IBC 2010 Preview

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Visitors to the International Broadcasting Convention (RAI, Amsterdam 9-14 September) will travel cautiously optimistic that business recovery has begun. Not surprisingly the record attendance figures of 2008, which neared 50,000, were dampened a little in 2009 (45,500) but the show buzzes like no other of its kind on European soil. Even Sony, a major absentee last year, is back promising a move away from its traditional "product supermarket" approach.

"We're looking at a figure between that of 2008 and 2009 in terms of visitors," says the trade show's Chief Executive Mike Crimp. "We have every major brand that you would expect to see at IBC signed up and for the first time we've opened a 13th Hall to accommodate increased exhibitor demand."

Some 1,300 exhibitors from 40 countries will be represented with Sony regaining its status as the largest exhibitor. "The main value to Sony at IBC is at a brand level," explains Sony Professional director of marketing, David Bush. "When there are thousands of products being pitched for the same mindspace, we feel that IBC works best if we can communicate a big statement about our brand."

Sony will major on its developments in 3D stereo production. Indeed 3D is the most significant driver of product innovation present, with many stands displaying evidence of their latest stereo-capable kit.

Were it not for 3D, then augmented reality (AR) would be the buzz word on everybody's lips this year. AR mixes live scenes with elements of computer-generated imagery in a market for applications and content worth predicted to be worth $600 million by 2014 (Juniper Research).

"AR's potential covers a very wide space and there are very few players currently taking advantage of it," says Jonathan Chippindale, Marketing Director of Holition, who is speaking at a special seminar on the subject. "Our frustration with AR is that it's a struggle to move beyond the idea of it being a gimmick but we feel it will take off when we get applications onto the iPhone and iPad."

Like its U.S. counterpart NAB, the IBC show's traditional constituency is audio visual engineering for the broadcast industry. In recent years though, that hardware product base has been infiltrated by software-based information technology systems and new disciplines such as media asset management. More recently still, the emergence of IP as a serious professional video distribution platform has had to be addressed as the business models of its broadcaster clientele get up-ended.

Connected World
There's a renewed focus on IPTV, mobile TV, and digital signage, previously grouped together in an emerging media zone, now granted a larger space with linked conference and seminars and bracketed as the Connected World. 

This area will be seperated into the Connected Home of the Future and Connected World Hub. The former will showcase how content will be distributed and consumed across consumer devices-from set-top boxes and games consoles, tablets, specialist media players and mobile phones. Exhibitors (in this and other halls) include Samsung Level 3, Microsoft, Tivo, Tvinci, Akamai, ANT, Cisco, Rovi, HP, and Ioko.

"Senior professionals were telling us they were interested in understanding more about the consumer agenda, which was a bit of a surprise since there are other shows such as CES and IFA which already deliver this," explains Crimp. "The Connected World is about looking back at IBC from the other end of the telescope. While a lot of IBC conference sessions concern the creation, management and delivery of media to the home they don't focus on the consumer's view of it and the choices they make in terms what packaged media they buy, the device they consume it on and how they use it. Those factors increasingly influence the direction of the industry which is no longer a business to business but a business to consumer one."

For example NDS' focus at the show will hinge around ways to enable the delivery of OTT content and address innovation in the user interface and paths to addressable advertising. There will be a series of demos on its stand highlighting technology solutions that fit into these themes, including the NDS Snowflake UI that will be shown on a new customer platform to be announced at the show. 

As the means to get content to consumers on the device of their choosing becomes increasingly viable the opportunity to personalise media and create new content forms is being seized on. Broadcasters are rushing to socialise their shows and capitalise on the public's desire to communicate with friends and fan communities.

A number of conference sessions will examine this area asking, for instance, how broadcasters can deliver these additional services, and still make money from them. Speakers include representatives from Facebook, MTV and LOCOG, the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games which plans to put social media at the heart of the 2012 experience.

"We're really only scratching the surface of what can be achieved with content convergence," says Tom McDonnell, co-founder and Creative Director at London-based cross-platform content creation specialist Monterosa. McDonnell will speak to how social media networks can enable realtime commentary on live TV.

"IPTV offers the promise that you won't need two devices - a TV and a laptop - you just need one but right now we are focusing all of our efforts on personal devices. It seems a bit ridiculous that everyone is obsessing over connected-TVs when there's a huge opportunity right now to get people involved via existing devices like smart phones where there is a lower barrier."

The varied conference strands are for many IBC visitors the chief reason to attend. Product doesn't exist in a vaccuum and the ability to understand where the industry is headed through thought provoking debate has attracted a wider population of chief financial officers and business executives to the show.

This year's opening plenary session for example asks whether, in the era of multi-screen consumption, social networking and TV anywhere public service broadcasting (PSB) has a future.

Setting out arguments in favour of PSB is Sir Michael Lyons, chairman of the BBC Trust. His keynote will be followed by Yoshinori Imai, vice president of Japanese national broadcaster NHK and Ingrid Deltenre, director general of the European Broadcasting Union.

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