IBC2003 reveals industry optimism

The general mood was decidedly upbeat at the recent IBC conference in IBC, where exhibitors cited the quality of the visits, not the quantity, as a good indicator of better times ahead. Many IBC exhibitors said they expect booth visitors to return before or during April’s NAB2004 convention with purchase orders in hand.

Those expecting a gloomy report from the recent IBC2003 conference in Amsterdam might well be disappointed, as this year’s conference found most of the 1,000 exhibitors pleased with the approximately 30,000 attendees that did come (about the same as last year) and the “quality” of the resulting sales leads.

Like IBC conferences past, this year’s show included a number of product introductions and software enhancements previously shown in April at the NAB convention. The sessions were well attended and companies report considerable exhibit floor traffic; even on the last day of the conference, when in previous years that day was often compared to a ghost town.

High-definition production and digital cinema are on the minds of many in Europe, as is the continuing integration of computer-based IT equipment into the broadcast facility. On the show floor manufacturers eschewed stand-alone products and were more than willing to show how their “systems” fit that inevitable vision.

Many were anticipating that the 720p HD format would the standard most Europeans would adopt for broadcast, although companies such as Texas Instruments showed a 576p (PAL) SD image displayed on a plasma screen with its DSP technology it said was coming off a DTH satellite service.

Few actual sales were announced at the show, according to those interviewed for this report, but most, citing a general feeling of industry economic improvement, expect booth visitors to return before or during April’s NAB2004 convention with purchase orders in hand.

This year's IBC conference supported the continued convergence of IT and broadcast technologies. The SGI stand (pictured) demonstrated an end-to-end network for the unlimited creation and sharing of media files.

“I think it’s time we stopped looking at the attendee numbers and consider the quality of the visits we had this year,” said J. Kim Fennell, president and CEO of Pinnacle Systems. “I can’t speak for everyone, but we saw all of the American broadcast networks and many European and Asian companies in our stand and those visits lasted longer than I can remember, even for NAB.”

He might have been speaking for many, as virtually all saw “steady” traffic from attendees in all of the market segments they were addressing.

Marc Valentin, president of Thomson’s Broadcast and Media Solutions division said digital affordability was a clear message at this year’s show, particularly at the Thomson booth. He said attendees really responded.

Exhibit floor location is always an issue at these shows and smaller companies like integrated production systems maker Broadcast Pix (Burlington, Mass.) and fiber-optic transmission product manufacturer Telecast Fiber Systems (Worchester, Mass.) benefited from having their exhibit stands situated next to Sony Electronics and Panasonic, respectively.

“This was a better show than last year, if only because the conversations we had with people were a lot more serious in terms of wanting to purchase equipment,” said Richard Cerny, president of Telecast Fiber Systems. “There’s a new push in Europe [see story below] to create HD content for a number of services that are about to launch and we’re benefiting from that.”

For all of the benefits of IT, however, it was also clear at the show that some feel off-the-shelf computer-based systems may not be the panacea many people make them out to be. At Snell & Wilcox, a U.K.-based company with a long history of high-quality image processing, it was stated that the integrity of an image remains the most important consideration. “If the broadcast industry does not establish standards for the quality of images being delivered into consumers’ homes, they will be set for us by the IT world,” said Roderick Snell, company founder and president. “We require standards that need to be addressed in order to keep MPEG broadcasts unique.”

For more information visit www.ibc.org.

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