AMSTERDAM—No sooner had the confetti been swept up from IBC’s 50th anniversary celebrations last year than the team was back planning our 51st show. Not such an exciting number, admittedly, but certainly a whole lot has happened in our industry in a year, and IBC 2018 promises to delve into all the new technological developments—and the business implications they present.
This is a key factor in the ongoing relevance and development of IBC. It may be an odd thing to say, but in a technological industry it is not only the technologies themselves that are exciting. Certainly there are big things happening; I think we will see big advances in areas like artificial intelligence, 5G and blockchain, and you do not need me to talk about the shift to IP connectivity and software-defined topologies; about the convergence of broadcast, IT and telecoms; and about the search for new formats, whether that is Ultra HD or virtual reality.
PUTTING RAW TECHNOLOGIES INTO ACTION
For me, the real excitement comes when these raw technologies are put into action. IBC puts these ideas in front of people who can imagine the possibilities and create the applications that transform our creativity and our business models. How are the businesses that use these technologies evolving? How will broadcasters, telcos and streaming companies co-exist? Will OTT providers be the new broadcasters, or will producers sell direct to consumers? Advertising still seems a reliable and lucrative way to fund content production and delivery; will programmatic advertising planning and dynamic ad insertion transform the cost/revenue model? Or will new monetization methods—maybe blockchain-managed micropayments from consumer to producer—transform the creative industry?
These issues may not be solved at IBC2018, but they will be much talked about. The last stage of development in IBC was a move away from a purely engineering-based event to one which attracts debate from the creative, operational and commercial sides of media businesses, because amazing technology is meaningless if it doesn’t gel within a workflow or it costs more than it earns.
In order to keep at the forefront of these issues, we are constantly refreshing and tweaking the IBC format to meet the needs of today’s much wider broadcast industry. We are the first to admit that some innovations are more successful than others, but we are also agile as a business and learn from our efforts. The end result is an event that continues to grow.
FROM ENGINEERING TO CREATIVE
A great example is the Leaders’ Summit. The move from an engineering-led event to a creative and commercial one meant that we had to engage more at CEO level. By helping C-level executives understand what the technology allowed them to do, they would be better equipped to develop strategic pathways for their businesses, which would maximise return. We developed this invitation-only, behind-closed-doors day to ensure that the people in the room could freely exchange ideas and opinions with their peers. It remains a cornerstone of the IBC Conference, and has led to additional C-level sessions being developed, such as the Cyber Security Forum and the Telco and Media Innovation Forum. Again, these are hosted, high-level events that bring new people and new businesses into the IBC community, and provide advocacy and context for the rapidly developing world of media.
These events underline my strongly held belief that people still have a real need to meet and talk face to face. In our industry we are dealing in extremely complex systems that use technology to drive creativity and commerce. It is not the sort of industry where a quick Google search will find an off-the-shelf product, so getting together with multiple potential partners, in the right environment to do business, is really valuable.
The broadening of the industry into adjacent markets also means that there are wildly successful companies you’ve never heard of in different sectors, or small start-ups with no advertising budget, that may have just the workflow or product or idea that will make a big difference to your business. IBC is a great place for those collaborations to be incubated.
This diversity is reflected in the conference program. While the IBC Conference was founded on technical papers—and they remain absolutely central to the program—this year they are woven more closely into broader sessions, so that the underlying technology is handled alongside the operational and business implications, putting all sides of the story in the same place. We will see new ideas from converging markets and emerging technologies from nascent companies as well as leaders from broadcast organisations that are successfully evolving with the new technology available, showing how the underlying technology is handled alongside the operational and business implications. With over 400 expert speakers across six dedicated streams, there will be much to learn and discuss.
ON THE EXHIBIT FLOOR
As well as the conference, we have 15 exhibition halls full of all the players in this rapidly changing industry. That includes some new and exciting businesses from the Alibaba Group, based in China, and the sixth largest internet company in the world, to start-ups who will take a small space at IBC and achieve a dramatic result. We are also seeing exhibitors evolve in the way they tell their stories; it’s no longer about black boxes with blinking lights—they need to sell less tangible (though no less important) products and services as software or in the cloud—so they are devising clear, compelling and exciting ways to present them.
There’s lots to look forward to at IBC 2018. On a practical level, I am very pleased to confirm that the new North-South metro line is finally open! Now visitors will be able to get from central Amsterdam to the heart of the RAI in just a few minutes. It will be a great relief for those who dread the crowds on the number 4 tram, and it will slash journey times.
We are expecting more than 57,000 people from around the world this year, and I encourage you all to immerse yourselves in the whole experience. Drop into conference sessions that interest you, or that you know nothing about. Go to the Awards Ceremony to see what the really innovative people are achieving today. Visit the IBC Future Zone, our regular space given over to the hit products of five years in the future. But above all, talk to people. Share your knowledge and experiences, and seize the opportunity to be a part of the big global debate.
To register for the show, visit http://show.ibc.org.
Michael Crimp is CEO of IBC.