Geert Paul Slee, CEO and founder of Broadcast Rental, still knows exactly what he did on September 1, 2009. “Driving through the Eurotunnel with a Volkswagen Transporter on my way to England to pick up my first two rented EVS machines.” It means the start of a company that has grown over the past ten years into an (internationally) much-needed, innovative facility partner.
Slee, born in Breda, first came to Cinevideogroep in 1987, more or less by accident.
“I was at a dinner party at home with the former Cinevideogroep director Frans Albregts. I was a friend of one of his children and he asked me what I was doing. I said I was working in a grill restaurant. He answered that it was high time to learn a trade.
I was 25 years old and came to work as a general assistant at Cinevideogroep.”
“An exciting time, because VHS tape was being introduced and the company was often called in to register live concerts. “My first big production was Lionel Richie in Ahoy and then followed U2, Madonna, Pink Floyd in Venice and the Moscow Peace Festival.”
Slee recalls. “I was one of the few with a transport vehicle operator’s licence, so they send me everywhere. A fantastic period in which I grew from assistant to operational production manager and later I became operations manager."
Bank Beer Chips
If Cinevideogroep is sold in 2004, Slee made the switch to Yeahronimo and Commodore.
“The idea was to offer video via the set-top box according to the so-called ‘BBC’-model: Bank, Beer, Chips. Be in charge with your remote control. At that time, the iPod was also introduced and the people at Commodore thought they could handle the competition with Apple, but that was a miscalculation; a lot of money went down the drain then.”
After less than a year, Geert Paul Slee is asked by the current director of United, René Delwel, to help him with the international operations of former UBF (now United).
After that Slee starts the Dutch branch of Presentigne Charter in 2007. “The HD-market came on, but the equipment price was still too high in relation to the production volumes. So I saw an opportunity on the rental market; facility companies could share the costs in this way. But when the crisis struck in 2008, at the start of 2009, I became superfluous with Presteigne Charter and decided to start my own business.”
Broadcast Rental is born. Slee starts operating from his own garage of 6 x 4 meters. “I had children who just went to high school and their main reminder of that time is that they had to fill small candy bags, which I put in the boxes that went to the customers. We still do that today.”
“I actually discovered by accident that the url www.broadcastrental.com was still free, so I went for it. And regarding the company color: I was watching Wimbledon and Roger Federer was wearing a white jacket with the letters “RF” in gold, that looked very chic to me. That we would later become quite large in RF and become known for it (Radio Frequency, wireless camera connections, ed.) I could not have imagined then. ”
Broadcast Rental quickly expands from two to eight EVS machines and when Martijn Swart comes to strengthen the ranks in 2013, things are going fast. He became CTO and also co-owner of the company; Swart is even known worldwide as a ‘broadcast innovator’ and has recently been awarded a Media Diamant because of its great merits, the recognition for employees behind the scenes of television, radio or internet who excel in talent, dedication, passion and craftsmanship .
“Tinus” and his team are responsible for countless technical highlights in their homecountry and abroad: from wireless cameras hidden in the KNVB cup, to a special develop torch-cam on stage during a U2-tour and literally a highlight; several wireless cameralinks out from a hot air balloon for the Dutch number one radiostation.
For the Formula 1 broadcasts, Swart is also helping to improve an existing remote workflow that is taken by seven international broadcasters. Slee: “Our biggest customer is currently FOX Latin America for which we provide unilateral services during Formula 1. In 2016 we took over the company BP Satelite Solutions, including its customers. For us, this was the start of our contemporary work during Formula 1. Great how the former owner was able to build this company together with his partner. They arranged for various customers that their signals were distributed via their own MCR. To this day, they still help us during every race.”
“When Max Verstappen won his first race in 2016, Ziggo was unable to broadcast it live in the Netherlands because they did not have the rights to broadcast the races; they had to run to a playout server with a tape before it could be on TV. In 2017, Ziggo also became our customer on location, followed by the Austrian ORF and the Hungarian channel M4 Sport. It is not easy for them to receive EBU signals, but via our dark fiber connection to the Media Gateway that is no problem in Hilversum, our homebase. ”
After the takeover, Broadcast Rental moved the existing MCR to Hilversum and expanded it further its new building. “We now have a total of seven customers on the circuits, all with different needs,” says Slee. “One has one wireless camera, the other two and there are customers with and without commentatory positions. We take care of all 21 races for them; five of our crewmembers are on site and receive support from Hilversum. We monitor everything that happens there. Yes, this has been crucial for the growth of our company. We did not focus specifically on Max Verstappen, but his success is a nice side effect. And for me personally, Formula 1 was one of the few sports I had never seen live. In that respect, only the American Super Bowl, the Rugby World Cup and the Dakar Rally remain. This last event will take place in Saudi Arabia this year – not so far away for us, so who knows.”
The best at what you do
When asked about his ambition with Broadcast Rental, Slee does not have to think long: “I am not a corporate person, working in a large company does not suit me. I think it’s good if we stay relatively small (there are currently 13 people working there, ed.) And just grow with the market. I believe in wanting to be the best at what you do, and with Broadcast Rental that comes down to the last screw in a product and delivering everything neatly packaged in cases. For example, we have just built a 20 CW UHD flight pack, into which we have put our soul and bliss.
This flight pack was used, for example, during the WAFU Cup, an international football tournament in Senegal from the end of September to mid-October for countries that are members of the West African football union. A typical Broadcast Rental job: FOX Sports Netherlands produced that on the spot with the help of “technical wizard” Martijn Swart.
Such expertise undoubtedly makes the company interesting for takeover, but Slee stays on the plain in that regard. “I’m in my mid-fifties, so I still have a little time to go and the energy is still bursting. But who knows, crazier things have happened. As long as the identity of Broadcast Rental remains guaranteed, anything is possible.”
“But when it comes to dreams or ambitions, they are mainly on a personal level. Like traveling through the Serengeti in a motorhome or a Land Rover. I love watching animals, including on television. Watching these documentaries, I know how much time and effort it took the cameraman to make that one shot. Although I do not have that experience myself and am not creative, if you have been in the business for more than thirty years, you realize all too well the hard work that is done for all those unsuspecting people in order to enjoy their tv, on the couch at home, with beer and chips. And so the circle is round again.
This story is an adaptation of the interview with Geert Paul Slee in the weekly online BM Talk. All those video conversations can be found here: https://www.broadcastmagazine.nl/bmtv/