later, in March of 2014, Harris Broadcast was rebranded as Imagine Communications. The launch of Imagine Communications coincided with the revelation of the company’s vision of an industrywide technology transformation toward IP, software-defined networking, the cloud and multiscreen distribution. We believe that the unique nature of our company, a startup with a rich heritage, allows us to be both innovative and practical. In addition to identifying where media companies will need to be in the future, we understand how to get them there seamlessly and without disruption — financial or operational. What opportunities do you see in the market for Broadcasters today? If you were talking to a friend who is a broadcaster what would you tell him to be looking to do or to take advantage of?

Richard Waldner: We are in a very fast-changing environment and broadcasters who want to be up to speed with all these changes have to start exploring opportunities in DAI (Dynamic Ad Insertion), Multiscreen solutions, fast introduction of new OTT channels with our multitenant (white label) solution, and new business models to monetize wisely. To answer your second question – A smart approach would be to concentrate new OTT services on alternative and individual content, like classic music, theater, second and third sports leagues (soccer, handball, etc.) and the regionalization of your offering. Broadcasters would also be wise to take advantage of some of the advantages that the transition to IP will bring to their workflows, like allowing them to leverage standard computing equipment and moving operations, including playout, to the cloud. We have seen that Imagine Communications supporting also the SIEMENS Convergence Creators Smart engine OTT solution. Is this range of products a good fit to your product line?

Richard Waldner: It is the perfect complement to our market-leading OTT infrastructure solutions, which encompass playout, encode/transcode, packaging, dynamic advertising, including manifest manipulation, and delivery solutions. The addition of Siemens´ Smart Engine capabilities complete an end-to-end OTT offering that includes subscriber management and analytics functionality, along with end user applications. Our combined offering is a multi-language solution that supports all relevant monetization models, including subscription, transactional and ad supported, which has been fully virtualized and is available from the cloud. In the broadcast world and in the Media industry in general, the technological standards are constantly changing. Α better viewing experience for the consumer, while at the same time saving financial resources by use of more efficient workflows, from production to managing and distributing content.
Which are those standards that Imagine Communications focuses on and which international alliances of manufacturers and users has the company joined, and why? Is there a deal on the roadmap for standardization of uncompressed video thru IP technology? How does Imagine Communications guarantee a smooth transition from SDI to IP without leaps and without the immediate withdrawal of existing equipment?

Richard Waldner: Imagine Communications has always been a big supporter of standards. We firmly believe that widespread interoperability is critical to the successful adoption of any new technology. That’s the primary reason we were among a handful of companies to introduce the Alliance for IP Media Solutions (AIMS), a trade association for promoting standards governing the transport of video, audio and data over IP networks. That organization, in a year in a half, now has more than 70 members and has conducted two of the largest interop events in the industry’s history. In addition to AIMS, Imagine works closely with a variety of international organizations and trade alliances, including the EBU and SMPTE, which is now defining the ST-2110 standards, which are expected to be completed this summer. ST-2110, which is part of the AIMS roadmap, provides a standards-based approach for the transmission of uncompressed UHD over IP. Imagine, in February, announced a collaboration with Swiss production company tpc that would deliver the first mobile production vehicle based on ST-2110. As mentioned previously, Imagine employs a form of “practical innovation” that ensures that our customers are provided with a disruption-free transition path to next-gen technology. We are the only company, for example, to offer a router control systems that manages both the SDI and IP domains, enabling media companies to adopt hybrid network in order to transition to IP at their own pace and without squandering existing investment. How does it feel, seeing the whole market today following the path Imagine Communications started along some years ago?

Richard Waldner: It has been very rewarding to see our vision not only adopted and accepted by the overall media and entertainment industry but to also witness real-life, commercial deployments of the technology vision we revealed more than three years ago. We’ve unveiled dozens of commercial IP and OTT deployments that leverage software-defined networking, many of which that have been deployed in a cloud environment. We are announcing more success stories each month that highlight how our customers are transitioning traditional workflows, which used to run on dedicated hardware, to environments that utilize commercial off-the-shelf equipment and computing power. Clearly there are Media and Entertainment companies of different size, budget and range of services all over the world. Therefore, each Imagine Communications client needs different, personalized solutions, which must be flexible, future-proof and easily scalable to meet future needs. How does this global recognition integrate into Imagine Communications solutions based on the Zenium platform? Can you also give some details about Imagine Communications' solutions for Playout (on premises and cloud)?

Richard Waldner: It is hardly a secret that the media and entertainment industry is evolving rapidly and that video content is being consumed in new and different ways, on a variety of new devices. Each media company is challenged to keep pace with this quickly evolving environment, which means a near continuous adoption of new technology and support for new business models. That’s the primary motivation behind our Zenium solution, a pure microservices technology that enables the construction of highly customized workflows and media companies to quickly integrate new technologies and innovations. A microservices-based technology, Zenium breaks discrete functions into components that can be enhanced or replace as required to keep up with market demand – without disrupting current operations or forcing media companies to make wholesale changes. Zenium fosters an atmosphere of continuous innovation, in which new functions can be added instantaneously to enable media companies to optimized and customize their workflows as demand dictates. Our playout solution, Versio, is based on Zenium, as is our transcoding (Selenio One) and multviewer (EPIC) solutions. A 100% software solution, Versio is portable to all deployment environments, including on-premises, the cloud (public or private) or a combination of premises and cloud (hybrid).

EPIC Multiviewer In recognition of the long, close and deep cooperation, Imagine Communications awarded the 2016 Precious Partner Award to AmyDV at the annual conference of ITS 2017 (Imagine Technical Summit 2017) held in Barcelona. What is your opinion about this cooperation? What are the future prospects for Imagine Communications concerning the Greek Media and Entertainment industry?

Richard Waldner: AmyDV is one of these very long and strong committed partners we have in EMEA. Also during harder economic conditions AmyDV with their entire team was promoting and supporting our solution strongly. I think the Greek Broadcast, Media and Telco industry is recovering and getting back to a new cycle of investments. We had several positive meetings after the event and it looks like we are at a tipping point of a new investment cycle in Greece. Imagine Communications has been very active also in co-operations with other manufacturers like EVS and LAWO which you have also shown on the booths. How important are cooperations in your view?

Richard Waldner: Industry partnerships are critical to our customer-first culture. We are firmly committed to helping our customer achieve the most favorably business results possible. We will not hesitate to strike an alliance with a partner if that enables us to bring a superior solution to our customers. In addition to alliance with other broadcast technologies suppliers, we are also aggressive in working with leading companies from the IT world, including Arista Networks, Cisco, HPE and Microsoft, to help to perfect our overall solution.

Selenio One XC What else do we have to expect from Imagine Communications in the near future. I am asking this because IBC 2017 is getting closer.

Richard Waldner: We are currently working on several new product introductions for IBC2017, most of which I’m unfortunately prevented from revealing this far in advance of the event. I can share that we will be delivering more information, as well as customer success stories, in connection with recently revealed innovations, including the Selenio Network Processor, which is powering the tpc truck I mentioned earlier. Similarly, we will be showcasing some game-changing technology in the ad management space, which enables our customers to optimize inventory through a 360-view of all of their channels, including linear, OTT and display. We will also be providing additional information about how we are opening up our Zenium technology to be shared with customers and partners, an industry first.

Selenio One XL Please tell for our readers some recent examples of installations with new solutions from Imagine Communications.

Richard Waldner: Our PR department has been very busy lately with customer success stories. In addition to the mobile production unit that will be the first to use uncompressed UHD over IP based on the ST-2110 standard, we have also recently made public a few examples of how customers around the world are using Versio playout to develop virtualized business continuity solutions that essentially mirror primary operations. There are several other deployments taking place around the world that have yet to be made public and which I am sure you appreciate I’m not at liberty to discuss.

Versio by Imagine Communications I forgot to congratulate you for the perfect organization and I want to ask if Imagine Communications intends to continue with events like last year’s "Innovation Workshop’ and this year’s "#FutureofTV", which was organized with AmyDV?

Richard Waldner: Andreas, you shouldn´t congratulate me, but the entire team of AmyDV especially Mrs. Katerina Kaftani who was the main organizer of the event.
And yes, because of the great success last year and also this year – we definitely plan to organize such events again. Thank you very much for this fruitful discussion we had and hope to see you again in Greece for such a good reason.

Richard Waldner: Thank you Andreas. It was good to see you and catch up with you again.

Info: & AmyDV*
* Distributor for Greece