The International Broadcasting Convention - IBC 2008 - will once again take over Amsterdam's RAI convention centre from 11th -16th September this year. Ian Volans takes a look at aspects of particular interest to the communications marketplace, and points out that the event provides a unique opportunity to build bridges and understanding between industries with very different cultures
IBC, the International Broadcast Convention, is to the broadcast and video content creation sectors what the Mobile World Congress is to mobile.
Run by the industry, for the industry, the event celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2007 - quite an achievement for a technology-focussed conference and exhibition. This year, the IBC Conference programme will run from Thursday 11th to Monday 15th September, while the exhibition, showcasing the latest technologies and services relevant to the creation, management and delivery of content, will be open from Friday 12th September to Tuesday 16th.
A key element to IBC's sustained success is its determination to stay abreast of new technological and business trends within the broadcast sector. For example, HD TV was first discussed at IBC some 20 years ago, while two years ago, NHK from Japan stunned the IBC audience of hardened TV professionals with a spectacular demonstration of Ultra High Definition TV. Sessions on the potentially wide ranging impact of Digital Cinema on the content creation industry has been attracting large audiences for the last few years and filled the RAI's largest Auditorium for one of the first public viewings of excerpts from U2 in 3D last year.
Historically, IBC has probably not been high on the list of events for the telecommunications and mobile sectors, with the possible exception of carriers supplying fixed links to broadcast networks or OB units. However recent years have seen a steady rise in attendance from strategists and those responsible for defining operators' content offerings, as the potential of IPTV and mobile multimedia revenues to offset stagnant or declining voice arpu has risen up the agendas of telco and mobile operators.
Anticipating this convergence and seeking to satisfy the thirst for knowledge within the content creation community, IBC established a dedicated Mobile Zone in 2005 and added an IPTV Zone in 2007. Last year's overflowing seminar on Digital Signage - the use of IP-networked flat screens to distribute information, advertising, multimedia and TV content in retail environments, transport hubs and stadia - was the catalyst for a new Digital Signage Zone in 2008.
If the ‘delivery' part of IBC's remit to cover the ‘world of content creation, management and delivery' was originally understood to mean broadcast, today mobile, IPTV, the web and digital signage are all recognised as part of the distribution mix of the future. IBC therefore provides a unique opportunity to build bridges and understanding between industries with very different cultures. (IBC's unusual timetable spanning a weekend is, in itself, a reflection of one of the cultural differences - freelance directors, producers, camera operators and editors can attend IBC without impinging on their revenue generating working week!).
In 2008, around 30 companies encompassing all aspects of the mobile TV and video value chains, including Qualcomm MediaFLO, MobiTV, Nagravision and Rubberduck Media will attend. The IPTV Zone has expanded dramatically and will embrace nearly 50 companies. Exhibitors around the specialist Zones and across the show floor addressing Mobile, IPTV and Digital Signage can be identified at the IBC product locator.
Mobile, IPTV and Digital Signage will also be recurring themes throughout the conference, seminar and business briefing programme.
The conference is once again built around five key theme days - several of specific relevance to the telecoms and mobile sector.
- Thursday 11 September
Theme Day: Content Access via the Web explores how the significant trend towards consuming content across a multiplicity of web-connected devices - including mobiles, PCs, multimedia players and games consoles - will impact the traditional broadcast value chain
Session 1 - Quality issue in IPTV - part one (IEEE Tutorial)
Session 2 - Quality issue in IPTV - part two (IEEE Tutorial)
Session 3 - Content over the web - case studies
Session 4 - The future outlook for content over the web
- Saturday 13 September
Theme Day: The Digital Dividend: HD, mobile, broadband or new media? will examine the options and issues that arise from competing demands for the spectrum that will be released with the transition from analogue to digital terrestrial TV transmission.
Session 24 - The great spectrum land rush
Session 25 - Which services will we want enough to be willing to pay for?
Session 26 - Great idea for the digital dividend - but how are we going to pay for it?
Session 27 - Content mania - who will feed the digital dividend with programmes?
Elsewhere in the Conference Programme, Thursday's Technical paper sessions (sessions 9 and 10) will take an in-depth look at technical innovations in the area of IPTV and the networked home.
Two free sessions in Friday's conference stream on Content Production Trends will be of particular interest to the mobile and telecoms sectors.
Session 19 will be led by mobile veteran Ken Blakeslee, Chairman of WebMobility Ventures. Entertaining the Mobile Audience - Games and Rich Content Production and Distribution to an Interactive Audience of One will look at the dynamics of conceiving, designing, monetising and delivering entertaining content to the fourth screen. Session 20 will explore User generated content - social networking and the democratisation of broadcasting.
Friday's Theme Day - Future Broadcast business - addresses many of the macro-economic issues facing the broadcast sector which will inevitably touch on the growing presence of the telecoms sector in a world of convergent services.
What Caught My Eye is one of the most popular features of the IBC Conference: an expert reports back on the most exciting innovations to be found on the exhibition floor. Mobile takes centre stage in Sunday's What Caught My Eye - session 44 - when Mike Short, VP R&D at O2 and President of the Mobile Data Association will unveil the most exciting mobile-specific innovations to be found at IBC2008.
Sunday's theme day - Content production: technology, creativity and business in an era of headlong change - will provide an invaluable insight into culture and current drivers - both creative and commercial - within the broadcast sector.
Sessions 49 and 50 on Monday morning are taken up with a pair of tutorials from DVB & ETSI on Open Standards, Technology & Implementation. These will look at the evolution of the Digital Video Broadcast standard to accommodate a number of distribution scenarios including DVB-H for handhelds.
IET hosts another tutorial in Session 54 on Digital delivery and getting content to the consumer.
Monday's Theme Day - New Dimensions for the Big Screen - switches to the RAI auditorium and will provide insight into, and spectacular demonstrations of, the latest developments in the fields of digital and three dimensional cinema.
Conceived to complement the peer-reviewed IBC Conference, the free-admission Business Briefings provide a platform for content providers, application developers and technology companies to share their experiences of the impact that mobile, broadband and IP worlds are having on the creation, management and delivery of content. Confirmed participants to date include Qualcomm MediaFLO and Nagravision on Mobile; Edgeware, Miniweb Interactive, the Open IPTV Forum and Dolby on IPTV; and Sony on Digital Signage.
Ian Volans is a mobile analyst and produces the Mobile, IPTV and Digital Signage Business Briefing programme at IBC