Avid's Arnold: It's time for return to 'greatness'

Vows vid unit will focus on customers

Avid Technology has an uneven record in hiring executives with little or no experience in the entertainment industry. Kirk Arnold is confident that she can change that.

Arnold recently was named executive vp and GM of Avid's professional video business unit. She arrived at Avid two weeks ago with more than 25 years of management experience, most recently at Keane and Fidelity Investments. She also has held positions at NerveWire, Computer Sciences Corp. and IBM. But some in the Hollywood community expressed reservations because she lacks showbiz industry experience.

Avid's technology is used in many broadcast and postproduction facilities. Its video unit includes the editing systems used by the majority of Hollywood's feature film editors.

"It is the work I love — taking a company that has once been great and taking the challenge of bringing it back to greatness," Arnold said of her new role. "I am thrilled to be here because I think that is indeed the opportunity we have."

Getting more specific, she said: "We have a customer base that is unbelievably passionate and committed — and frustrated because we have not necessarily been listening as hard as they would like. That is an enormously leverageable asset. In my career, I have not seen before a customer base as engaged and proactive as this one is.

"The (editing) technology applies to a variety of markets, and one of them (is the entertainment industry)," she said. "There will be a real focus on that constituency. … We absolutely are listening. We've been engaged by an advisory committee that is a part of American Cinema Editors that had come together with us actively. We have an online forum (with ACE). It's opening up a discussion around what the market says it needs.

"We have a tremendous group of people (at Avid) that know an awful lot about this business that I will be relying on heavily."

Meanwhile, the role of Graham Sharp, a well-known veteran of the entertainment technology community who held the role of vp/GM of the unit, is unclear.

Arnold said that she, Sharp and recently named CEO Gary Greenfield have been discussing Sharp's plans. "We are working through what role and what capacity, what his plans are. A final decision has not yet been made in terms of his plans."

She added: "He's really been helping me get up to speed … and ensuring that we do not lose momentum on a lot of important projects. I want to assure the customers that we are going to stay on track with the great work that he did this year."

Avid announced in the fall that it was pulling out of the National Association of Broadcasters show exhibition in April, with plans to redirect those funds to a more "customer-focused approach." At the time, the company said it would reveal more details about strategy in February. Arnold said Avid will postpone that announcement by a few weeks.

"Part of the reason for that decision is (that) a key theme for us this year is to refocus," she said. "We want to take a little bit of extra time … and ensure (that the plan) is going to be responsive to the market and that we can deliver on those commitments. The overall message is listening and responding."

Arnold also said Avid is planning to host "customer appreciation events" at NAB.