Media Technology M&A: Ross Video Acquires Pierro Graphics from Red Bee Media

Joe Zaller | April 1, 2019

Ross Video announced that it has completed the acquisition of the Piero Sports Graphics business from London, UK-based Red Bee Media.

Piero Sports Graphics is an award-winning sports analysis tool-set used by high-profile broadcasters to provide audiences with new angles and virtual views of sports events through 3D graphics and image recognition and by sports clubs as a coaching tool to guide players and improve team performance.

Red Bee Media and Ross Video entered into an agreement on February 21, 2019 and the sale was concluded March 27, 2019. All Piero employees have moved over from Red Bee Media to Ross Video’s UK subsidiary (Ross Video UK). Financial terms of the transaction, which both companies described as a “business transfer,” were not disclosed.

The deal highlights the differing fortunes of media technology suppliers in a rapidly changing commercial environment.

Pierro was developed originally by the BBC, and sold to Ericsson in 2013 as part of its acquisition of Red Bee Media. Red Bee Media subsequently became part of Ericsson Media Services, along side Tandberg Television, which Ericsson acquired for SEK 9.8 billion in 2007. In July 2018, Ericsson announced it would divest 51% its product business (Tandberg TV and other acquisitions including Envivio, Fabrix, and Azuki) to One Equity Partners.  The businesses spun-out of Ericsson were subsequently re-branded as MediaKind.  However, Ericsson chose not to divest its Media Services business, which it re-branded as Red Bee Media in 2018 (the company’s original name when spun out of the BBC), including the Pierro sports graphics business.

Although a very small part of the company’s overall business, just a few years ago, Ericsson appeared to see it as a strategic asset.  During Ericsson’s November 2016 analyst day, a company executive said “you might not think about it as such an important piece, but sports graphics is very important for our overall way of actually watching not only sports, but a lot of news and so forth. That is what actually filling up the picture of information and giving you the constant, sort to say feed of non-visual experience of our non-moving experience as the rest of the media experience, it’s fixed information that has done an important part and it expands significant as more and more information can be made available of statistics or analytics around an individual game or – and sports show. And on top of that to be able to be delivering this, we need to be able to have our system integration and also people that are capable and competent of helping our customers to take this solution and this technology into their system, into their networks and setting it up and making it up and running.”

Ross Video entered the broadcast graphics market via their 2008 acquisition of Netherlands-based Media Refinery, whose XPression system (including 3D character generation, graphics and virtual sets) became the basis of Ross Video’s graphics line.  Ross Video bolstered its graphics capabilities in 2014 when it acquired Unreel LLC, a provider of augmented reality (AR) and virtual set technologies.  Ross Video uses Unreel’s UX AR/VS control software and UX design services, alongside multiple Ross Video products to deliver AR/VS solutions that are cost-effective and easy to create, install and use.

Ross Video said the addition of Pierro to its product portfolio fits the company’s strategic objectives, and enhances its graphics offering by advanced sports analysis graphics to the mix.

We tend to agree with this hypothesis. Although the comany is privately held and does not disclose financial results and/or break out the performance of individual product lines, Ross Video does appears to have gained significant traction in the broadcast graphics space over the past several years. David Ross, CEO and majority shareholder of the eponymous company has occasionally hinted at the success of its graphics product, saying that it is the second-largest revenue generator after production switchers.

Broadcast graphics are a strategically important product.  Data from Devoncroft’s annual Big Broadcast Survey shows that broadcasters see graphics as both a revenue-driver, as well as a way to differentiate their on-air look.  Pierro’s telestration graphics (which Ericsson touted only last year in an investor conference as it’s augmented reality platform”

Sports Graphics are a perfect complement to our industry-leading XPression Graphics and VS/AR offerings”, says David Ross, CEO, Ross Video. “Our worldwide sports production customer base will really appreciate the added momentum and exposure we can give to this legendary product.”

© Devoncroft Partners 2009-2018.  All Rights Reserved.