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NAB Exhibitor Viewpoint: Frank Foti, the Telos Alliance

“We live in interesting times at present with the restructuring of the larger broadcast companies”

The spring NAB Show is approaching. Between now and then Radio World will conduct several short Q&As with manufacturers about their plans and offerings, to help you get the most out of the big annual trade show. Frank Foti is executive chairman of the Telos Alliance.

Radio World: How has business been for the company since last year’s NAB Show?

Frank Foti: Humbly speaking, we are a very fortunate company. Our business has remained strong and not by coincidence. Since the beginning in 1985 — when Steve Church introduced the Telos 10 phone hybrid and changed how the telephone was used in broadcast — we try to introduce at least something new and innovative each year. This has enabled us to remain healthy, as it draws interest and business from the industry. What I find flattering is that our innovations are respected enough that even competitors come along later with similar tech, as with AoIP and others.

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?

Foti: Well, we live in interesting times at present with the restructuring of the larger broadcast companies. Still, there is business to be had. We’re lucky in a sense. Due to the ecosystem we provide, the demand for Telos Alliance products remains strong.

There’s also a shift evolving in the broadcast landscape with regards to the cloud. This is where growth is occurring, and, yes, this is exciting! We’ve been focused in this area for a few years now.

RW: You’ve been active in the radio equipment market for decades. What’s the biggest problem or challenge facing users in this segment right now?

Foti: Not sure there’s a specific challenge per se. Moreso, our job is to educate the industry as the shift towards cloud broadcasting grows. Already, I’ve been in numerous meetings with broadcast companies regarding this topic. As it evolves further and becomes more mainstream, we need to make it easily attainable for anyone to accomplish.

RW: What new goodies will your company be showing? Why should attendees visit your booth?

Foti: At IBC, last fall, we previewed our new product line known as Infinity. This is an easy-to-use, yet extremely flexible intercom system based on our AoIP technology. The possibilities are practically limitless. It’s a game changer, as we add another chapter to our disruptive innovation story! Very excited, as it will further grow our presence in the world of TV, yet has many applications for radio, and more! We invite all NAB attendees to come see it both at our Radio booth, N6531, and the TV Solutions Group booth, SU2321.

All the product lines will either have something new or an update/upgrade to offer. Aside from the product goodies, we have another reason for attendees to visit us. We’ll be presenting an interesting roundtable discussion in our booth, which will feature legendary record producer, Gary Katz (Steely Dan, Laura Nyro, Joe Cocker, Root Boy Slim and the Sex Change Band, with The Rootettes), along with a few of his well-known mastering engineering friends, Al Schmidt (Steely Dan, George Benson, Michael Jackson, Diana Krall), Ed Cherney (the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Sting, Bonnie Raitt), and Frank Filipetti (Kiss, Frank Zappa, Foreigner, Carly Simon, James Taylor). Gary’s long career producing all of Steely Dan’s classic albums, has provided him with some amazing stories, which he’ll be sharing with those in attendance.

This past year, we’ve been honored to not only work with Gary, but Hugh Padgham (Genesis, Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins, Police, XTC), Giles Martin (wonder whom his dad produced?), and internationally famous electronic composer/musician Jean-Michel Jarre. Seems it would be fair to say that each of these producers, engineers, and performers demand the utmost in quality and fidelity. Thus, we’re extremely honored they have chosen our products for their projects.

RW: The Telos Alliance has recently had some changes at the top. Tell us about the new guy.

Foti: We are honored to have Tom Swidarski join our organization, as CEO. He brings a wealth of knowledge, a successful track record leading various tech companies, the largest being Diebold Inc. — the world’s largest ATM manufacturer. He was their CEO for eight years and a senior executive for 18 years. The evolution of an offline ATM to a network-connected, 24-hour-monitored, mission-critical delivery system parallels the transformation taking place in the broadcast industry driven by IP. Over the past five years Tom has helped a number of other smaller organizations who were working through growth spurts along their respective journeys. Tom is here to further fortify us along our continued path and understands our unique culture.

[Read: Meet the New (Telos) Guy]

Over the past year, or so, I’ve had reason to reflect on our accomplishments, as well as consider what the future holds. We made it this far with a very organic and entrepreneurial method. We promoted creativity, instilled culture, and organically grown profits resulted.

In taking a sincere, hard, and loving look at the organization, along with discussions among trusted advisors, it became clear that we have advanced significantly. For us to continue moving forward, I realized my own shortcoming of not possessing the tools to accomplish what is needed in today’s business world. This requires deeper understanding of economic, financial, and visionary business acumen. Had to ask myself would it be worth attempting to gain this knowledge, and more importantly, was something burning inside strong enough for me to do so? Upon a lot of soul-searching, the answer was “no.” Thus, within the business “C” suite framework, I became the limiting factor.

My concern, going forward, was the possibility that we would plod along only taking incremental steps. Rather than continue to forge ahead, as we have, I decided to make the change at the top, and bring in someone who has business expertise in areas I did not. Tom possesses the tools needed to guide, and strengthen us in every business sector. He’s probably forgotten more business stuff than I’ll ever know!

RW: What do you anticipate will be the most significant technology trend at the 2018 NAB Show?

Foti: The cloud.

RW: Will you be attending any sessions or looking forward to any events?

Foti: I try to take in the NRSC meetings on Saturday.

I’m excited for the introduction of the new Infinity product, the “Legends of Audio” roundtable discussion in our booth with Gary Katz, and, oh, yes, a visit from a well-known steam locomotive … The East Wind!

RW: You’re a show veteran, how has the show changed since your first visit?

Foti: Well, aside from the business aspect, it’s always been a sort of fraternity gathering, to catch up with industry colleagues. Due to changes over the years and some folks moving on in their lives, I miss seeing some who would normally attend in the past. That said, there’s a generational change, and I am enjoying seeing who the new “players” are in the broadcast engineering world.

The size of the exhibition is now much larger. We host two booths, and it’s literally a 15-minute walk from one booth to the other.

RW: This year show organizers have done some serious rearranging of the venue, expanded thematic items like pavilions and put emphasis on events and activities such as the  Main Stage. Any thoughts on that?

Foti: Well, not sure about any of these proposed changes. We know where the action is, The Telos Alliance, what more is there?

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