Better Times Ahead

October 13th, 2009 by Mark Yates: President, BVDM

Amidst all the increasingly gloomy news about the economy and the lean Holiday Season that is upcoming, there is a counter current. BVDM is doing well. In fact, we’re doing so well that a reporter came to our office and wrote a story about what’s going on here.

I have been extremely reticent to post the reporter’s piece for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I wasn’t sure if the piece would be published, and secondly, when the rest of the world is just fighting for survival, they don’t want to hear about someone else’s successes. For myriad reason, it seems now that the piece in question will not see the light of day as paper and ink. Furthermore, I am hoping that perhaps the positive tone of this piece will, in some small way, help to demonstrate that there is a better path ahead of us, both as individuals and a country.

Without any further preamble, then, here is what the reporter had to say about us:

DEFYING A GLOOMY ECONOMY, NEW MEDIA COMPANY PROSPERS

Even at the depths of the Great Depression, it has been said, people managed to afford a trip to the movies. As another most perilous economic crisis tightens its grip, it appears there’s still a bullish market for the little escape that only entertainment brings, as evidenced in bustling corner of Times Square where an emerging media company is not only surviving but thriving.

Financial markets tremble, stocks tumble, business confidence plunges, but while economic fortunes swoon, Broadway Video Digital Media, an independent spin-off from Broadway Video Entertainment – producer of Saturday Night Live, 30 Rock, and other hits – is surging. The small start up has leaped into the wild west of new media opportunities to establish itself as one of the nation’s most successful digital video service bureaus with clients ranging from Proctor & Gamble’s soap opera properties, Telenext Productions, to Showtime Networks, Time Interactive, Music Choice and the U.S. Tennis Association.

As summer 2008 began and a souring economy had most companies warily assessing their futures, Broadway Video Digital Media experienced its best month in its history, a trend it has continued. On Monday, September 29, as the Dow sank 777 points and credit markets threatened to freeze solid, BVDM received word that it had secured a substantial increase in its line of credit that will allow it to fund its next round of growth.

For Mark Yates, the company’s president, getting the good news on such a bad for Wall Street was almost jarring. “It’s a little ironic to watch the market plummet on one monitor in the office while simultaneously opening an email on another monitor that says we’re getting an expansion of credit. Amid the doom and gloom and expectations of the worst, we’re coming to work every day and watching our business grow.”

Yet Yates, along with partners Richard Keatinge and Dirk Van Dall, attribute the company’s success not just to filling a growing need in a growing industry, but also to a careful cultivation of client relations, which he describes as the core small business success.

“We’re proof that smaller, more nimble service companies can prosper during slowdowns if they listen carefully to their clients and determine where they’re struggling operationally and what areas are under-funded internally,” says Keatinge, the firm’s executive vice president for strategy and development. “Once we know that, we return with cost-effective solutions specifically tailored for them.”

Among BVDM’s most high-profile work is handling post-production and iTunes delivery for Mad Men, AMC’s award-winning drama series. The company provides customized digital video services, including mastering files for distribution and archiving, adding audio, captions and metadata, information embedded inside the video that tracks content. Metadata has become the lifeblood of broadband video, allowing dramatically enhanced search and find capabilities for, say, an iPod user locating an episode of Bridezilla, that at the same time lets providers measure such metrics as number downloads.

The spread of video to computer and phone screens has spurred content owners to reach into their vaults to make money on every bit they can. Once a deal with an outlet is in place, BVDM becomes the conduit to prepare the material for delivery. The firm already delivers to such major players as iTunes, Hulu, and AOL, as well as all the video on demand providers.

“We’re a 21st century digital version of the old film labs,” says Dirk Van Dall, BVDM’s general manager. “Media owners suddenly need exotic services like tailored compression, archiving, digital delivery, captioning, and metadata for blossoming media outlets. It’s too costly for even some of the largest companies to create in-house, so they need to outsource. But, they know they must rely on a proven, one-stop shop to handle all of these demands for their precious material, and that’s where we’ve managed to make our mark.”

Noting the rush of many new startups to take advantage of this emerging market, he explains that the company collectively offers decades of technical acumen as media owners and distributors. It also positions them well to operate in a volatile business environment. “Our service bureau is a crossroads for scores of high-profile clients,” Van Dall says. “That exposure lets us see what everyone in the industry is doing, the successful and the problematic. We see the big picture so we understand best practices and best-of-breed solutions better than any individual client can on their own.”

In addition to working on the new frontier of digital technology, BVDM also profits from its foothold in traditional video distribution and conversion for broadcast networks and cable channels. “While we’re all looking to digital services as our growth platform, we continue to have success servicing our core clients with their technical needs,” says Yates. “As internal budgets shrink, we step in with critical on-air services they can afford. It’s an important part of what we do and a significant source of our revenue.”

BVDM’s encoding abilities are expected to be a particularly strong component of the company’s services as online sell-through of movies and TV shows dramatically increases in the coming years. A November 2007 PricewaterhouseCoopers study predicts that such sales will grow from last year’s record $315 million to more than $1 billion in 2011. Van Dall says his company is primed to secure a healthy share of that booming market regardless of wider economic woes.

“There’s comfort in watching an episode of your favorite sitcom or soap opera,” he says. “You can’t get hide from the bad economy, but you can at least escape for an hour or so.”

As always, I welcome your comments below, so please feel free to share your thoughts.