Tough road ahead for Thomson GV et al.

Seeking Alpha, a business and investing site I read regularly, has a good analysis on the troubles facing video-hardware makers including Thomson Grass Valley, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary and up for sale at the same time. (Kinda sad).

Grass Valley Group was founded as a tiny R&D company in our sleepy burgh by Dr. Donald Hare. It got its big break in 1964, when it was called upon to provide video equipment to broadcast a presidential convention in San Francisco after the original supplier dropped out. A good history of the company and Thomson, complete with timeline, is here.

But the *future,* not the past, is what counts now — hundreds of jobs and local tax receipts are at stake with the pending sale:

“In Thomson’s year end report, they stated that the decline of the Grass Vally business was due to conditions that were worse than expected and that they have already started the divestment process for the Grass Valley unit,” according to Seeking Alpha.

“This is going to be a tough year for the hardware manufactures and we can expect to see more companies like Thomson get out of the broadcast hardware business.”

Nowadays many broadcasters are looking at lower cost solutions, so these companies will have to tap new markets or “re-innovate” their business around service and upgrades, as Seeking Alpha points out.

This doesn’t mean it can’t be done: I’ve seen and written about lots of tech companies that have re-invented themselves, up to and including IBM (which is negotiating to buy Sun Microsystems).

Wouldn’t it be cool if GV Thomson — which spawned a video hardware mecca here — could pull off a management-led buyout? It’s not unthinkable. I know the idea has been kicked around.

It sure would make a better ending to this Cinderella-like story than the grim alternative.

Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website SierraCulture.com. Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for 12 years, and he was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News for eight years, among other positions. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing, swimming, and trout fishing in the Sierra.

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