Ottawa’s Ross Video buys U.K. sports graphics firm, sealing 14th acquisition in 10 years

David Ross
David Ross

Riding a wave of 27 consecutive years of revenue growth, Ross Video just keeps finding new ways of outdoing itself.

The Ottawa-based video technology company announced late last week it’s acquired U.K. firm Piero Sports Graphics, whose state-of-the-art software is used by high-profile clients ranging from Premier League soccer clubs to the British Broadcasting Corp.

Though the companies wouldn’t disclose the terms of the deal, Ross chief executive David Ross called the transaction “the biggest acquisition we’ve ever made financially.”

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It’s the Ottawa firm’s 14th such deal in the past decade, and, in Ross’s words, one of the “more interesting” he’s ever pulled the trigger on.

When he first zeroed in on Piero in mid-2018, the company ​– a division of Red Bee Media, itself a subsidiary of Swedish telecom giant Ericsson ​– wasn’t even for sale.

But Ross saw massive untapped potential in Piero, a firm that sprang out of software designed by engineers at the BBC and was eventually spun off and sold to Ericsson.

The company has fewer than 20 employees and a small sales force, but Ross believes with his firm’s worldwide marketing muscle behind it, it can easily “double or triple” its revenues within the next few years. Ross Video, which already operates a sales office in Reading, England, plans to house Piero’s employees at a new R&D hub in London.

“When we approached the CEO of Red Bee, it was a bit of a surprise to him,” Ross said. “He was like, ‘But I had a strategy for that.’ And we said, ‘Well, maybe your strategy is to sell it.’ He came around to the idea and we started negotiating.”

Ross says Piero’s pioneering technology that allows broadcasters, sports teams and other clients to electronically “move” images around in video replays goes hand-in-hand with Ross Video’s own products.

“It’s just a perfect complement to the sorts of things we’re already doing for our sports and stadium customers,” he said, referring to Ross Video equipment that’s used to produce 3D graphics and other elements at big-time sporting events such as the Super Bowl.

“There’s only a couple of companies in the world that really do this. It’s a high-profile thing, and Piero is the most legendary of them all. They have done some amazing, highly valuable technology that is being undersold – at least in our opinion.”

Last week’s deal is just another chapter in the remarkable story of Ross Video, which now has more than 700 employees and expects that number to surpass 800 by the end of this year. Last year, the firm’s revenues – which are now in the hundreds of millions of dollars – rose 20 per cent over 2017, and the company says its 2019 numbers are 20 per cent ahead of last year’s pace.

Ross said the company has an even more ambitious target in its sights: becoming a billion-dollar enterprise within the next decade. Ross Video has been growing at such a dizzying pace lately it has yet to publicize another acquisition it made late last year, the details of which are expected to be revealed next weekend at the annual National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas.

When you’re on a roll like this, why not choose the Entertainment Capital of the World to announce another win?

And Ross says there’s much more good news to come for the 45-year-old firm that’s made a habit of raising the bar and then surpassing it.

“I’m sure we’ll come up with new ideas – we’re not worried about that,” he said with a chuckle. “Ross is definitely an idea factory, and it’s kind of like the more you know, the more you know what you’re not doing and what you can be doing. As we grow, we just see more and more opportunities. This is a lot of fun that we’re having right now.”

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