IBC2016: IBC Signals Change

AMSTERDAM—IBC2016 promises to be a fascinating milestone in the evolution of our industry. Never before have we faced so much change affecting every aspect of broadcast and media. The changes are so radical that we are not even sure what to call the business we are all engaged in! Broadcast now just defines a part of the whole, but there is an entirely new category emerging based around the internet and on-demand content. Those who say broadcast has an unique advantage because of its one-to-millions economy of scale are missing the point; fragmentation and personalization change the rules. What was once considered the ‘long-tail’ is now a key component, as niche viewing and subscription based programming become the norm. It’s not necessary to reach an entire population: just enough who are willing to pay a subscription to drive a viable business.

What will become increasingly apparent at IBC this year is the commoditization of technology, providing tools to anyone who has the skill and creativity to make high quality programming and with it, low cost ways of reaching an audience. This has got to be a good thing considering how many missed out on a wonderful career because they could not afford the gear or were not employed by a large organization that could.

And it’s not all about image quality this year. No doubt UHD and its variants will be discussed at length in the aisles, on booths and in the conference, but money is being spent in other areas. Getting more channels out to consumers, providing on-demand services and making use of analytics are the pragmatic demands of the industry right now, and potentially where money is being spent.

Large companies will still remain important; enterprise systems are by their nature expensive and complex and therefore need the leadership of large organizations to match. However, the select group of large entities is changing and growing as major IT and telco companies join the fray. Expect to see an increasingly visible presence from these organizations. As the role of video and audio grows, the total value of the industry will grow with it, attracting direct interest from these sectors.

With change there are always opportunities, but traditional companies need to adapt, and fast. We have moved on from simply an industry of unique capital-intensive, interconnected, black boxes. Hardware is increasingly generic and a commodity as the value and revenue shifts to software and services. Business models for technology suppliers have to change from ‘one-off’ capital payments to subscriptions and recurring payments. With that comes a relationship change between suppliers and customers; delivered products may never be finished but a continuous work in progress as technology and end-user needs evolve.

All this will play out at IBC, which remains a vital event in the calendar. The emphasis has changed from ‘hands-on’ displays of discrete hardware to discussions about functionality, business benefits and interoperability. Face-to-face discussions are more important than ever and no other event provides such an efficient opportunity to meet so many key people in one place. A word of caution though: don’t be surprised if your favorite company no longer has a booth. With change comes a significant increase in mergers and acquisitions. Well-known companies are reforming and new names are entering the market as the industry evolves and re-invents itself!

I look forward to seeing you there.