Vendors Eye Bigger IBC In ’23
After the International Broadcasting Convention (IBC) made a successful return to Amsterdam in 2022 following a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, technology vendors are looking forward to a bigger turnout for IBC 2023, which starts next Friday, Sept. 15 and runs through Monday, Sept. 18.
Show organizers are predicting a 25% bump in attendance for this year’s show, with some 45,000 attendees expected compared to 37,071 in 2022, said IBC CEO Michael Crimp. The show floor has also grown, with over 1,000 exhibitors securing some 45,000 square meters of exhibit space compared to 37,000 last year.
“In terms of the exhibition side of the event, we’re seeing really strong numbers,” says IBC Director Steve Connolly. “Many exhibitors are increasing their space, and some are even doubling their size.”
Major vendors significantly increasing their space include LTN, Zixi, Ross Video and Grass Valley. Panasonic and Samsung are both rejoining the show, while the 100-odd new exhibitors include Tencent, Imax and LG Electronics.
“It’s been climbing all the time,” Crimp says. “I can’t think of any brands that you would expect to be there that aren’t there. Everyone’s showing up.”
Based on positive feedback from focus groups and other post-show research, IBC 2023 will again follow a four-day schedule for the exhibition and conference. That compressed schedule was first introduced last year to replace IBC’s traditional five-day span.
IBC’s three content pillars are “Transformative Tech,” “Shifting Business Models” and “People and Purpose.” Only the first two days of the peer-reviewed technical conference will be limited to paid registrants, with the addition of a new optional “premium” pass that gives access to smaller networking events such as roundtable breakfasts. All Sunday and Monday conference sessions will be free, including the “Changemakers” program addressing social and environmental issues facing the industry.
“The Changemakers sessions cover topics that are really driving positive change within the industry, all the way from ethical AI to sustainability to inclusive technology and gender equality,” says IBC Content Lead Jaisica Lapsiwala. “So, we’re covering the whole spectrum of corporate, social and environmental responsibility.”
There will also be free content offered across the four days on the show floor with vendor-sponsored sessions in the “Showcase Theater” and two “Content Everywhere” stages. Showcase Theatre sponsors include Accenture, AWS, Google, Microsoft and Zixi, while LTN and Tencent are each sponsoring one of the Content Everywhere theatres. In addition, the “Innovation Stage” will feature presentations detailing the progress of IBC’s popular “Accelerator Media Innovation” program where vendors, broadcasters and research universities have teamed up to tackle new applications like 5G-based production and extended reality (XR).
IBC’s conference program is now getting input from a newly formed exhibitor steering committee, aimed at addressing vendor concerns that they didn’t have a big enough voice in the technical conference agenda.
“The IBC has responded to the need the exhibitors felt that they wanted to be more involved in how everything is organized and what topics are set,” says Lawo PR manager Wolfgang Huber.
“The vendor participation in the conference has really helped expand the points of view,” adds Imagine Communications President Steve Reynolds. “To let the vendors come in and talk about new stuff that they’re working on, I think really helps create a better forward-looking roadmap for the entire industry.”
The steering committee is also helping vendors reinforce their message beyond the borders of their exhibit booths, with the Showcase Theater and Content Everywhere sessions being good examples in 2023.
“There’s definitely increased interest in commercial opportunities, particularly from the big players,” Crimp says. “I think as we become less involved in the capital expenditure model and more in the opex model, where lots of services are being provided from the cloud, it becomes more important for people to have a narrative and a story as to why you should build your relationship with them as an organization.”
Exceeding Low Expectations
While last year’s IBC attendance was far below the record 56,000 in 2019, most vendors said they were pleasantly surprised with both the quantity and quality of the attendees.
Imagine wasn’t sure what to expect going into IBC 2022, Reynolds says. The company was skeptical that it would see many attendees outside of the Central Europe region, particularly customers from Asia, Australia and the Middle East. Numbers from those areas were down, but overall Imagine found the attendance to be better than expected, including quality meetings with customers working on specific projects.
“It obviously wasn’t back to historical IBC levels, but the attendance was pretty good, and the traffic through the booth was really good for us,” Reynolds says. “The way we measure the quality of a show is really by the amount of leads that we generate at the show, and what that means in terms of [the sales] funnel. We had really good productivity last year.”
Reynolds is expecting attendance this year to be much closer to pre-pandemic levels based on the meetings Imagine has been scheduling in advance of the show.
“We have customers coming from Asia, Australia and the Middle East who have already booked meetings with us,” Reynolds says. “Just on the basis of our outreach to set up meetings, the trend is we’re going to be back to normal attendance for IBC.”
LTN had good traffic last year, including visits from several key U.S. customers, said LTN CTO Brad Wall. This year the company is bringing around 40 staffers to the show, where it will be highlighting its IP transport and content versioning capabilities, including several speaking appearances by Wall. LTN’s booth will be bigger than the 2500-square foot booth that it had at NAB last spring, and roughly four times the size of its IBC booth in 2022.
“Last year we could have used the space,” Wall says. “It’s going to be nice to have it this year.”
Zixi also felt cramped in its booth last year. Its IBC 2023 booth will be 50% bigger and also 10% bigger than its NAB booth this year and includes a partner village for five smaller vendors it works with. The company didn’t have a formal booth at NAB 2022, electing to use suites instead to meet with customers, so IBC was the first real show-floor experience it had since before the pandemic.
“It was great, we were packed,” says Zixi CEO Gordon Brooks. “A lot of people really wanted to meet in person that we hadn’t been able to see for a couple of years, so it was really good.”
Brooks says that a number of U.S. executives are not attending this year’s IBC due to budget constraints, but that “Europe and Asia looks like it’s going to be pretty healthy” based on pre-show meetings already booked. Like LTN’s Wall, Brooks is speaking at both IBC as well as the unaffiliated Devoncroft Executive Summit being held offsite on Sept. 14. “Streaming at scale” will be a key theme for him.
“I also think doing more with less is going to be a big thing, because everybody is under budget pressure,” Brooks says. “Everybody needs to make money now. It used to be drunken sailors running around and grabbing content, but now everybody’s got to make money. That’s going to be a big focus of the show, and the industry in general.”
Content monitoring firm Actus Digital expected to still be booking meetings through the first week of September, as many of its European customers were on holiday through August, said CEO Sima Levy. But regardless of what the pre-show calendar says, Levy expects to be busy. She has secured a bigger booth for Actus and its show team of six staffers.
“Just meeting existing customers, customers that are in the pipe that we are talking about future coming projects, and our partners, just that is crowded,” Levy says.
One vendor that isn’t expanding its IBC booth is compliance monitoring specialist MediaProxy, though CEO Erik Otto says the 2022 show was “still good” even if attendance wasn’t as high as initially advertised. Otto says that big trade shows like IBC and NAB are still relevant, but they aren’t as important now in an age of ubiquitous internet connectivity and Zoom sessions where software-based vendors can talk to customers and demonstrate their technology at any time.
With big show-based product reveals being a thing of the past, Otto says it is no longer worth it for him to spend money on a 40×40 booth and send 10 people to IBC to run demos. Instead, he has a 20×20 booth and sends four or five people.
“The agile workflows with customers and vendors are so tightknit, you know exactly what we’re up to,” Otto says. “That leaves tradeshows to discovery and networking, and some good old catching up at night and having a beer. All of these things are not to be underestimated, and it doesn’t mean it’s all doom and gloom and that trade shows aren’t relevant anymore. Far from it. But it’s certainly changed their relevance.”
Less Is More
Most vendors said they are happy with the new four-day schedule, as the Tuesday of previous IBCs was historically very quiet with few customers and was usually spent doing vendor-to-vendor meetings.
“I’ve been attending the IBC now for over 25 years, and I think it is a good idea to have it more compact,” says Lawo’s Huber.
He noted that the last day “was always not worth being there” as the few customers who did visit wanted to do it as early as possible and usually with a smaller group than usual.
“We liked the schedule, that’s for sure,” adds Ray Miklius, VP of EMEA sales and channel programs for transmission vendor GatesAir. “It makes it more compact and easier for us for packing and travel, etc. We believe the show attendance was great — we met a lot of prospect customers and customers at the show. It seemed like attendance was back.”
Miklius adds that his schedule for IBC 2023 is almost completely full for all four days.
“It’s looking packed, both in terms of major customers coming to talk projects, and a lot of our dealers in that region,” he says.
A Smoother Schiphol?
If vendors were in agreement about the shorter IBC schedule, they also were in lockstep in complaining about the extensive problems encountered at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport last year. Four-hour-plus security lines due to severe staffing shortages created significant delays on the Monday afternoon of the show and even caused some attendees to miss their flights home. Miklius says he waited four hours and 20 minutes and still just barely made a flight to Italy for meetings there. Reynolds said some Imagine employees were delayed 24 and even 48 hours due to missed flights and flight cancellations.
“I hope it’s better, but last year was just an unmitigated nightmare,” Miklius says.
The problems had been ongoing for weeks at Schiphol last summer, Crimp says, due to a number of airport employees who were laid off during COVID and then weren’t willing to come back for the offered wages. But he doesn’t attempt to minimize the situation.
“It was pretty terrible,” Crimp says. “It was basically a meltdown at Schiphol on the worst possible day for us last year.”
Crimp noted that the CEO of Schiphol resigned a week later and was replaced, and there was also a government inquiry into the matter. The new CEO, Ruud Sondag, has since made a number of changes to improve the flow of passengers. Crimp visited him a few weeks ago and was reassured that Schiphol’s problems in September 2022 have been resolved. Crimp has also flown through Schiphol several times over the past year without incident.
“They’ve made a number of changes in the way they’ve configured security and the way they’ve configured the immigration part to speed it up,” Crimp says. “My personal experience going through there several times is that it has improved.”