Photo courtesy of Imagine Communicatons

Lunch With D CEO: Charlie Vogt

The head of Imagine Communications aims to change the ways we engage with media.

Charlie Vogt developed his aggressive, competitive nature at an early age, when he joined his first baseball team and discovered the adrenaline rush of winning. Couple that with his first business experience as a kid shoveling snow for his neighbors in his hometown of St. Louis, and the result is a business leader who’s always swinging for the fences.  

The CEO of Imagine Communications is part of a select group of professionals at the forefront of a transforming media and entertainment industry, which is moving from traditional hardware and software to technology that enables television to be broadcast anywhere on any device.

“It’s the thrill of victory,” Vogt says about what drives him to stay on the cutting edge. “There’s no one that hates losing more than me.”

So it’s no surprise that when Vogt arrived at Del Frisco’s Grille at The Shops at Legacy in Plano, just two miles from his Frisco office, he wasn’t able to shake the “loss” of the day. While parking his Porsche Panamera, Vogt scraped his rims on the curb, causing what he estimated to be several hundred dollars’ worth of damage. “I lost,” he says, reviving the topic as he finishes up his Asian tuna salad. “I can’t forgive myself that I did something I shouldn’t have done.”

“It’s the thrill of victory. There’s no one who hates losing more than me.”

Charlie Vogt
When it comes to business, though, Vogt, who regularly picks up his baseball bat when thinking through tough problems, won’t settle for a loss. Formerly CEO of Frisco-based Genband, Vogt has spent 30 years in the technology industry, serving as an executive for most of his career. In March 2014, a year after being named CEO of Denver-based Harris Broadcast, he split the company into two, serving as CEO of both Imagine Communications, the Frisco arm that helps companies manage, move, and monetize video content across platforms, and Cincinnati-based GatesAir, which offers broadcast transmitters with reduced power consumption and, therefore, a smaller carbon footprint.

Two years after laying the groundwork for Imagine Communications, Vogt says the company is ready for its next step. “We’ve done a lot of investments in new IT systems, and we’ve acquired and integrated four companies,” Vogt says. “This is really the first year we enter focused on growth and taking share.”

If Vogt gets his way, the team will rally and blitz the market to become the dominant player in the industry. The company already has experienced a $10 million bump in revenue, due to demand, from last year’s first quarter. And in each of two straight quarters, it has generated more than $100 million in revenue.

Imagine has managed to garner the interest of customers like Apple, Comcast, and Rogers Media. It also is working with companies like Microsoft to deploy its technology in Azure—Microsoft’s cloud service—and helped Disney/ABC become one of the first major networks to transition to the cloud. 

And, with broadcasters and non-broadcasters alike focusing on playing a role in “TV Everywhere,” Vogt expects the $40 billion segment to only grow. He says his team prepared for this years ago, setting them up for a strong 2016 that’s expected to fuel the company’s top and bottom lines. 

“For three years in a row, we were spending close to $100 million in innovation,” Vogt says. “We’re now supporting more than 100 next-generation trials, which is an indicator of where customers are seeing the future of media and entertainment industry heading.”

Vogt knows that getting his 1,200-person team on the same page, aligned with a clear message, will be one of his biggest future challenges. But the CEO, who some say is never satisfied, plans to do what it takes to get the team there—a characteristic expected from someone who was recently inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame at his alma mater, Saint Louis University.

“For the first time in our industry, the consumer is dictating the change and the pace of change,” Vogt says, adding that infrastructure and content is now an expectation. And, helping providers meet that expectation is exactly what Vogt aims to do. After all, he’s in it for the win.

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