A Memorable IBC

Common wisdom dictates that IBC, the world's second largest broadcast show, isn't usually as big of a newsbreaker as NAB, the world's largest. However, several recent industry developments impacted IBC 2005, making it more newsworthy than normal.

The show, held in Amsterdam, Sept. 9-13 boasted its usual lineup of quality conferences, white papers, exhibits and new technology demos. However, several announcements, including one of the industry's largest mergers and a major product introduction provided plenty of boothside talk. But perhaps the biggest bombshell was dropped on the opening day of the exhibition.

Following the lead of Snell & Wilcox, which withdrew from IBC 2005 earlier this year, Panasonic Broadcast Europe, one of the show's largest exhibitors, announced that it would not return to IBC next year.

Emphasizing that the withdrawal was not due to cost cutting, Panasonic agreed with Snell's contention that its marketing dollars can be spent more wisely, and that trade exhibitions may not be the best way to promote new products.

"Clearly the Internet is the passageway to getting more information to the customer," said Jaume Rey, general manager, European Sales and Marketing for Panasonic Broadcast Europe. "Due to increasing competition, more and more marketing tools need to be fine-tuned. Customers go to exhibitions to know more about manufacturer's directions, not to get information about products or solutions.

"Nowadays, exhibitions for larger brands like Panasonic take much more than just money; the drain on time and people is very heavy." Rey said. He added that they announced their plans at the beginning of the show because "we didn't want to give anyone the room to create their own stories."

IBC was diplomatic in its response, noting that the organization respected Panasonic's decision and that the door is always open.

"They're always welcome to come to IBC," said IBC spokesman Michael Crimp. "They have a choice--they can wear an exhibitor's badge or they can wear a visitor's badge."

As for Snell, company spokesman Joe Zaller harbored no regrets about its decision to back out and said that the company has not booked exhibit space for 2006. "I'd like to make a [final] decision in about three months to see what the fallout is."

A company's most significant product introductions are usually reserved for the spring NAB show in Las Vegas, but Grass Valley chose IBC 2005 as the springboard for its new "Infinity" line, the company's major foray into the tapeless production sector see Grass Valley Goes Tapeless.

Rather than follow the lead of Sony and Panasonic, which respectively chose optical-disk and flash memory storage platforms, Grass Valley opted for what it describes as the industry's first truly open standard format, based on Compact Flash and Iomega's REV disk-based storage platform and compact flash.

The launch was important enough to bring Thomson CEO Frank E. Dangeard to the show, who, despite reminding members of the audience that Thomson is "12 times" the size of Grass Valley, emphasized that the broadcast market remains an important part of the company's market strategy.

Avid had a more significant presence at the show, after dropping out of IBC several years ago. The expanded company, which completed its purchase of Pinnacle Systems a month before IBC, says it is giving its full attention to its largest ever acquisition.

The Pinnacle acquisition prompted Avid to restructure its business into three divisions: video, audio and its new consumer business, based on Pinnacle's consumer product line, and based at Pinnacle's headquarters in Mountain View, Calif.

Harris' pre-show announcement of its acquisition of Leitch was also the talk of the show. Both companies emphasized the "complementary" nature of its product lineup and Tim Thorsteinson, president of Leitch, noted that Harris has been diversifying its business, expanding beyond its government focus and more into broadcast.

"We pretty much sell to the same people," Thorsteinson, "so strategically putting these two companies together made a lot of sense." He added that Harris' current plans are to market Leitch as a brand of Harris, but as to the eventual brand makeup, "no final decisions have been made."

Annual speculation about IBC's future as an Amsterdam mainstay were also laid to rest, at least for the next three years as the organization opened the show with the announcement that the city had agreed to freeze hotel rates at 2005 levels through 2008. IBC Exhibitors numbered 1,000, while attendance was pegged at 41,200, five percent more than in 2004.