20th Anniversary Blog: Q&A with Chris Alner, Commercial Director EMEA


Interview with Chris Alner, Commercial Director EMEA

Introduction and background

Could you briefly introduce yourself and share a bit about your professional background before joining Appear?

Chris: I started out as a chartered accountant with Price Waterhouse in the 1990s and then worked in finance at Disney and MTV before switching to business development at BT Vision in 2007. I was subsequently a director at a Video-on-Demand (VoD) and Connected TV solutions provider called Capablue that was sold to Arqiva in 2014. I remained with Arqiva as Commercial Director of their media & broadcast businesses until 2023.

What were your first impressions of Appear and team during your initial few months?

Chris: What I very quickly appreciated is that Appear has a very clear strategy, and direction how to execute it. This was particularly refreshing. Whilst there is always work to be done there is also a well-defined culture, anchored in Oslo, but which translates to the other teams based internationally.

Can you describe some of the key responsibilities and challenges you’ve taken on since your arrival?

Chris: My main responsibility is to exceed the financial performance of the EMEA team each year. More broadly, this is a period of commercial transformation within the EMEA market and our team, as we move into new markets. This means increasing the overall size of the team by adding new sales talent in geographic markets and strengthening the skills and capabilities of the team as a whole.

The Appear factor

What motivated you to join Appear specifically?

Chris: It was two things. Firstly the people that I met through the process, the other regional leaders and the management team. Secondly the fact that Appear occupies a unique position in the market and is growing faster than any other company in the mediatech industry.

Were there specific aspects of Appear’s vision or business strategy that influenced your decision to become part of the team?

Chris: Thomas Bostrøm Jørgensen, CEO, and Alex Pannell, CCO, set out for me their clear visions on what was needed in EMEA and recognised how it was different from the other regions. EMEA was a well-established market in linear distribution for Appear, mainly supported by the legacy XC Platform, but required a change in approach in order to deliver growth in the live contribution space.

How does Appear’s approach to technology and innovation align with your professional goals?

Chris: I am naturally curious about technology and how it can be applied in the media and broadcasting sector, particularly how it enables our customers to reach their viewers. Appear’s vision and strategy is focused on delivering the best solutions to our customers around the world. Our R&D team develops forward-looking technologies that are revolutionising the media industry, putting us in the unique position of knowing that we are making a difference when we sell our solutions to customers.

Proudest moments

Reflecting on your first few months, what achievements are you most proud of?

Chris: I’ve only been at Appear for 6 months, so as a commercial operator, exceeding the target set for 2023 and starting 2024 with a 33% annual growth rate has been a great achievement and proof of what the EMEA team can achieve with a change in leadership and additional resources. Secondly, working through a lengthy recruitment process to bring commercial talent into the team has been very rewarding.

Can you share a particular success story that stands out during your time here so far?

Chris: I wouldn’t want to focus on just one contract, but I would say that the continued business development of the EMEA region is one of the most remarkable. Some of the biggest sporting events coming up this summer, including Paris, have been managed by our EMEA team so we couldn’t be prouder to be part of these global events.

The future of the business in live production technology

Where do you see the biggest growth opportunities for Appear in the EMEA market over the next few years?

Chris: The quick answer would be to say in the live production market, because there are still a number of markets and sectors in which we can build our brand and our pipeline. But there will be a considerable amount of network change in the European Telco market over the next five years as they refresh their core technology stack within their WAN and GMN. This is an ideal niche for Appear where we can win big with the X Platform.

How do you think emerging trends in live production technology will impact our business?

Chris: Common with many markets there is a drive for improving the viewing experience with an increase in the number of cameras at all live events, not just sports. Shifts to remote and centralised production together with the need to manage all those video feeds is exactly what Appear specialises in and how we best service the market.

What strategies are you planning to implement to ensure Appear stays ahead in a rapidly evolving industry?

Chris: For me it is all about clarity and focus; being clear on what it is we are trying to achieve and leading and empowering the teams to execute.

Personal insights and advice

What have been some of the most valuable lessons you’ve learned in your career in the media and broadcast tech industry?

Chris: I have spent time at some of the biggest content creators in the world (Disney and MTV) and also within TV distribution businesses. The most invaluable lesson is that we need to keep engaging with our customers about their products and their stories, whether it’s about TV, film production or sports.

As a leader, how do you foster innovation and creativity within your team?

Chris: As leaders we have to create environments which encourage curiosity, about our technology, markets and customers. Within the team, this includes creating a safe-space where we can share our stories to continually learn and improve.

What advice would you give to someone aspiring to take on a leadership role in a technology-driven company like Appear?

Chris: Be curious, there will always be people around you who know more about technology so keep probing and asking questions. Secondly, find your own style. One way to improve as a leader is to copy those you’ve worked for in the past, but it’s important to do it in your own way, with your own voice.