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Monday, September 22, 2014

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Old print shop in Fairfield turns a page as high-tech media headquarters

Fairfield Citizen-News
Published 6:01 am, Friday, April 25, 2014

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  • David Ives, founder and CEO of TVEyes, calls the service his company offers "Google for TV." Ives is seen inside the company's new downtown headquarters, from which it plans to launch an expansion into new foreign markets. Photo: Geneive Reilly/Fairfield Citizen / Fairfield Citizen

    David Ives, founder and CEO of TVEyes, calls the service his company offers "Google for TV." Ives is seen inside the company's new downtown headquarters, from which it plans to launch an expansion into new foreign markets.

    Photo: Geneive Reilly/Fairfield Citizen

 

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When it was built in 1938, the two-story brick building at 1150 Post Road housed a pre-television era's primary tools for mass communication -- typesetting equipment and a printing press.

Seventy-six years later, the former print shop has returned to its mass-communication roots -- but with cutting-edge technologies and a global sweep that no typesetter in the first half of the 20th century could have imagined.

TVEyes Inc. provides computer-searches of TV and radio broadcasts worldwide. "Google for TV" is the way David Ives, the company's founder and CEO, describes it.

The company has moved its operations about a mile down the Post Road to the former printing shop, where it is poised to launch an overseas expansion.

The company's real-time and historical search engine locates TV and radio broadcasts emanating from 16 nations and in nine languages. Among the service's 3,000 subscribers are the White House, most members of Congress, Fortune 100 companies, professional sports teams, foreign governments, the military and others, Ives said.

With average annual revenue growth of 35 percent over the past five years, the company said, it needed more room to expand. But it wanted to remain in Fairfield, where Ives has lived for 25 years.

"I love our access to high-quality people here," Ives said in an interview. "We've been able to hire talented engineers and talented sales people." The close access to New York -- as a corporate center and communications hub -- also are important.

The company said it has open positions for customer service, support and training personnel, and it plans to hire more sales and technical staff.

TVEyes said its service makes broadcasts in the markets it monitors as easy to search as text material.

Its computers monitor broadcasts in all 210 U.S. media markets; all of the United Kingdom, Italy and Portugal; most of Australia, and major markets in Latin America, the Middle East, Australia and Asia.

Domestically, TVEyes' major competitor is Chicago-based Cision Inc., a publicly traded company that Ives acknowledged is the industry leader in subscriptions and revenues.

But TVEyes sees the greatest growth potential in foreign markets. It founded a company in Italy to concentrate on developing foreign-lanuage applications and is preparing to roll out services for Mandarin broadcasts in China and Hindi broadcasts in India, Ives said.

A career software engineer, Ives founded the company in the basement of his Fairfield home 15 years ago. In 2000, it moved to a 2,500-square-foot space in the so-called "wedding cake building" at 2150 Post Road.

The company initially tried to finance its web-based service by selling ads on its website, but revenues were not adequate, Ives said. So it switched to paid subscriptions, and the business took off.

Growth in the past five years has been efficient because computers -- not people -- run the searches. But the push into more foreign markets will mean more jobs and more challenges.

The new headquarters building is a mix of old and new -- sleek, modern glass melds with old, exposed brick. And it would be poetic justice if one could hear faint echoes of the clacking, 1930s typesetting equipment that once was there.

Although TVEyes' clients want to instantly find audio-video broadcasts, the key to locating them -- ironically -- is text.

To find broadcasts, the company searches hundreds of thousands of broadcast transcripts. In the U.S., that's relatively easy, Ives said, because transcripts of closed-caption subtitles are automatically produced.

But in foreign markets where closed captioning may not exist, it's a lot more complicated. Ask Ives what the biggest challenge to growth is, and he immediately replies "language barriers."

"To extend or model around the world takes significant effort," he said.

TVEyes is working to generate its own text transcripts of foreign-language broadcasts, which its computers then could search. The company's Italian unit is working to develop speech-to-text software that would generate those transcripts.

The building at 1150 Post Road was redesigned by Vicente-Burin Architects, of Fairfield, to accommodate 21st-century technologies. "Remarkably," Ives said, "the building you see varies very little from his original vision."

But the technologies employed there and their global reach are a world apart.