Ross takes centre stage at Emmys: Video equipment platform earns local firm prestigious honour

As the CEO of one of Canada’s leading tech companies, David Ross is a regular at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas every January.

Next year, he’d probably be wise to bring along a tuxedo.

The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences announced last month that Mr. Ross’s eastern Ontario-based company, Ross Video, will be honoured with a technology and engineering Emmy Award at a ceremony in Las Vegas on Jan. 8. 

Ross Video is receiving the award for its pioneering product openGear, a combination hardware platform and software control system that allows users to perform tasks such as convert analog video to digital or compress video streams. The technology behind the system is available to customers for free as long as they buy the framework from Ross Video, which manufactures it at its plant in Iroquois. 

“I like to joke we made a metal box and we won an Emmy,” Mr. Ross, the firm’s majority shareholder, said last week after returning to his Ottawa office from a trade show in Amsterdam. “It was pretty exciting and pretty gratifying.”

Mr. Ross said the company launched openGear, which allows companies to piggyback off each other’s technology, after seeing how difficult it was for “little guys” to break into the video equipment and production space.

“It really changed the industry,” he said, noting 87 companies are now part of the openGear consortium. “It’s pretty cool.”

Ross Video has won a roomful of awards in its 40-year history, but perhaps none with the cachet of an Emmy.

“The Emmy is really, really hard to get,” said Jeff Moore, Ross Video’s executive vice-president and chief marketing officer. The committee that recommends the award has to prove the technology has “materially affected” television production, transmission or reception, he said, and that doesn’t happen every day.

“You don’t just win for something that’s cool. You win for something that’s made an impact on the industry.”

The announcement from the television academy is just the latest feather in the cap for Ross Video, which is riding a wave of customer wins and adulation that would make many higher-profile tech firms envious. 

With about 580 employees and annual revenues in the $150-million range, the company has become a player to be reckoned with in the video equipment and production industry. Ross Video’s impressive roster of customers includes everyone from ABC and ESPN to the NFL’s Green Bay Packers and Buffalo Bills. 

It has quietly acquired almost a dozen companies since 2009, its latest deal a seven-figure investment in a Norwegian firm called The Future Group. TFG is working on The Future Universe, an ambitious virtual reality game show that will be produced using Ross Video technology. 

Mr. Ross said the deal could mean tens of millions of dollars in new revenue if the concept takes off and gets licensed around the world.

“It’s going to be pretty exciting,” he said. “If we play our cards right, I’ll be like all the other CEOs and say and we have a shot at being a billion-dollar company here in Ottawa.”