Big screens, big deal: Ross Video acquires California LED tech leader D3

D3 LED screen
Ross Video has acquired California's D3, whose projects include this 4,600-square-foot screen in New York's Times Square for ABC. Photo courtesy D3

Production equipment giant Ross Video’s technology isn’t usually described as “in your face,” but CEO David Ross thinks his latest acquisition might just give the Ottawa-based company a little more swagger. 

Ross Video announced this week it has purchased D3, a California firm that makes LED display screens for broadcasters, retailers, sports stadiums and other clients. Its customers include ABC Studios, MLB Network, the Gap, Victoria’s Secret and the Smithsonian Institution.

Ross wouldn’t disclose terms, but said it was among the three largest of the firm’s 18 acquisitions since 2009. D3’s 40 employees will raise the company’s surging headcount to nearly 1,100.

“It’s a big bite, but I think the potential is huge,” Ross told Techopia.

The latest deal comes just a few months after Ross Video acquired Florida software firm Primestream

While Primestream’s platform, which helps streamline the flow of video during the production process, is the kind of thing that gets tech geeks’ juices flowing but goes unnoticed by everyone else, Ross said D3 produces billboards that will advertise the Ottawa company’s expertise to the world – and not just metaphorically.

"It’s a big bite, but I think the potential is huge."

“LED walls are literally big and in your face,” he said. “Everybody knows what they are, and they’re impressive and they have an emotional impact as well. To me, that’s really exciting to be able to add another major dimension to what people think about when they think about Ross.”

Ross Video has been delivering images to big screens since the Sony JumboTron days of the 1990s. But Ross says D3 adds another layer of end-to-end digital image technology to the firm’s toolkit.

“We can not just make the screens do impressive things, but we can put beautiful pictures on them as well,” he said. “This may be one of the acquisitions that touches what we do more than anything else we’ve ever done.”

The timing of the deal was fortuitous, Ross added. D3’s previous owners, Texas-based Southpaw Live, put the company up for auction in June – just a couple of months after senior Ross Video executives held a strategy meeting and determined there was a “hundred-million-dollar-plus opportunity” in the LED space.

$15M plant expansion

“We were ready for it from that point of view and were able to move very quickly,” Ross explained, adding the firm wrapped up the transaction in less than two months.

Ross Video also recently broke ground on a $15-million expansion of its main manufacturing plant in Iroquois, about 70 kilometres south of Ottawa. Ross said the company has added a third shift to its Iroquois workforce in an effort to keep up with rising demand for its equipment.

“Our hardware products are just going bonkers right now,” he said.

Fuelled by acquisitions and the growing popularity of its hardware and software, Ross Video is enjoying a 29-year run of continuous revenue growth – a streak Ross fully expects will stretch to 30 when the company’s fiscal year-end arrives on Oct. 31.

As for more M&A deals, he says none are on the immediate horizon – but then, Ross wasn’t expecting to buy D3 before that opportunity dropped in his lap.

“We were last in,” he said of being a late invitee to the auction. “I don’t think anybody expected Ross to be the high bidder and get the most excited about this. But we were.”