From its roots as a broadcast technology conference and exhibition, IBC has evolved to become a leading event focussed on the creation, management and delivery of content for the entertainment industry. Ian Volans takes a look at what will be on offer at the show this year
Like telecommunications, the broadcast television sector is living through a period of rapid change. Audiences are fragmenting as the handful of national channels that originally broadcast on analogue migrate to digital terrestrial transmitters, and accommodate new services. At the same time, high definition is increasing the quality expectations of viewers and changing production techniques.
Even in countries where multi-channel satellite pay-TV and cable add to the competitive mix, broadband is challenging the status quo with the introduction of a new distribution channel for television and video entertainment. And with virtually every European adolescent and adult carrying a mobile, the concept of watching television on the “fourth screen” is beginning to gain traction, if more slowly than the mobile industry would like.
In the face of this changing landscape, the IBC 2007 conference and exhibition continues to advance, reflecting new technologies and commercial realities.
Broadcasting by broadband
Mobile has been a recurring theme in IBC’s conference in recent years. In 2007, the growing importance of IPTV and the distribution of video content over the Internet will be reflected in the opening theme day of the conference, Broadcasting by Broadband on Thursday 6th September.
After several false dawns, broadband now offers a delivery channel that offers an alternative to the traditional television and radio broadcast business model. Broadcasting by Broadband will explore how broadband providers, which are more closely aligned to telcos than to broadcasters, will affect the broadcast landscape.
Regulators, equipment manufacturers, service providers and content owners are all stakeholders in this developing new world of interactive multimedia, but the rules are not yet fully understood. Each technology has its proponents, but they are more focussed on competition than co-operation. The end users – consumers - have a desire for the content they want, at the quality they want, in the place they want, at the time they want it.
The opening theme day for IBC2007 will begin with a jargon-free technical description and analysis of DSL, WiFi, WiMax, Powerline, ultra wide band, digital terrestrial, digital satellite and mobile TV to provide a comprehensive understanding of the technologies, their capabilities and their role in a business plan.
A business environment session will look at regulation and finance; at the implications of telcos and ISPs being successful in challenging for spectrum released as terrestrial services go digital; and how the regulation of content developed for broadcast may be applied to broadband delivery. The day will conclude with case studies from organisations already providing a mix of services, including broadcast radio and television, over various broadband-enabled platforms.
The latest developments in mobile TV and video consumption will be a central strand in the Digital Lifestyles - media to your home or on the move conference theme day on Saturday 8th September.
As the communications and media industries converge, opportunities to serve the digital home expand. This is just part of a broader trend towards a digital lifestyle, characterised by media on the move, digital delivery of media to the home and accessible media storage within the home.
Whether it is broadcast, webcast or user-generated, all content is increasingly contributing to the growth phenomenon of social networking. This presents new challenges to the traditional business models of broadcasters and advertisers. The interplay of the four screens – cinema, television, computer and mobile - demands cross-platform media solutions.
The Digital Lifestyle theme day brings together case studies and guidance that address the options for repurposing content for different networks, consumption environments and storage; the DRM challenges of cross-platform delivery; the potential impact of the one billion mobile phones shipped in 2006 - and again in 2007 - on media capture and delivery; and the growth of a possible fifth screen – in-car navigation devices.
As well as exploring new media opportunities and challenges within the conference, mobile and IPTV technologies also feature strongly in the exhibition.
In 2005, a dedicated Mobile Zone was created within the IBC exhibition to provide an opportunity for application developers, content providers and technology companies to showcase their capabilities at the centre of the broadcast industry's leading international event. It doubled in size in 2006, and will be bigger again in 2007.
Mobile Zone exhibitors are diverse and drawn from across the ecosystem that is rapidly growing up around mobile TV and video. This year’s exhibitors range from designers and turnkey suppliers of end-to-end mobile TV broadcast networks such as ENENSYS Technologies and LARCAN to weComm, the company that developed the Sky Anytime on Mobile solution that enables users of 120 different mobile devices to access the UK satellite broadcaster’s content. Frontier Silicon, expects to use IBC to unveil a multi-standard RF & baseband system-on-a-chip that will be vital to delivering economies of scale in mobile TV handsets when the addressable market is fragmented with a variety of broadcast standards deployed in different countries.
Qualcomm will be present in the Mobile Zone for the third year running. While in much of Europe deployment of broadcast mobile TV is stalled pending the release of digital dividend spectrum, Qualcomm is progressively rolling-out its MediaFLO network across the US. At a mobile TV conference in March, Jeff Brown, Head of Global Strategy and Development for Qualcomm cited forecasts from Wall Street analysts Bernstein Research that suggest that MediaFLO could become the world’s largest single multi-channel pay TV platform within five years. By the time of IBC in September, Qualcomm may be in a position to provide a progress report on its US venture.
New in 2007, the IPTV Zone will provide an opportunity to explore the technologies and developments that are allowing broadband providers to compete with traditional broadcast distribution. Exhibitors in the inaugural IPTV Zone encompass big broadcast names such as Grass Valley; global technology players like Texas Instruments; middleware specialists such as MHP software solutions provider Osmosys; and HD set-top-box specialists ADB and Vidanti.
Some Zone exhibitors have relevance across mobile and IPTV. Snell & Willcox, renowned for its image processing conversion and compression technologies, is adapting its expertise to improve image quality or increase channel capacity across wireless, IPTV and Internet delivery platforms. For broadcasters or carrier providers who need to repurpose content for multiple distribution methods, the company’s iCR automated content repurposing workstation can simultaneously create separate outputs optimised for IPTV and mobile TV.
Conceived to complement the peer-reviewed IBC Conference, a programme of Business Briefings provides an opportunity for companies exhibiting in the two Zones to share their experiences with any IBC delegate, visitor or exhibitor. Each day of the free-admission Business Briefings begins with a presentation from an independent analyst on the current state-of-play to provide context for the Briefings that follow.
M:Metrics, a pioneer in the study of consumer consumption of multimedia content on mobile devices, will introduce the Mobile Business Briefings, while Decipher, one of Europe’s brightest new digital media consultancies will introduce the IPTV Business Briefings.
IBC 2007, RAI Amsterdam: Conference 6-10 September; Exhibition 7-11 September. More information: www.ibc.org
Ian Volans is Mobile Consultant to IBC