Technology

Looking South for Sales

12/02/2009 12:05 PM Eastern

While Latin America has lagged behind North America in adopting high-definition television,
the region is now becoming an increasingly important market for vendors who've
been buffeted by woes in the North American TV market. In this interview with HD Update contributor George Winslow, Grass
Valley vice president of sales for Latin America and the Caribbean Rafael
Castillo talks about the market's development and some of his firm's recent
sales.

Rafael Castillo, Grass ValleyMCN: You have recently done some deals in Brazil for HD-related equipment, including a sale
to the Sao Paulo-based production company, D2 Video Producoes Ltda. What do
these deals indicate about the development of high-definition in the region?

Rafael Castillo: With
all the changes in Brazil
and the adoption of the digital standard, the demand for production in HD is
growing really fast. Several companies are working in building new OB
[outside broadcasting] vans for HD production, especially for sports and other
types of events.

The main networks, TV Globo and TV Record, often subcontract
production through outside production companies and those companies need to get
prepared to provide the high-quality standard of production that networks require.
So we are seeing several companies moving forward with the deployment of high-definition
OB vans.

One of those is, of course, D2. It already has two
production trucks that we equipped about three years ago with all SD equipment.

One of the reasons they selected Grass
Valley for the HD upgrade is
because they were Grass Valley
customers before and we already provide them with extensive local support from
our own team based on São Paulo. We
spent several months working with them to put together a package [that includes
12 LDK 8000 Elite HD Multi-Format WorldCam cameras with triax adapters, an LDK
8300 Live Super SloMo camera system, a Kayak digital production switcher, three
K2 Dyno and K2 Summit slow-motion replay systems, and a Concerto Series HD
video router with a 96x96 I/O matrix].

 

MCN: So Latin America is becoming a pretty vibrant market for HD
upgrades?

RC: It is. In Latin
America, the main adoption of HD is more related to program production.
As you know, Mexico,
Colombia, Brazil,
Argentina and Venezuela
produce soap operas or telenovelas that are very popular outside their own
countries and the main adopters of HD are [often] related to the production of
those kinds of programs. When they are selling to Europe
or other countries, it is better for them to keep original versions in high-definition,
so they can just adapt the programs depending on the requirements of the end
user.

 

MCN: Telemundo is already producing in high
definition in
Latin
America
with its
production partners.

RC: Yes. And Univision
is already asking their program providers to send all the material in high definition.
That is pushing some of the companies that provide soap operas to them to start
producing in high-definition.

For a while now, it has made more sense to buy an HD camera
rather than an SD camera. But in the last year, some of those studios that
acquired high-definition cameras, even though they continue to produce standard
definition, began to upgrade everything and to change the switcher and routing
infrastructure to high definition.

 

MCN: How quickly are
broadcasters adopting HD?

RC: Brazil
is obviously already deploying high-definition networks.

We are doing business not only with the major networks, but
also with the affiliated stations and the regional stations. All of them are
moving into high-definition infrastructure and, of course, doing it in
different ways.

We have the main networks that can afford large investments.
But we also need to adapt our product offering to those small, medium and
regional stations that need to deploy high definition but at a lower cost than
the main networks.

That is a challenge because we need to work with third-party
vendors and partners to put together packages that can compete with the local manufacturers
in Brazil.

So, yes, we are seeing a fast quick deployment in high
definition for the infrastructure for Brazil
and Mexico and
we starting to work in Colombia
and Argentina
as well.

[Currently] our position is No. 1 or 2 in some of the
countries and we have been gaining market share. The team that we have in Latin
America and the relationships we already have with the customers,
and the quality and performance of our product, has really helped position us
as one of the leaders in the region. Even with the [economic] crisis, we have
been able to do some really important and key strategic business with our main
partners.

 

MCN: How see do you
see the movement to HD by multichannel operators?

RC: The main
operators that are moving to HD are Telmex (Teléfonos de México) and Telefónica.
They have cable, IPTV and [direct-to-home satellite] and we are working with
closely with all of them as part of their plans for migrating their
infrastructure to high definition.

 

MCN: What about next year's World Cup? Will
that be an important factor in driving HD upgrades?

RC: It is an important
factor. We are starting to work in advance with major broadcasters, with TV
Globo, for example, and other main broadcasters in deploying new infrastructure
to cover the World Cup.

 

MCN: What about news
in HD?

RC: We are seeing
[movement towards news in HD] in Mexico
and Brazil.

In the beginning, we thought that high-definition for news
would not be as strong in Latin America. But after
seeing the experience in other regions, they understand that HD is the way to
go. For example, the big deployment we did at TV Record in Brazil
was for a platform that is able to support both SD and HD for news production.

 

MCN: Given the difficulties in the U.S. broadcast market, are you seeing other
vendors paying a lot more attention to
Latin America?

RC: Yes. We are
doing that and the others are doing that as well. They are restructuring their
teams to make their presence stronger than before.

You are also seeing several of the system integrators that are
not based on Latin America now looking for business in Latin
America.

Together with the migration from standard-definition to
high-definition and from tape to a tapeless environment, we are also seeing the
need to implement workflow management. We are seeing a lot of interest from major
broadcasters in the region in those issues and what kinds of applications they
can put in place to optimize their workflow.