IBC introduces a changed business

Editor David Austerberry reflects on IBC2010 and how it exemplified the fact that broadcasters have to be adaptable to survive in today’s multiplatform, multichannel environment.
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As predicted, IBC proved to be successful this year, in contrast to the downbeat show last year. Everyone I spoke to had a good show, and some even talked of receiving orders at the booth! So, what was the buzz?

For one, stereoscopic TV no longer has the novelty appeal it had six months ago, and people were taking a more realistic approach to the technology, asking themselves, “Is it going to bring revenue to my business?”

The preponderance of technology at the booths might lead one to think that the show was indeed only about the technology, but, not unnaturally, much of the talk was about the state of the business as a whole. Europe shows signs of investment returning to the broadcast business, but many broadcasters are looking at the big picture, not just point products. Business process automation and the migration to a service-oriented architecture are typical examples.

Sure, technology is important. It is technology that delivers the innovation, from acquisition through to delivery. And new technology delivers more at a lower cost, which is the only way to meet the demand for multichannel, multiplatform delivery.

A look at our Pick Hits winners shows the diversity of technology interesting potential purchasers, and it's not all software. Broadcast engineering has not been replaced with IT; instead, IT has been accepted into the fold. As an example, test gear may contain computer processing, but high-speed electronic hardware is still needed to capture the signals. An antenna featured in our awards shows that there is still innovation taking place across the full gamut of broadcast hardware, and a picture monitor also was honored. You can monitor video on a €100 LCD, but for critical applications like shading and color grading, there is no substitute for a proper video (not computer) monitor.

Back to software products, workflow has remained a popular theme since the inception of file-based operations. It was also in the papers delivered at the conference.

Green technology was also at the fore, but it's not of great concern to many unless you're selling lighting, transmitters or big storage arrays. Innovation was at least apparent in the lighting hall as LEDs joined fluorescents as greener alternatives to tungsten.

Although the business might be returning to where it was before the recession, it is changing at a pace that may frighten some, but offers opportunities for others. New players constantly eat away at broadcast audiences, and it's not all user-generated content and new media. Consumer print publications are more often offering video for iPad editions or for their websites.

Some areas of TV may be losing audiences, but surveys show that video viewership is increasing. The explosive growth of over-the-top content delivery is certainly disrupting many business models. These changes are reflected by the move from real-time SDI to files moving over IP and Ethernet, and this is proving disruptive to the broadcast manufacturing sector, because software running on commodity platforms is replacing broadcast-specific software. Some major software vendors are also cutting prices to open up to a wider market.

Although IBC2010 demonstrated that business is coming back for broadcasters and manufacturers, it is a different business. To survive, everyone has to be more agile and more open to new ideas.

As it was succinctly pointed out at one of the IBC press conferences, more channels mean doing more for less money. If manufacturers can't lower prices, their competitors will. Aside from live production, that means we are going to see more low-cost software products serving a larger market, with enterprise management software orchestrating thousands of processes culminating with the multiplatform, multichannel content publisher.

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