While the annual tech show in Amsterdam expects fewer exhibitors, more than 100 of the 1,000 companies are coming for the first time. And while attendance is expected to be down from last year, show organizers don’t expect a precipitous drop since many people recognize that now is the time to invest in knowledge to help them improve their business as the recession starts to wind down.
In this economy, just about every TV convention and conference has taken big hits — smaller attendance, fewer exhibitors, diminished revenue.
IBC, the international tech show that begins a five-day run at the RAI Centre in Amsterdam on Sept. 10, will be no exception.
Exhibitors will be down by nearly a third, says IBC COO Michael Crimp. In sharp contrast to IBC 2008’s record-breaking 1,451 exhibitors, only “around 1,000 companies” will be making an appearance this year.
The most notable absence will be Sony. The giant video equipment vendor is opting for more than 250 events, road shows and “master classes,” says David Bush, director of marketing for Sony Professional in Europe.
“In the current economic climate, we believe that we should be investing money directly in our customers and taking our message and solutions to them rather than relying on them to come to us,” he adds.
Other exhibitors have taken the same tack, investing money in smaller events throughout the region rather than one big exhibit at IBC.
Vizrt is also bowing out, saying that the “the global economic crisis has resulted in a radical restructuring” of its marketing strategy.
“During NAB, it became clear that many customers found it hard to justify the expense of international travel,” says Vizrt CEO Bjarne Berg. “So, we decided to ‘move the mountain to Mohammed’ and bring our products directly to our customers instead. We did not set out to make this a money-saving exercise; we just wanted to make the best use of our marketing resources under economic constraints placed on our customers.”
Snell, the company formed through the merger of Pro-Bel and Snell & Wilcox, also announced that it will engage in “face-to-face meetings and local market initiatives” as an alternative to IBC.
“We are involved in an intensified push to connect more closely with our customers and recognize that we need to carry our message directly to them,” says CMO Neil Maycock.
Crimp isn’t overly concerned by the defections. “It is not uncommon for vendors, including some of the biggest names, to try to refresh their own businesses by changing their marketing plans and not exhibit at IBC,” he says.
Some withdraw, only to return later, he says, citing Avid and Panasonic. “Both are back this year,” he points out.
Crimp also notes that among this year’s exhibitors are 125 that are new to the show. “That seems to me to be a really important statistic, showing the event reflects the vitality of the industry,” he says.
Attendance may not retreat as much as the exhibit floor. Last year, 33,046 visitors (49,250, including exhibitors) from 130 countries attended. Crimp reports that this year’s pre-registration is “pretty similar” to where it was last year at this time.
“But I don’t think I will surprise anyone if I say we are not expecting a record year,” he says. “The economy has made it tougher to justify a trip to any trade show, and that is particularly true for the American market.”
On the other hand, he says, he doesn’t expect a precipitous drop. “A lot of people recognize that now is the time to invest in knowledge, to help them make their businesses better as we come out of recession.”
IBC has been trying to keep costs of attendance down, Crimp says. Among other things, it has worked closely with city authorities to bring hotel rates down by around 10 percent.
How many other North Americans will travel to Amsterdam this year is up in the air, says Crimp. “Inevitably, proportions [of nationalities] shift from year to year, often not directly connected with the show,” he explains. “In 2008, IBC was in the final run-up to the U.S. presidential elections, for instance, which kept a lot of Americans at their desks rather than visiting IBC.”
One American preparing for Amsterdam is Tom Koch, vice president of PBS Distribution. It’s his first trip, and he’ll be participating in a panel on public service broadcasting. But he is also going to learn. “You can’t think of yourself as a broadcaster any more. You have to think of yourself as a distributor on multiple platforms. I’m interested in finding out what other people are doing and how they’re figuring this out.”
The conference is organized around three strands: technology, creative innovation and the business of broadcasting.
The last is a topic that “cannot be ignored,” says Crimp. “Have the old business models collapsed? How can we monetize content in the future? Will user-generated content replace professional news gathering and production?”
Others North Americans who will be discussing such topics are David Hill, of Fox Sports; Debora Rayner from CNN International; Glenn Reitmeier from NBC Universal; and actor/artist Harry Shearer.
As Koch points out, visitors who gravitate to IBC from the United States and around the world do so not simply to see the latest gear, but to be in the same place as their colleagues in an increasingly international business.
“My job is getting the programs we produce in as many markets as possible,” Koch says. “Part of my job is also to raise funds and find partners around the world. If someone has core strength in the Internet, and ours is in TV, how do we put that together? This is what I’m looking for at IBC 2009 … to see what the opportunities are.”