IBC 2019 : A visiting vendor’s perspective

Can a fragmenting industry continue to be properly served by one big ‘Broadcast’ trade show?

By Julian Wright -

As we covered in our pre-show blog, this year we decided against taking up our usual spot in Hall 7 of the RAI in favour of attending IBC 2019 as a visiting vendor.  As well as providing the opportunity for us to test the viability of this approach to trade shows for cloud solutions like BLAM, not having a stand meant that, for the first time since 2010, we got to see the show from the customers’ side of the aisle.

We’re an industry dividing

The industry seems to be dividing into two camps.  At the one end are the “traditional” vendors who want to sell technology in the same way that they have for decades.  Whilst this group has the benefit of experience, they’re in denial about the tsunami of change that is sweeping through the supply side of the industry.  On the other end are the new “challengers” that are talking about a revolution.  This group, rightly, envisions a totally new approach to media production and operations, but they are maybe a little naïve about the industry and underestimate the uphill struggle making a mark in a fairly conservative market.

And both of these camps are guilty of focusing way too much on technology, with stand designs, press releases and discussion topics focused on buzz-words such ‘AI’, ‘5G’ and ‘blockchain’ rather than the operational context or the business benefits that the technologies can afford.

There are a few vendors in the middle to help smooth this transition by offering fully managed services or providing SaaS platforms, like our BLAM, that media companies can operate themselves.


We need to get over our obsession with footfall … and sort out the beach

While the IBC organisers reported a record-high attendance again at this year’s show, to us it felt like there were fewer visitors than there have been in previous years, but so what?  We’re all a bit obsessed with footfall when what we should actually be concerned about is the calibre of people attending the show.

The fact that IBC has also reported an increase in C-suite attendees at the 2019 show is, therefore, heartening, but when a colleague attributed the rain on Monday for the stark increase in the number of people in the halls (as compared to the weekend when it was sunny) it made us question how serious the average attendee is about IBC.  If people are so easily distracted by the fine weather and beautiful canals, then surely their time at IBC can’t be that important to them or the companies they represent?

The fact that IBC spans the weekend has always pointed to the social nature of the event, and the industry generally, but this has to be balanced with business.  In this respect the scheduling of NAB is better, with hardcore social activities at the weekend, while the week is a more business-orientated.  By IBC’s Monday and (much-disliked) Tuesday many senior people have already returned to base to get on with running their operations.

Vendor without a stand, not rebels without a cause

Our experience of doing demonstrations and meeting with potential clients at IBC without having a stand was mixed, in all honesty.

The facilities provided by the IABM were fantastic and their Wi-Fi was very good, good enough for us to do full cloud demos from the lounge floor. The 4G was unusable though so demonstrating our access anywhere platform anywhere near the RAI was impossible. Doing demos on a laptop is not ideal though, and we could have done with a second, larger monitor – hiring one of the IABM meeting rooms might solve this problem for future shows.  Not having a base to meet people at is a real compromise, but we’re not convinced that it’s worth the cost and effort of exhibiting and, while we’ve had business come in from walk-ups, this conversion rate is very low, so the stand is not necessarily a requirement.  Overall the facilities and approach taken by the IABM were spot-on and it would be great if these were expanded by the IABM or IBC directly offered a similar capability.

So, as for taking a stand, for or against stands at IBC 2020, we are yet to call it.  There are many benefits, as we have seen over the years, but the justification on resources remains borderline and, we feel, increasingly so. Its a split decision.

The rate of change in the industry remains slow and the chasm between innovation and early majority take up of technology actually seems to be widening.  But when the change comes, we predict that it will be sudden and far-reaching – affecting not only the technology at trade shows like IBC, but the very nature of this type of exhibition.

We are finally (probably) at inflection point in cloud-based business operations.  The ‘broadcast’ trade show cannot be far behind.

Watch this space for news of our trade show planning for 2020 but I very much doubt that we will be taking a stand at IBC, times they are a changing.

By Julian Wright -
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