Broadcasters from around the world will descend on Amsterdam this week for the annual International Broadcast Convention (IBC), which is the second-largest technology show for the professional video industry. Only the NAB convention held in Las Vegas each April is bigger, and despite a rocky economic environment globally, the 41st edition of IBC is forecast to be the largest ever.
Close to 50,000 attendees are expected to walk the halls of the RAI Convention Centre during the IBC exhibition, which opens Sept. 12 and will feature some 1,300 technology vendors through Sept. 16. Just six years ago, IBC attracted only 34,546 attendees and 930 exhibitors.
IBC's steady growth could be attributed to the continued investment in digital television technology worldwide, particularly in Western Europe, which along with Scandinavia accounts for more than 70% of IBC attendees. Digital TV penetration in Western European households broke the 50% barrier in 2007, according to new research from Informa Telecoms & Media, reaching 54% compared to just 42% at the end of 2006. Informa predicts that total digital homes in the region will hit 104 million by the end of this year and rise to 157 million by 2013, which would be equivalent to a 90% penetration rate.
But IBC is far more than just a technology showcase for the European broadcast market. It is also a chance for vendors to show working models of products that were introduced in prototype form at NAB, which is why many technology executives from North America and Asia—representing 8.7% and 6.9% of IBC attendees, respectively—make the trip to Amsterdam each fall. With the manufacturing cycle for broadcast products speeding up as more systems are based on software and IT technology, IBC is also a place for new product introductions and enhancements in its own right, as well as a stage for vendors to announce major customer wins.
The comprehensive IBC conference program, which begins Thursday, Sept. 11, shows IBC's international flavor with each day addressing a different segment of the TV business, such as mobile TV, IPTV, HDTV, digital signage and digital cinema. It will also feature keynoters and session panelists hailing from broadcast networks, studios and manufacturers across Europe, North America and Asia.
The theme for the conference's opening day is “Content Access Via the Web,” with panels exploring the delivery of video to mobile phones, PCs, multimedia players and game consoles, and the implications for the traditional broadcast business.
One key panel is the “The Future Outlook for Content Over the Web,” from 4-6 p.m. The panel is chaired by Andrew Burke, CEO of set-top maker Amino, and features panelists Sheau Ng, VP of consumer and broadcast technology for NBC Universal; Gerard Lokhoff, director of standardization for Philips; and Adrian Letts, COO of U.K.-based film and TV download service BlinkBox.
The next day, Sept. 12, the conference shifts gears to address how the changing business models for broadcasters are affecting equipment manufacturers with the theme “Future Broadcast Business: Shaping the Product Environment.” The opening panel, “Technology and Capital Investments Driving Future Business Successes?” from 9:30-11 a.m., is chaired by Michael McEwen, director of consulting firm Media Asset Capital, and features panelists Tim Thorsteinson, president of Harris Broadcast; Chuck Dages, executive VP of emerging technology for Warner Bros. Home Entertainment; Trevor Bird, general manager of group technical services for Seven Network in Australia; Janet Gardner, president of consulting firm Perspective Media Group; and Roger Stanwell and Roger Crumpton, CEO and director, respectively, of the International Association of Broadcasting Manufacturers.
SINK OR SWIM FOR BROADCASTING?
Sept. 12 also features the IBC conference keynote, “The Future of Broadcasting: Riding Innovation or Being Swamped By It?” from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. The keynote is chaired by U.K. media commentator Ray Snoddy and includes Leonardo Chiariglione, founder of the MPEG compression-standard body and CEO of CEDEO.net in Italy; Andrew Setos, president of engineering for Fox Entertainment Network; and David Pendleton, COO of Australia's public broadcaster ABC.
The theme for Saturday, Sept. 13, is “The Digital Dividend: HD, Mobile, Broadband or New Media?” It includes a look at the opportunities and challenges of telco operators bidding for broadcast spectrum made newly available by the transition for analog to digital television transmission. The opening panel, “The Great Spectrum Land Rush,” from 9:30-11 a.m., examines the different business models for new spectrum in Europe, the U.S. and Asia. It is chaired by Daniel Sauvet-Goichon, chairman of DigiTAG in Switzerland, and includes Jonathan Blake, senior counsel with Washington law firm Covington & Burling; Catherine Smadja, head of special projects, policy and strategy for the BBC; Jan-Olof Gurinder, head of distribution for SVT in Sweden; and Gregory Bensberg, principal adviser, broadcasting, for U.K. regulatory body Ofcom.
On Sunday, the conference shifts to “Content Production: Technology, Creativity and Business in an Era of Headlong Change,” with sessions on tapeless infrastructures, live production and digital cinema post-production. The highlight is more transmission-based: a live interview with DreamWorks Animation SKG CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg (the winner of this year's IBC International Honour for Excellence) from Los Angeles conducted by Elizabeth Daley, dean of the USC School of Cinematic Arts. The interview will be shot with high-definition stereoscopic 3D cameras from 3ality Digital Systems and packaged and transmitted to the RAI Auditorium by satellite service company Arqiva. Other players for the Katzenberg interview, which is being billed as the first transatlantic 3D HD broadcast, include projection company Christie and 3D presentation specialist RealD.
The buzz over stereoscopic 3D HD carries over to Monday, Sept. 15, when the IBC conference addresses the latest trends in digital cinema in “New Dimensions for the Big Screen.” A key session is “Capturing and Creating Stereoscopic 3D Content” from 9:30-11 a.m. The session is chaired by Howard Lukk, VP of production technology for The Walt Disney Studios, and includes panelists Steve Schklair, founder and CEO of 3ality; Todd Cogan, business development, PACE; Kommer Kleijn, freelance director of photography and stereographer for IMAGO, EDCF, Belgium; Darwyn Peachey, supervising technical director for Pixar Animation Studios; and Anne-Lise Thieblemont, director of government affairs for Qualcomm.