IBC 2009: Grass Valley Says Deal Is Imminent

In interim, focus is on new product launches at IBC

IBC Amsterdam 2009: Complete Coverage of the IBC Show

Broadcast production and transmission gear supplier Grass Valley is close to striking a deal with a new owner that will buy the entire business, said Grass Valley senior vice president Jeff Rosica at a press briefing Thursday at the IBC show in Amsterdam.

Rosica said that Grass Valley is in negotiations with a single buyer and is working to get a deal done quickly, and added that Grass Valley senior management was happy about the prospects.

"I'm only sorry I couldn't give you more specifics today, particularly when we're so close," said Rosica, who jokingly blamed the delays in the deal on "corporate lawyers."

Grass Valley K2 SoloGrass Valley has been in play since last January, when parent company Thomson decided to restructure to focus on content service businesses such as Technicolor. Since then, the industry has speculated on who might have the desire and financial means to acquire Grass Valley, which enjoys a strong position in production switchers and high-end cameras but faces stiff competition in other areas of its business, such as playout servers.

Possibilities have ranged from a strategic buyer like Harris to financial players such as a private equity firm. Recent media reports and industry sources suggest the likely buyer is Platinum Equity, a Beverly Hills, Calif.-based private equity firm. The buyer isn't Harris, said Harris Broadcast president Tim Thorsteinson at that company's press event later Thursday, repeating what he said at NAB.

"We're definitely not buying Grass Valley," declared Thorsteinson, who said Harris is more interested in investing in growth areas that are outside its traditional broadcast customer base. Privately, Thorsteinson said he would have been interested in buying some pieces of the Grass Valley business from Thomson, but the French conglomerate is adamant on selling the unit as a whole.

Industry insiders expect the deal for Grass Valley will close quickly, perhaps by the end of September.

At IBC, Grass Valley touted sales of its high-end LDK cameras to mobile sports players like Belgium's Alfacam and its 3-gig-capable Trinix router to NEP Studios in New York, along with a large joint playout center it is integrating for Australian programmers WIN Corporation and ABC.

The company also introduced two significant new products: the K2 Solo, a small two-channel playout server with 20 hours of HD storage; and Dyno Director, a new software platform for its K2 server product that works with its existing Dyno replay system and is designed to provide a touchscreen interface to directors for quickly turning around sports replays.