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IBC Tackles Economic Realities

This year has been a tough one for technology-focused trade shows. Both the Consumer Electronics Show and the National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas experienced significant declines in attendance due to slashed marketing and travel budgets.

Broadcast vendors don’t expect this week’s IBC convention in Amsterdam, whose exhibition floor will be open from Sept. 11-15, to be immune to the global economic malaise. But some suggest that the European show, the second-largest technology conference for the professional video industry after NAB, may not take as big a hit as one might expect.

“On the attendance side, I have a hunch we may be pleasantly surprised,” says Geoff Stedman, senior VP of marketing and business development for video server and storage vendor Omneon. “There’s no question you’re going to see a smaller U.S. contingent and a smaller Asian contingent than in the past. But at the same time, I expect the European contingent may go up a little bit. Many [European broadcasters] didn’t come to NAB, and there’s got to be a little pent-up demand for learning about new products and what different vendors are doing.”

Omneon is counting on it. The company is one of several large vendors, including Grass Valley and Harris, to hold a press briefing on Sept. 10, the day the IBC conference opens, at which it will announce new products. Sony traditionally holds a press conference that day at IBC as well, but it won’t this year. The production giant is skipping the show in favor of making direct visits to customers, as is video-processing and infrastructure supplier Snell.

While Sony’s withdrawal from IBC is a significant blow, attendee registration and exhibitor pacings for this year’s show are similar to last year, when IBC counted a record 49,250 attendees, according to IBC COO Michael Crimp. Attendee registrations for the show, which doesn’t mail badges in advance but counts attendees when they pick their badges up, are at about 75,000. More than 1,000 exhibitors are signed up for the show floor, though some large vendors have trimmed back their exhibition space. IBC will also have 130 new exhibitors, many of them Chinese vendors.

“I think where we’ll end up is that it’s going to be a solid show, but nowhere near a record,” Crimp says.

To help fill the void left by Sony, show organizers have created a “production village” consisting of a mock TV set with cameras from several major vendors, including JVC’s new 4K camera, and free training in HD production.

IBC’s conference program has traditionally focused on technical issues like digital TV transmission, though it has added a content track in recent years that tackles production issues and new technologies like stereoscopic 3D. This year’s conference has added a third business track to address changing economic models. Sessions include Sept. 10’s “The Future of the Industry: How to Survive and Prosper,” featuring executives from major vendors like Vitec and Grass Valley; and “Growth Opportunities in Media and Broadcasting: New Business Models, New Platform, New Media…New Profit?” the following day, with speakers from IBM, the BBC and advertising giant Ogilvy.

“IBC used to be a very clear b-to-b business,” Crimp notes. “But now that [broadcasting] is so heavily influenced by consumers, it’s important to bring in people to give perspective and analysis on business models. Also, the industry is moving more to ROI [return on investment] decision-making [instead of] just buying best-of-breed technology.”