An interview with Jeff Rosica, CEO and President of Avid Technology (USA)
— COVID-19 has shown that remote production and remote work are a necessity. What has your company been doing in this area?
Avid has always been about tools that enable people to collaborate. We had a real advantage when COVID came in because of this. We say that people need to be able to work from anywhere, with anyone, on any content. It needs to be seamless. Before COVID, people were already focused on this. COVID accentuated and accelerated this significantly — for many months, no one could go to the office. Even now, many people do not go into the office. It created a speed with which we needed to innovate. COVID taught all of us that the Cloud is an important piece of technology for our industry — you can leverage it in many ways to help virtualize production. There is still a lot of innovation to come for our industry and Avid, but I think we are on a good course to help the industry move in that direction.
— How have your products adapted to the COVID state of affairs?
We have to keep innovating and adding functions to help people work more seamlessly when they’re remote or working from different areas. When COVID hit, one of our team members suggested a free license program — if someone already owned a license, they could get another one for free. This allowed people to download new licenses and start working from home very quickly. We had well over 100,000 licenses downloaded, and I think in the end people ended up using about 50 or 60 thousand of them. It was just a way to help media and production companies get back to producing.
— It is still important to be careful and prevent the spread of the virus, what decisions have you taken about participating in major events such as NAB?
A few months ago, I said I thought it was a little premature to talk about big trade shows in 2021. The situation was getting better, but there was still an ongoing pandemic. I still don’t think it’s a good idea for our industry to have big trade shows with tens of thousands of people in a building. I think it’s a bad idea. We fully support the IBC and NAB organizations, and I’m sure you’ll see us participating in future shows. But we are not going to participate this year. That’s a hard line I’ve taken with the company. I want to make sure our employees and customers are safe. We also don’t know if the shows are going to work out that well this year, especially because of all of the problems with COVID-19.
We have learned a lot over the past year and a half about marketing and the role of trade shows. We have learned a lot because we’ve had to — we couldn’t do trade shows. You will see us change the mix, we will go back to trade shows but not as much as we used to. We will spend more on content and digital marketing as well as other tools. I also think that doing things closer to people, for example visiting customers personally.
— What should we expect in terms of product announcements?
We cannot yet disclose the new products we’ll be unveiling soon, but the ongoing themes that you’ll see are almost entirely tools for collaboration. They will be for working from anywhere and to deploy anywhere. We have some surprises coming, too.
— As a veteran of the market with years of experience, how do you think the broadcast industry will change in the coming years, and what do you see for Avid?
I’ve never seen anything like this in all my years in the industry. I’ve seen a lot of transitions, but the industry has always generally dealt with one or two at a time. What’s interesting today is that we are dealing with remote and collaborative working, Cloud, 4K, immersive audio standards, the streaming business models — everything is changing at once! It’s an exciting time because it means that a lot of innovation has to happen. As a vendor or technology partner in this space, we have to innovate on many different fronts. It means we have to stay focused. People don’t have more money, but they have to do a lot more with that money. How do we help people be more efficient? They have to do more with less. How we help them do that is important for us.
— How can you describe the current level of interest in artificial intelligence and what impact it has on Avid? Are you implementing it in your products?
I think every vendor in technology has to leverage artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies. There are a few things AI and ML are going to do. First, it will reduce costs: it will allow people to automate workflows, help with identifying and finding content, managing mundane tasks. I also think it will innovate creativity. We’ve just scratched the surface of what AI can do. In a few years, AI and ML will be an embedded feature of almost every product we have.
— What do you see as your biggest achievements at Avid?
Having come in when I did, I am proud of the culture I have rebuilt within Avid. The change in motivation and attitude of the organization I take some pride in helping contribute to. Secondly, it’s turning around financial stability. When I took over, the company wasn’t in great shape. Rebuilding a strong financial situation for the company is something to be proud of also. The third thing is getting this company back focusing on listening to customers and innovating towards what they need. We’re still on that journey, but it’s become much more about how we listen to customers and innovate.
— How much is your company investing in research and development (R&D)?
Every year, we invest around 15 to 16 percent of our revenue. We are a fairly large company in the media technology space, so if there is roughly $400 million of revenue, that means we’re doing about $60-70 million in R&D. We are also undergoing a digital transformation of the company. We are investing another $40 million over the next three years in the infrastructure that will change the customer experience and the way people work with our products.
— Can you tell us more about your plans and direction in the Russian and the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) regions?
— Russia and the CIS have been a very successful area for us. We have a lot of great customers in that area and made a lot of investments there in the last few years. We will continue to do that quite heavily. We see a big opportunity in those markets. The interesting thing about Avid is that it is a public American company, but it is very international. 65-70% of our revenue comes from outside North America. So, a majority of our business is international: we are a big brand in Russia, China, Japan, Brazil, etc. This is something I like about this company.