As IBC2016 gets closer, Radio World offers a series of short Q&As with manufacturers about their plans and offerings, to help you get the most out of the big annual trade show. Nicolas Boulay is president for France-based WorldCast Systems.
Nicolas Boulay is president at WorldCast Systems. Radio World: How has business been for the company since last year’s IBC show?
Nicolas Boulay: Even though the global market is still complicated, we have done some good business. 2015 was quite a good year financially for us and we are on the same trend for 2016. While we have some great solutions for AoIP, monitoring and throughout the broadcast chain, it is our Ecreso FM transmitter line that is very much at the forefront of our offering. This is particularly true in Germany, where we have an important share of the market, Algeria where we’re equipping the whole country with turnkey FM solutions (including combiner, multiplexer, filter, antenna….) and also in South Africa.
Our global strategy is to increasingly offer added value to our solution for the benefit of our customers. For instance, with all transmitter purchases, we offer a free PC application for monitoring.
RW: What are you hearing from your customers about their business outlook this year? In what areas should we expect growth or the most interesting projects?
Boulay: Worldwide, the situation is still challenging for many broadcasters. At WorldCast Systems, we benefit from the breadth of our product range and the extent of our global reach. With products for AoIP transport, FM transmission and monitoring and telemetry for both Radio & TV, we can respond to requirements throughout the broadcast chain. With customers and dealers throughout the world, we are much less vulnerable to times of low activity in a certain area.
We have seen significant growth in our transmitter market within Germany but overall, in Europe the situation is generally quite stable without significant growth. The North American market is always challenging but our remote control solutions with ScriptEasy and AoIP codec with SureStream have sold particularly well there. In terms of the future, the African market is probably where we see the biggest potential for growth. The constant element worldwide is that budgets are tighter and customers are looking for lower prices and more features than ever before. That is our challenge to meet!
RW: What do you anticipate will be the most significant technology trend, generally speaking, at IBC2016?
Boulay: It’s wonderful to see that there is still a lot of creativity and innovation happening in the radio market. I have been impressed at how this media is capable of evolving, innovating, adopting technologies from other markets and migrating to new formats. While it is always interesting to see the emergence of new standards and technologies in areas such as Audio over IP, network virtualization, on-demand content and TV/radio consumption, for me, the most interesting trends to watch are those that create added value for the end user. With the convergence of IT and broadcast engineering, the nature of the broadcast chain is continually changing and offers many new opportunities for the broadcaster. As a manufacturer, this is very exciting but also a huge challenge.
RW: What new products will your company be showing?
Boulay: We will of course have new products to show at IBC but I also think it is important to emphasize that work is always ongoing on our existing range of products to keep them up-to-date and relevant for our customers. This year we have made significant improvements of our FM test platform, the FM MC5, we have included more features in our ScriptEasy telemetry software and we continue development on SureStream AoIP technology. It might not be headline-grabbing news but it is highly valuable R&D effort that is critical to our success at IBC and in general.
Saying that, we are also delighted to present two new products at IBC this year.
First is our new 10 KW FM transmitter, which is now in production and ready for delivery. The transmitter offers a hot-swappable power supply redundancy system, hot-swappable FM amplifiers, redundant air-cooling system and the best efficiency on the market 76 percent — all-in-all a fantastic solution.
The redundancy is particularly impressive; the Ecreso 10 kW FM Transmitter can lose a power supply or an amplifier and still be on air with 1dB. It can even lose two and still provide over 3dB!
Also new at IBC is the WorldCast Manager Server solution, a simple to use but very comprehensive solution for managing all SNMP-based units within your broadcast network. Earlier in the year, we launched the PC application of the WorldCast Manager to great success with hundreds of apps installed worldwide. The server version offers much more advanced functionality with real time alarms, email or SMS notification and event logs in addition to the existing compatibility with all elements within your broadcast chain.
RW: How is this new product (or products) different from what’s available from your past products, and elsewhere on the market?
Boulay: Easy question! For the 10 KW FM transmitter, our solution is unique on the market. We have taken the core elements of a modern FM transmitter: IP-based with digital modulator and added audio back-up, embedded RDS, customizable air cooling, the best efficiency in the market and unique levels of redundancy and reliability. We have also designed the system for easy maintenance so a technician can change fans, amplifiers or power supplies with no tools, no screws and without interrupting service.
For the WorldCast Manager SNMP solutions, our two main aims have been to a) provide the broadcaster with the right information at the right time and b) make the configuration and operation as simple and straightforward as possible. Having looked at comparable tools in the market, we realized it was essential to make the language of SNMP easy to understand by a typical broadcast user. We provide a full driver database that will automatically recognize products in the network so that configuration is easy, even for those with no SNMP skills. If the drivers for a specific product aren’t available, we can develop these free of charge. Also, we are offering uniquely flexible financial options for customers who can pay either by subscription or a one-off payment. A huge evolution in approach but it will be key in the future.
RW: What’s your favorite thing about the IBC show? Your least favorite?
Boulay: IBC is always an incredibly valuable opportunity to meet with our new and potential customers, see new trends and technologies and see what other new developments from other industry players.
The downside for me would have to be the food at IBC!
RW: Do you have any suggestion that would make the show a better experience for exhibitors and/or attendees?
Boulay: It would be nice to see a more practical, application-based conference stream to run alongside the existing conferences. This could even be on the show floor with sessions presented by the various manufacturers and broadcast users. In contrast to the highly technical nature of the existing conference, these sessions would provide a “how to” approach concerning various aspects that affect broadcast engineers today.