Welcome to Fierce's IBC Preview Issue, ahead of IBC 2015, which takes place in Amsterdam from Sept. 10-15. In this issue, Fierce editors take a look at some of the topics we think will be among the most-discussed or debated during this year's conference and exhibition.
Daniel Frankel deep-dives into the impact that direct-to-consumer (DTC) programming, like CBS All Access and HBO Now, is having on the traditional pay-TV industry.
Meantime, Nicole Blanchard outlines the technological challenge of 4K/Ultra HD video delivery and talks with executives involved in its development and deployment.
And Mike Dano tackles perhaps the hottest issue in the OTT industry: The technology issues involved in scaling to meet the exploding demand for video delivered to mobile devices.
I spoke with Michael Crimp, chief executive officer of IBC, to get his thoughts on what this year's conference holds in store. He didn't make any direct prediction on what the hottest topics at IBC will be this year -- each year has been different as the industry undergoes rapid change and disruption. Crimp sees IBC's members as a community in which the annual exchange of ideas helps advance the technologies shaping broadcasting.
Crimp (Image courtesy of IBC)
Here are excerpts from our conversation, edited for brevity.
Fierce: What are the key highlights of the conference and exhibition that attendees should not miss?
Crimp: The scope of IBC is very broad, and we aim to provide content and experiences for everyone in the industry, whether they are technical, creative or commercial. Each can take a different path through the conference and gain huge benefit from it.
All might come together for some of the keynote addresses, though. These come from global leaders like Roger Lynch of Sling TV, Mark Dickinson from ARM and Delia Bushell of BT TV and BT Sport.
On the show floor, well you have 1,700+ exhibitors to choose from, with every kind of technology on offer. If you need help finding your way around, IBC's ever-popular What Caught My Eye sessions have experts seeking out the hot new kit, giving brief presentations on the product, and helping visitors find their way to it.
Fierce: What strategies do you see broadcasters discussing?
Crimp: There are many sessions dedicated to strategic thinking across the conference program. But I think we are setting out the heart of the debate in Thursday afternoon's keynote session. ["The Big Question: Is TV facing up to the Internet era?" moderated by broadcaster Andrew Neil and featuring speakers from Yahoo, AMC and Sundance Channel International, Colt Technology and others
This brings together leaders from traditional broadcasters, publishers and Yahoo! to debate how television is facing up to the Internet era. The panel is terrific, and Andrew Neil as chair will not take any prisoners. Expect a very lively discussion indeed.
Fierce: OTT disruption is been a top discussion topic at previous IBCs, but the tone appears to be changing to one of acceptance by broadcasters. Is this something you have seen in the industry?
Crimp: The electronic media industry is good at accepting change. When a new idea comes along, we embrace it. This, I believe, is because there is a creative stream which runs through our industry, including the technologists.
Smart broadcasters saw OTT as an opportunity to engage, not a threat. Those creative technologists worked hard, for instance to make IP and the cloud -- not natural bedfellows for video -- deliver on current challenges.
IBC is the place where these issues are debated. The opening keynote presentation in the conference on Thursday morning brings together three broadcasters -- BBC from Europe, OSN from the Middle East and Scripps from the USA -- with the head of Android TV from Google. ["The Future Is Now – Broadcasting in an Age of Challenge" moderated by commentator Ray Snoddy] Success comes from sharing knowledge.
Fierce: Mobile video is gaining popularity in the United States, with Verizon preparing an OTT offering. How will that trend affect this year's show?
Crimp: Delivering content to consumers when, where and how they want it is clearly the key challenge for everyone at the moment. Achieving that is complex, because it depends on networking technology which is not under the control of the content providers.
As bandwidth becomes available, so consumers will take advantage of it for content. According to the Ooyala Global Video Index, content on tablets and smartphones grew by a staggering 100 percent between the first quarter last year and the same quarter this year.
IBC's highest accolade, the International Honor for Excellence, this year goes to ARM. The company is not only responsible for the chips in virtually all smartphones and tablets, its embedded processing is also driving forward network capabilities. This striving for capacity to deliver content anytime, anywhere is all a part of the IBC debate.
Fierce: Thanks to Michael Crimp for providing his view of the upcoming show. Follow all of our coverage from the show floor at our IBC Live page.--Sam