In a wide ranging interview, Naresh Subherwal, managing director, Middle East, SAM, tells Digital Studio about the company’s plans for the Middle East, challenges in the market, and its agenda for IBC2017.
DS: What are SAM’s main plans for IBC? What products and services (or themes) will be you be focusing on?
NS: At this year’s IBC, SAM will be highlighting its remote production capability in IP and SDI environments and will also be demonstrating how its technology can seamlessly handle fully uncompressed 4K/UHD and HDR.
Also being underlined at IBC are SAM’s capabilities in the areas of UHD sports production workflows with HDR support; cloud-based playout technology; multi-format news production systems; and automated monitoring and control.
DS: Can we look forward to some new product or service launches?
NS: IBC 2017 sees the launch of SAM’s Alchemist XS motion compensated framerate converter for live IP and SDI media streams. Optimised to deliver stunning image quality even with the most complex source, Alchemist XS is ideal for any live broadcast application that demands the best in motion compensation to ensure smooth, fluid and high-resolution images particularly live sports, where the content is fast and dynamic.
The system offers native support for SD to UHD video and specifically solves the problem of artifacts during real-time IP/SDI conversion up to UHD. Alchemist XS eliminates doubling of image on moving objects, loss of resolution, inconsistent motion, and loss of object integrity.
Also new for IBC is the KudosPro UHD1200 video and audio processor. The latest addition to SAM’s range of KudosPro standards conversion solutions, it supports HDR and wide colour gamut mapping, along with high-quality SD/HD/UHD up, down and cross conversion and frame synchronisation.
The KudosPro UHD1200 enables re-purposing of existing or new assets in addition to handling all common video and audio processing tasks. The system provides HDR (PQ, HLG, Slog3) and BT2020 wide colour gamut support, along with powerful picture enhancement tools, including edge enhance and noise reduction, and delivers linear motion adaptive frame rate conversion.
DS: How big will your stand be at IBC? What will be some of the key features of the stand?
NS: We actually have more than one stand. Our main stand features Timeline Television’s new state-of-the-art, triple expanding IP OB truck. UHD2 is kitted out with a range of SAM technology, including two Kahuna IP production switchers and IP Multiviewers. SAM’s IP infrastructure technology provides the backbone for the whole truck. UHD2 is capable of running both SDR and HDR workflows simultaneously along with down converted HD outputs. The set-up allows production teams to work in VSF TR03 (SMPTE ST 2110 draft) – the first time this has been done in an OB context.
Next to our main stand we have another stand highlighting live sports production workflows. Visitors will be able to enter a football competition to win a 4K GoPro and this forms the basis of a live production demonstration utilising our 4K LiveTouch, a 4K Kula production switcher and graphics handled by RT Software – who also share the area with us demonstrating their AR Studio technology. Customers will be able to view themselves taking part and then seeing the edit published to Twitter immediately.
DS: What have been some of the main developments for SAM in the Middle East in the past 12 months?
NS: The past 12 months for SAM in the Middle East have been very positive. At the start of 2016, SAM established its first physical office in the region, followed by the recruitment of a new regional sales team alongside developing our pre and post sales team. With a series of marketing awareness initiatives, we had a strong commercial start to the year. Following our success at IBC 2016, we successfully launched our live and sports product lines alongside our extensive IP and 4K offering with over 60 new products and updates which provided us with a strong portfolio of solutions for the Middle East market.
A key part of our growing success in the region is from our partners. In November last year we held our first three-day partner event in Istanbul. The Istanbul partner event was a series of marketing and product presentations, workshops and demonstrations alongside a regional customer event and was very well attended. Such was the response; we staged another partner event in Dubai ahead of the CABSAT show.
The SAM Middle East team is now well established in the region and we have had some significant commercial success right across the region with 4K projects, OBs, studios and success for our production switchers and LiveTouch replay and highlights system in region.
DS: How have you found the business climate over the past 12 months? How does this compare with the international outlook?
NS: The general business climate in the Middle East has been very tough over the past year with a large number of budget cuts and project delays and the general sense is that the market has, at best, been flat. The SAM successes in the Middle East have led to triple digit order growth in the region, albeit from a relatively lower base. The rest of world business for SAM has seen over 20% growth which plays to the strong portfolio and team across the globe.
DS: What have been the positive points from the past year?
NS: The positive points for SAM Middle East in the past year are mainly centred around bringing together a very strong and experienced technical sales and business team in this region. Our brand awareness and reputation is much more evident with significant pipeline growth as we are increasingly invited into major project planning with our customers. Also, the major highlight is the strengthening of our partner relationships across the region and increasingly being seen as a ‘go-to’ brand. We are confident that we have been gaining significant market share over the past 12 months and this puts us in a strong position when the market does upturn.
DS: Where do you see the main opportunities in the region going forward?
NS: We expect continued demand for our infrastructure solutions for studios, MCRs, playout and OBs. SAM’s reputation for global leadership in playout, our strong international successes in news editing solutions, media asset management, live sports and our 4K and IP client successes are opening up new business opportunities for us across the region.
DS: What have been the most significant challenges that you face as a business in the region?
NS: The major challenges have been the delays in many of the major projects. We suspect that the main challenges have been the general economic challenges with the tightening of liquidity and budget restrictions although the industry is also going through a major transition, leading to IP and 4K. The challenges of such a major technology transition are that decisions on the choices of technology, vendor and investments are inevitably delayed. We are finding our customers, partners and our teams very busy, but mainly in planning for future projects.
DS: Do you see the business climate improving soon?
NS: As new technology implementations and standards become more mature, and strong references are established, we’ve seen a number of projects move beyond the planning phase. If the economic situation in the region does not deteriorate, then the outlook for the coming 12 months is positive.
DS: Are there any other pertinent points you’d like to add?
NS: SAM made the decision to invest in the Middle East during the downturn whilst others retracted as we strongly believe in the region and the market. We believe that we have gained significant market share, have established ourselves as a quality and reliable brand. We are now well positioned for the upturn in the market and aim to increase our presence in the region by working closely with our customers and partners.