Slimmed-Down IBC Is Ready For Its Comeback
After a three-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, IBC will make its long-awaited return to Amsterdam next month with a shorter format and a wealth of free educational content. And following a successful NAB Show in Las Vegas in April that exceeded many exhibitors’ expectations despite a 40% drop in attendance, technology vendors are looking forward to making the trip for the show, which begins Friday, Sept. 9, and runs through Monday, Sept. 12, at the RAI convention center.
One of them is Avid, which initially declared in February that it would continue to forego exhibiting at large trade shows through 2022 and rely instead on the digital marketing it had been doing since the start of the pandemic. But the editing and media management supplier reversed course in late June, announcing that it would come to IBC after all.
Avid VP of Product Management Dave Colantuoni expects to have a busy show. He says an Avid customer summit in London earlier this summer was well attended and that many of the same broadcasters were making the trip to Amsterdam and booking meetings.
“We’re pretty excited to be back, because we have a lot of things to share with people that you traditionally have done over trade shows that we haven’t had an opportunity to show people in a big scale,” Colantuoni said.
Appointments Up, Malaise Over
Also bullish on IBC is transmitter manufacturer GatesAir, which was acquired earlier this month by French vendor Thomson Broadcast. Coming off the high-powered RF repack in the U.S., GatesAir is now actively chasing international low-power transmitter business. It already has a busy schedule of meetings in Amsterdam, where it will have its own booth across from its new Thomson colleagues.
Ray Miklius, GatesAir VP for EMEA sales and channel programs, says GatesAir had a good turnout at NAB, including more international customers than it expected. It also had a successful exhibition at the CABSAT show in Dubai in May. Miklius is looking forward to IBC, where the company will have nine staffers including EMEA sales personnel, product line managers and its head of engineering.
“It seems like the world is loosening up,” Miklius says. “In my areas — Europe, the Middle East and Africa — there are projects that have either started or been resurrected, which is a good sign for our business. We haven’t been traveling as much as we had historically in the sales organization, so we’re really looking forward to meeting a lot of prospects, customers, clients at IBC. In fact, the number of appointments we’ve already scheduled is pretty impressive. So that’s good news — everybody is getting out of the malaise, if you will.”
Another IBC exhibitor that recently underwent a transaction is Canadian IP transmission vendor Haivision, which acquired French bonded-cellular vendor Aviwest in April. The Aviwest addition dramatically expands Haivision’s footprint at IBC, where it will have a bigger stand bolstered by a lot of new European staff as it highlights its new 5G contribution systems.
“I suspect we’ll have maybe less people visiting from outside of Europe, but we’ll have a strong European presence since it’s been a while since there was an IBC,” said Mark Horchler, Haivision’s marketing director of products and solutions.
Other established vendors exhibiting at IBC include ARRI; AWS; Blackmagic Design; Canon; EVS; Fraunhofer; Grass Valley; HP; MediaKind; Mediaproxy; Meta; Nagra; Ross Video; Sony; Synamedia; Telemetrics and Voice Interaction. As of last week, IBC said it already has more than 1,000 exhibitors signed up. That is less than the typical 1,500 to 1,700, but more than the 700-odd exhibitors that had committed to the December 2021 edition.
Some vendors are bringing fewer people to Amsterdam than in 2019 based on expectations of lower traffic. One of them is newsroom computer vendor AP, which will have about 12 staffers between its European operations and U.S. headquarters compared to 15 in 2019, along with a slightly smaller booth.
“On our side we’re trying to make sure we don’t just spend all of our resources on those big trade shows,” says Brian Hopman, VP and GM of ENPS for AP. “We’ve got to spread it around and do a lot more digital activities. We’re actually spending a lot of time and effort to revamp the way that we market ourselves digitally to make sure that we’re discoverable when people do their research online and not just at those big events.”
Hopman says some major customers from Scandinavia and other parts of Europe have indicated they are going to IBC but as of early August the company didn’t have many booth meetings scheduled. But he conceded that is typical for the September show, as many Europeans are vacationing for a good chunk of August and tend to book their appointments in a last-minute flurry.
An Expanded Presence
One U.S. vendor will be expanding its presence at IBC is IP transmission and production services vendor LTN Global. In 2019, the company had just acquired German firm Make.tv and piggybacked on its booth. But this year LTN will have a similar size booth and staff as it did at NAB. It is flying between 15 and 25 people to Amsterdam and will have about 30 people there in total, says Malik Khan, LTN Global executive chairman and co-founder.
LTN has had significant product development efforts in Germany since acquiring Make.tv, but its business remains very focused on North America, particularly the U.S. The company has decided to aggressively go after new business in Europe as more programmers are requiring transport, reversioning and production services that LTN can remotely support over its IP network, and Khan views IBC 2022 as an “important coming out party.”
Khan says LTN had a very busy and productive NAB as it reconnected with customers, and he is looking forward to more of the same in Amsterdam.
“The ability to get back with people, to have a drink or dinner, was just such a relief, honestly,” Khan says. “It was a pleasure to be seeing people live in 3D, finally, and getting to know what’s happened with their lives and kids.”
In securing their 2022 booth space many vendors are simply rolling over financial credits from the canceled 2020 and 2021 IBC shows, so IBC 2023 may prove a more accurate benchmark of the show’s long-term health. But Devoncroft Partners founder Joe Zaller, who is organizing an unaffiliated conference in Amsterdam on the day before the show, says the vendors he is speaking with are uniformly enthusiastic.
“After a relatively successful NAB, there are high expectations going into this one too,” Zaller says.
Of course, how worthwhile IBC will be for exhibitors ultimately depends on how many buyers it draws. IBC CEO Michael Crimp said that attendance is pacing 28-30% less than the record 56,000 that came to IBC 2019, which would put it in the 40,000 range. While the canceled IBC 2021 show was projected to draw mostly European attendees, Crimp expects next month’s show to be far more balanced, with meaningful numbers from North America and Asia.
There are several high-profile American executives speaking at the show including Anthony Guarino, EVP worldwide technical operations at Paramount Global; Renard Jenkins, SVP, product integration and creative technology services at Warner Bros. Discovery; Eddie Drake, head of technology at Marvel Studios; and Michael Wise, SVP and CTO at Universal Pictures.
“We’re seeing it much more like our old profile in international top-end attendance right across the board,” Crimp says.
The 2021 IBC show initially planned for last December had a myriad of COVID-19 rules including proof of vaccination to attend, color-coded wristbands for access to the RAI and reduced show hours. It still wound up being canceled just 10 days from its start due to a sudden surge in COVID-19 cases in the Netherlands.
“The Omicron variant came from nowhere and blew us out of the water,” Crimp says.
Eight months later, the picture across the region is very different, as the COVID-19 virus is circulating at relatively low levels and vaccines have made infections much less serious. Many Europeans are traveling on their traditional August holidays and circulating freely between European Union countries, and daily COVID updates have faded into the background.
As such, IBC 2022 isn’t planning to have any COVID-19 restrictions or measures in place at the RAI, beyond signs reminding attendees to respect individual decisions on mask wearing. However, most attendees traveling to IBC from outside of the EU will need to show proof that they are fully vaccinated to enter the country. Several vendors said they are playing it safe and still requiring employees to take PCR tests before flying to Amsterdam and are also planning to wear masks during travel. (Check this link for your country’s particular requirements.)
Crimp says the show is simply following the lead of the Dutch government, and more broadly the EU, in eschewing COVID restrictions.
“We’ve done a lot of consultation with different exhibitor groups, and the general feeling was if the whole of Europe is open for business with no restrictions, then it would be kind of crazy for IBC to put any restrictions right in the middle of that,” he says. “So, if you come to IBC now, it will feel pretty much like it did before the pandemic in terms of coming in.”
One thing that may feel different is the pace at the show itself. While IBC previously ran as a leisurely five-day affair from Friday through Tuesday, this year’s show has been trimmed by a day. The show will now be open on Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday and Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., and then Monday from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Show organizers have already committed to a four-day schedule for 2023 as well.
A Shorter Event
Crimp says that the six international bodies behind IBC — IABM, IEEE BTS, IET, RTS, SCTE and SMPTE — have discussed the pros and cons of a four-versus five-day exhibition for years, with the debate pretty much split down the middle. Some vendors wanted to maximize their investment in building a large booth and saw a fifth day on the ground as a worthwhile incremental cost, while others eyed savings of up to 20% by going to four days. Meanwhile, IBC remained stuck with the status quo.
“When you think about those two sides, one was about extracting value and one was about saving money,” Crimp says. “It seemed to us that post-pandemic, the argument for saving money by having a shorter show and concentrated results was stronger. So, we’ve taken a day off it, and done that for 2023 as well, and we’ll see what happens.”
The vendors this reporter spoke with were all supportive of IBC’s change to four days, though some suggested the quiet day would now simply be Monday instead of Tuesday. But they said the show had been overly long at five days.
“When you have four days, it causes people to be more precisely focused on the conversation,” says Bill Bennett, media solutions and accounts manager for closed captioning and automation vendor ENCO. “They come there with a shorter timeframe, so they’re more disciplined about what to look for, and our dialogue with customers is more efficient therefore as well.”
Free Versus Premium Content
Another change for IBC 2022 is in the conference program. IBC traditionally had a paid four-day conference alongside the five-day exhibition. When it planned a hybrid in-person/digital event for last December, show organizers then made the bold decision to make the conference program free with many sessions streaming live. IBC has returned to a paid conference program for next month’s show, but only for the first two days on Friday and Saturday.
All of the content on Sunday and Monday will be free to all attendees, including “Changemaker” sessions that explore topics like diversity, sustainability and mental health awareness.
Also free are “Showcase Theatre” sessions in Hall 12 that run across all four days and feature demonstrations and strategic presentations from big industry players like AWS and EVS. There will also be free presentations on the “IBC Accelerator Media Innovation Program,” which brings together multiple vendors and broadcasters to tackle technical challenges like 5G-based remote production, on the Innovation Stage in Hall 2. Crimp is particularly excited about the eight separate Accelerator presentations since the program began several years ago but due to COVID this is the first time the projects will be discussed live.
“That could be one of the hits of the show,” he says.
In sharp contrast to the scrapped December show, none of the IBC 2022 content will be live streamed, though it all will be available online on an on-demand basis anywhere from four hours to four weeks after the real thing. Crimp says one particular disappointment with IBC 2021’s cancellation was that show organizers had put so much effort into creating a worthwhile conference experience for both in-person and virtual attendees. But while that may have proved a valuable experiment, there was no need to follow the same strategy this September.
“This year there was a feeling that a big trade show like IBC is a very strong experience in itself, and let’s just make sure people come,” he says. “If they want to come, they’ll come. Let’s not give anyone room to hedge.”