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Has IBC Survived Its Identity Crisis?

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There have been doubts about the viability of the IBC Show in recent years. Attendee numbers have remained static at around 50,000; vendors tended to make their major annual product launches at NAB, leaving just "European debuts" to promote in Amsterdam; the conference failed to draw big-name speakers; and for a 6-day show it lagged terminally over the weekend.

BlogIn contrast, a comparatively new trade show focussed on corporate AV kit (Integrated Systems Europe) has grown so big that it’s had to decamp from the RAI to massive facilities in Barcelona.

Perhaps the biggest issue facing IBC was an identity crisis mirroring the existential one threatening the entire broadcast industry. What is the value of broadcasting equipment for a dwindling number of traditional customers when the world is shifting wholesale into commodity IT and workflows from the cloud? Could exhibitors justify the expense of a space on the show floor when all they were meeting were the same budget-starved clients? Its predominantly white, 50-something male demographic gave it an image problem.

IBC tinkered with the format. It attempted to take the brand overseas with pop-up trade events in Dubai to capture the Middle East dollar. Events in Brazil and Asia never got off the ground. It has had "hackathons" and video game zones to attract more millennials; it corralled mobile tech and cloud and then anything related to OTT into special zones.

I’d say IBC has turned things around or is at least in process of getting its identity back. Its heart remains in broadcast engineering—as befits show owners IET, IABM, IEEE BTS, and SMPTE—but a refined and editorially driven conference agenda is keeping the focus on global SVOD and the shifting sands of future technology like 8K UHD, content personalization, and codec battles. It’s successfully put more women front and centre of the conference and refreshed a staid examination of cinema technology.

Its silently dropped a day, down to five, which should intensify the show’s hustle and bustle. True, the most buzzing exhibition area will be Content Everywhere, home to companies in OTT, social, and streaming, rather than the faded glory of halls housing postproduction. But the real reason to attend IBC, the reason it should long continue at home in Amsterdam, is the unrivalled opportunity to network and check the temperature of the industry.

The broadcast industry may be tiny in comparison to consumer electronics or mobile, but it knows the value of a chat over a beer. Call that old school, but it’s still a pretty effective way to do business.

[Image courtesy IBC]

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