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New CEO ready to scale new heights with Imagine Communications

Having worked with companies such as Apple and IBM, Tom Cotney has been named the new CEO of Imagine Communications. He succeeds Charlie Vogt, who is joining the Gores Group as a senior adviser to continue to drive M&A and business development activities at Imagine Communications. Speaking with APB, Cotney details how he intends to build on the legacy of Vogt to build a “bigger and stronger” Imagine Communications.

Imagine Communications was born out of a desire to drive the broadcast and media industry towards IP, the cloud, virtualisation and software-defined networks. Where these transitions are concerned, how would you access where the industry is now, and what factors, if any, is holding back adoption?
Tom Cotney: After working through the why and the when issues surrounding the transition of their operations — even the mission-critical ones — to a new and more agile technology foundation over the past couple of years, media organisations are now clearly focusing on the business aspects behind the modernisation of their networks.

That IP, virtualisation and commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) equipment are the future is indisputable. Entering 2018, media companies of all types — broadcasters, content owners and over-the-top (OTT) players — are focused on figuring out the most cost-effective and strategically viable way to transition operations to a virtualised, software-based setting. There is little, if any, hesitation related to the readiness of technology.

The standards are there and broadcast engineers are steadily acquiring the skillsets to design and maintain next-gen facilities.

Can you share with us some of the key strategic initiatives that you will be implementing to continue the work that Charlie Vogt and team have put in place over the past four years or so?
Cotney: I view the continuation of the work that Charlie has done at Imagine over the past few years as one of my top strategic objectives. The leadership transition at Imagine is purposely designed to be as seamless as possible and I will continue to work closely with Charlie, who is now focused full time on inorganic growth initiatives, to fully realise the vision that he and his team unveiled a few years ago.

We are 100% committed to the technology and product path, defined by IP, software-only and cloud-native, that Imagine has been pursuing since 2014. I have worked for some of the most innovative companies in the world, including Apple and IBM, and I can state without hyperbole that Imagine is delivering some of the most innovative technologies I’ve ever been associated with.

For me, job number one is helping our clients move forward and keep pace with change, rather than falling behind. That includes making it easier for them to gracefully and cost-effectively transition their networks, without squandering existing investment or disrupting current operations.

Media companies are struggling with their own issues. In addition to evolving consumption preferences, many are dealing with ongoing M&A activities of their own. They don’t want to work with suppliers who bring more drama into the equation. They want suppliers who are big enough and strong enough that they will be around for years to come. The market does not want to buy from small suppliers with questionable longevity or from a fragmented marketplace. I am laser-focused on helping Imagine get scale and make it as easy as possible for our customers to buy our solutions and services.

What are some of the key trends and developments you expect to dominate in 2018, and how is Imagine Communications geared up to help your customers address the challenges ahead?
Cotney: As I have said before, we have a huge advantage in next-gen technology — from IP to micro­services, then to more modular designs for our software systems. Now, we need to focus on execution. It’s not enough to dominate with the availability of a good technology. What I want to dominate is the issue of flexibility for the operators and financial stewards in the broadcast world.

As a technology provider, we can no longer rely on large orders that require hand-wringing and over-analysis by our clients. Their cost structures are under pressure. The burden is on me to innovate both commercially and technol­ogically, so that we will emerge as a dominant player in terms of being a leading entity with which to partner.

That flexibility will also help us be dominant in the category of adding value to the top-line growth of our clients with ad management software that produces higher yields on static inventory and offers new sources of inventory to buyers.

Again, this theme of getting bigger and stronger comes into play. In the ad management portion of our business, we need to be ultra-selective about how we build on our strengths. We literally have 100% share in certain markets. In those markets, we need to grow by adding new products and services to that already-strong base. In other markets, we will focus on growing our geographic coverage.

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