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. Chris Crump is director of sales for Comrex.
Radio World: How has business been for the company since last year’s NAB Show?
Chris Crump: Election years in the U.S. are generally pretty good for Comrex. We’ve seen steady growth on the video side of our product line and we’ve certainly kept busy since last year’s show.
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?
Crump: There was a degree of caution after the election while companies waited to see the reaction of the markets. Our customers are still treading lightly into 2017. Since radio broadcasting is core to our business, there’s been some uncertainty about the future of some of the really big broadcast groups but, overall, a lot of optimism about radio’s future.
Since we make both audio and video tools for content creation we are in the fortunate position of being able to serve broadcasters in a larger sense. And by that, I mean that broadcasters, both radio and TV, are competing as content creators against digital online media and having to constantly reinvent themselves. The traditional delineation between radio and TV has substantially blurred over the past few years. As a manufacturer, we are concentrating on our roots of providing tools for creating content that is live and local. We are excited about the enthusiasm we see from local community and college broadcasters and a renewed commitment to hyper localism. That localism coupled with the current political climate have made and will make this a very interesting year.
RW: You’ve been active in the codec market for years. What’s the biggest problem or challenge facing users in this segment right now?
Crump: Even though we’ve been talking about it for the past 12 years, there’s been an urgency regarding ISDN replacement within the past two years. Satellite distribution has come under cost scrutiny as well. Several of our customers are looking to reduce costs while maintaining the quality reliability that they used to experience with ISDN. Luckily we have some proven options that can help them.
RW: What new goodies will your company be showing? Why should attendees visit your booth?
Crump: We have two new product intros in Vegas: Access NX Portable and Opal Opus Portal. Our Access Portable IP codec has been one of the most successful products in the 56-year history of Comrex. At 12 years old, we felt that Access Portable really needed a major upgrade. Access NX will feel very familiar to Access Portable users while providing a much better user experience all the way around.
Opal is something that will be very interesting for broadcasters that want to get a guest on the air with studio-quality audio without the complexity and expense of a dedicated piece of hardware on the guest’s side. Using an Android smartphone or computer with a Google Chrome, Opera or Mozilla Firefox web browser, the guest can click on an HTTP link and connect to Opal in the studio and sound like they are there, not calling in on a bad cellphone connection! Opal has really developed quite a buzz on the street so far. I think both of these will keep us very busy during the show.
RW: What do you anticipate will be the most significant technology trend at the 2017 NAB Show?
Crump: Social media will continue to dictate how broadcasters provide content. The concept of visual radio is very real and necessary to compete in this industry. Everyone is radio is looking to find the best way to stream live to Facebook Live and YouTube. I don’t think drone use is going to catch on for radio anytime soon though. But visual radio for wearables? I think there’s a market there.
RW: How has IP technology affected your company?
Crump: Comrex Technical Director Tom Hartnett and his engineering team have always had this magical ability to reach into the misty mists of the future and develop incredibly innovative technologies for broadcasters and media professionals. If we still had to depend on circuit-switched data technologies like POTS and ISDN, I’m not sure we’d be where we are today. IP is at the heart of 90% of our products and has allowed us to innovate and create some incredible tools for broadcasters. And beyond just our products, IP technology has vastly expanded our marketing reach exponentially. It’s hard to imagine where we’d be if Al Gore hadn’t invented the internet.
RW: There’s been some considerable rearranging of booths over the last couple of years when it comes to radio industry companies, many, if not most, now are in the North Hall. You’re remaining in the Central Hall, any strategy or thoughts on that?
Crump: We’ve been selling products to both radio and television since 1961. Especially, with our LiveShot IP Video codec, it’s important that we locate ourselves in a place that is central to the bulk of our customers and where they will be spending most of their time in the LVCC. While NAB was intent on moving us into North Hall two years ago, we stood our ground and made it clear that we serve both radio and television. Since then, NAB has recognized that there is quite a bit of market crossover with manufacturers.
RW: Will you be attending any sessions or looking forward to any events?
Crump: Are there sessions at NAB? As you can imagine, our primary focus and our financial commitment is dedicated to showing our products to customers and potential customers at NAB. We’ve participated in white papers and sessions in the past but with two hot new products, I think the biggest event for us this year will be in Central Hall C1633. But before the show, we’re looking forward to the Public Radio Engineering Conference because we’re geeky like that.
RW: You’re a show veteran, what’s your favorite thing about the show? Least favorite thing?
Crump: Everybody on our team has their likes and dislikes about NAB. Me, personally, I dislike noise and cigarette smoke in the casinos and the incredibly dry air. My absolute favorite thing is talking to broadcasters about Comrex products. Seriously, it’s hard to shut me up because we have a great little company with a bunch of great products. As I’ve said to folks before, as soon as I get off the plane at LAS, it’s a bit like Groundhog’s Day. NAB is the show that never ends.
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