While streaming video and the increasing ties between Hollywood and Silicon Valley grab most of the tech headlines these days, it’s easy to forget that plain old television is still on the upswing throughout most of the world.
And there’s still plenty of room for innovation in how that television is produced. Hardata is an Argentina-based company that makes software and hardware that streamlines the process of creating a video stream for broadcast or cable feeds. It’s a channel in a box that can deal with both standard definition signals and high-definition feeds at the same time.
The company recently hired Philip Cox, a veteran of CalAmp and other firms, as president and CEO and set up an office in Thousand Oaks. Cox’s mission, and the purpose of the new world headquarters, is to take the success that Hardata has racked up in South America since 1997 and take it to the United States and the rest of the world.
Cox had run into Hardata’s Buenos Aires-based co-founders, Gustavo Fayard amd Gustavo Pesci, in his professional work. He had taken a break and was looking for his next opportunity when he ran into the company at a trade show and found they were struggling to break into the U.S. market. Over the next few months, the company and Cox got involved in talks about how he could help.
“I jokingly said, ‘I’m not really interested in doing just the U.S.A., but if you give the world…”
But Hardata was serious and eventually put Cox in charge. In a short time, he’s started partnerships in the UK, Mexico, China and Vietnam. Cox said the company’s U.S. operations, currently in Miami, will soon move to Thousand Oaks. “We’re not going to be Amgen,” Cox said, but the operation could eventually employ “a significant number” of people.
Hardata’s core product is a combination of custom-designed software and hardware for running a television station. It can deal with storing huge video files, integrating analog signals and live feeds, displaying graphics, switching between videos and everything else a station might need to do. Everything can be managed remotely, from the Web. And the company’s 27 engineers in Buenos Aires have put a heavy emphasis on making the system dead simple to use and dead reliable.
“They get it, they take it out of the box, they light it up, and they start using it,” Cox said.
While he couldn’t give details for competitive reasons, Cox said the company will retain its Buenos Aires engineering force for its core software operations while recruiting an additional technical workforce in the Thousand Oaks area. “Right now, I’m looking for technologies that we do not have,” Cox said.
While big names in broadcast in the U.S. are struggling – profits have declined at the largest four networks – that’s by no means a sign that the technology should be written off in the global market, or even the market of smaller operators in the U.S. Hundreds of millions of people in the developing world are still moving out of poverty and into the middle class, and a television set is still a symbol of that achievement.
“There are a lot of things going in the broadcast world, but if you look at the global map, there’s a lot of the world that needs television,” Cox said. “Although the world economy is struggling, it’s my experience that when thing get tough for lower-income people in the world, the lowest-cost entertainment is television.”
The down economy means that Hardata can tout the efficiency and cost-savings of its product lineup.
“A lot of people are still using [standard definition] and going to [high definition]. They are looking for things that will do SD and HD in the same box,” Cox said. “When you start a business, you can enter it in down-market environment or you can enter it in an up-market environment. You change how you look at it and how you go to market, but the world continues.”
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