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FROM THE US TO BRAZIL, THE AMERICAN CONTINENT IS THE NEW FRONTIER FOR SCREEN SERVICE
Exporting a very high level of expertise that has been developed over decades of activity in the industry. This is the winning formula of Screen Service Broadcasting Technologies (www.screen.it), an Italian firm based in Brescia that operates in the communications infrastructure sector and offers a wide range of products and integrated services to TV and radio stations, as well as mobile phone operators, in Italy and elsewhere. Screen Service exports in 80 countries and would traditionally derive 70% of its turnover from sales abroad, even though the share has gone down in the first 9 months of 2007, which closed with a 40.4 million euros turnover. Since 1998 it has been active in several guises in the design, production and sale of machinery used in the several stages of TV broadcasting: low and high powered transmitters and antennae, radio links, encrypting and managing equipment for digital TV signals.
We ask the company’s MD, Luca Saleri, what Italian producers have to offer in a sector that has such a high technological content.
Italy is one of the most established countries in this field: with the advent of private TV channels in the middle of the 70s an industry that caters to TV broadcasters developed spontaneously. At first we witnessed a proliferation of small or even tiny firms. Then market pressures imposed a consolidation of the industry, and the number of relevant firms fell dramatically.
When did you switch from being a service provider to a systems manufacturer?
We starter our production activities in 1998. After ten years of experience in this field, and thanks to the technical know-how we acquired, our natural approach now is to put innovation at the top of our agenda. Screen Service’s leadership has always been based on research according to its customers’ needs. Today 30% of our personnel concentrates on R&D activities.
In practical terms, what advantages does your emphasis on research give you over your main competitors?
We get there earlier. We can introduce new solutions on the market 12-24 months before the competition, and often we are able to shift our customers’ preferences in the direction we have taken. As soon as one of our clients develops a new need, Screen Service is ready with an appropriate solution.
Given that your competitors are big players such as Toshiba, Nec and Thompson, being one step ahead seems the only way to avoid being squeezed out.
Exactly. In order to survive the market with ambitious objectives you need to be ahead of the game. For example, in June 2007 we decided to list our company on the Stock exchange to enhance its visibility and its brand. But flexibility is not enough to be competitive. When we run for public sector tenders we mainly get asked to supply efficient products at competitive prices.
Doesn’t relying too much on price risk leaving you exposed to competition from those who can supply greater quantities at a lower price that even you have been applying?
Certainly. A sustainable price is only one of the distinguishing features on the market, while reliability is paramount. In this respect, Screen Service is seen as the Japanese in the 70s, i.e. as one of the best suppliers of small scale equipment, from one half to a quarter smaller than the competition. Considering how crowded broadcasting towers are, smaller transmission units will have to pay less rent and will be easier to access for maintenance. And don’t assume that what is smaller is less technologically advanced. On the contrary, behind the simplicity of our solutions there is a great deal of research on complex issues.
To conclude, can you indicate what is your strategy on the international markets?
It depends. In some areas we are present directly on the ground: in the US we have set up a local unit in Miami with the aim to follow closely the developments on the promising markets of Latin America. This Miami subsidiary, resulting from a joint-venture with a local firm that owns 30% of the company, is responsible for sales in Central and South America. In the US we also have seven local retailers, assisted by the Miami office that guarantees the availability of materials or customer care. About two months ago we launched a similar initiative in Brazil, where we bought 60% of a local firm, 40% of which is owned by Brazilians who take part in the management. The idea, in the US as well as in Brazil, is the same: involve directly the company’s management and work on an equal basis with local partners. In some other countries we work with agents and distributors, who we also ask to look after customer care and servicing of our. Equipment.