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IBC Conference Looks to the Future, Part 1

While it’s clear there’s no magic bullet to replacing spot TV advertising as a broadcast revenue model, IBC has gathered some of the industry’s best business minds to thrash out the answer to this and other challenges facing broadcasters as more media sources compete for the consumer’s attention.

The conference, which runs from the 8–13 September at the RAI Centre in Amsterdam, has introduced a new Leader’s Summit strand to its programme this year, hosted by respected journalist and broadcaster Andrew Neil.

Running Thursday and Friday, the summit sees top business leaders such as Sir Martin Sorrell, founder of ad giant WPP as well as Sky’s COO Mike Darcey discuss what the industry’s businesses leaders need to do to keep pace with the changing media landscape. In light of the recent hacking scandal currently engulfing Rupert Murdoch’s empire, the sessions on “leadership in a digital age” and “demanding managerial challenges” promise to be fascinating.

While the summit is an extra cost to delegates and is aimed primarily at business leaders, some of the same issues and faces appear in Thursday morning’s opening keynote “The Future of Broadcasting.” The panel, which includes William H Roedy, former chairman and chief exec of MTV networks, and Luke Johnson, entrepreneur and former Chanel 4 chair, discuss how broadcasters will respond to the dilution of ad revenues and the threat posed by new mobile and Internet delivery platforms.

A few years ago Richard Thomson, managing director of the Warner Bros.-owned, U.K.-based production company Wall to Wall, sat in a session at IBC involving file-based workflows and cloud computing. He argued that technology companies get so excited by the potential applications of new technology that they sometimes forget about the users.

“While manufacturers have long espoused the benefits of tapeless workflows and virtual computing, it’s our programmes that are at stake—so we’re understandably more cautious and introduce things very gradually,” he says.

Now IBC has invited Thomson back to discuss the practicalities of cloud computing and going tapeless —case studies from the coalface. The cloud is one of the key topics at this IBC convention and Thomson examines whether producers are any nearer to embracing new ways of working.

Another cloud-computing session kicks off Friday’s programme. Chaired by Paul Drinkwater, a media industry partner at IBM, it looks at the implications of cloud computing on business and the challenges to integrate the cloud with the rest of an operational workflows.

Another hotly debated issue in broadcasting involves the distribution of one of the earth’s most sought-after and finite resources—not oil or water, but spectrum. “Broadcast Spectrum—doing more for less,” chaired by Daniel Sauvet-Goichon, DigiTAG’s dvb technical vice chairman, examines the spectrum landscape, explaining why some bands are hotly contested, while others remain relatively unused. Other issues explored in this session include the effect the Defense Spectrum Organization is having on various European nations and what chance there is that regulators can persuade broadcasters to use less spectrum and share the resource with new multimedia operators.

Saturday is Connected TV day, another hot topic at IBC this year with several sessions devoted to this subject throughout the conference. Perhaps a good place to start is Saturday’s keynote “Connected TV: Remaking the TV industry—the battle for the home screen,” which boasts a panel attended by representatives from Blinkbox, Sony Corp., Pace and Freest.

Traditional broadcasters, pay-TV operators, OTT players such as Blink box and Nettle, as well as Google TV, games consoles and mainstream consumer electronics organizations are all in the fight to be the “home” EPG for viewers. What are the tactics of each of those players and what kind of partnerships might be created as audiences demand more flexibility in how they access, view and interact with content?

Sunday is sports day at IBC, which has become something of a tradition in recent years. While there’s no keynote in this part of the programme, there are sessions looking at the online activity involved in next year’s 2012 Olympic games including “Digital Olympics.” There’s also the session “Live Sports Production: From Tape to Tablet” with EVS and Deltatre, which will look at the recent changes in live sports production workflows, the impact of the increase in the number of cameras that cover major sporting events and the move from tape-based to server technology. This session will also explore how technology is enhancing a fan’s experience inside the stadium, delivering rich data and video streams to a variety of devices.