IBC organizers have announced that the 2016 event surpassed their previous best attendance record, bringing in 55,796 attendees from 160-plus countries, 1,800 exhibitors including 249 new companies and more than 430 speakers for 100-plus sessions. This year's event featured several new concepts and themes, such as a virtual reality-capable theatre, an IP Interoperability Zone and new session tracks, underscoring the organizers' attempts to broaden the event's appeal well beyond broadcasters. (See IBC CEO Highlights Top Trends for This Year's Show.)
More important than the agenda or the number of attendees is that by bringing together a large cross-section of the industry, IBC also provides insight into the major trends and broad industry thinking on a variety of topics. Presentations and discussions force a more detailed look at the progress of hyped technologies, often resulting in a more pragmatic view of their evolution. Based on my time in Amsterdam over the past week, I thought it would be useful to share my impressions from this year's event to wrap up our coverage. (See IBC 2016: Vevo CEO Discusses New Direction , IBC 2016: Who Will Be the Video Provider of the Future?, IBC 2016: What Do TV Audiences Really Want? , IBC 2016: Wham, Bam, Thank You Amsterdam! and Top TV Trends Heading Into IBC.)
The headline on day one was Dominique Delport's comment on the death of TV's ad-based model, and that "the 50-year party is over" for the TV industry. That's a punchy statement from anyone, but when it comes from the Chairman of Vivendi 's content division and global MD of Havas Media, it's going to get attention. Delport felt TV companies would have to provide an OTT direct-to-consumer model in the future, and that "GAFA" (Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL), Facebook and Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN)) were the best equipped to provide it. Vivendi is spending €35 million ($39 million US) annually to develop ten-minute episodic videos for mobile viewing, but as Delport pointed out, there were no European equivalents to GAFA, and European media companies would need to partner with telcos to develop such entities.
These concerns about OTT services were apparent through the show, with several references to GAFA either being a threat or best positioned to be the big winners in the TV business. In fact, most people I spoke to or heard from saw Google, Facebook and Amazon as the most disruptive players in the TV world, rather than Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX) (or Apple, despite being part of the GAFA acronym). This was because these three players were seen as best positioned to aggregate and guide viewers through future TV experiences. Indeed, multiple discussions set up the telcos against the social networks in a battle for the TV aggregator of the future, with content owners and broadcasters trying to identify which one to partner with.
Broadcasters were keen to launch their own OTT services, but bemoaned their lack of consumer data. This was another major theme at this year's show: the need to get more user data to create more personalized services. This was seen as a major handicap versus the OTT players. There were a lot of mentions of personalization, targeting, addressable advertising -- but my impression was that they were the right buzzwords, while actual activity and investment was light.
Announcements and statements from Netflix and Google were also interesting, with both players touting an interest in partnering with service providers. Christopher Whitely, vice president of business development EMEA for Netflix, said the OTT provider was looking for more partnerships and more innovation. He touted the recent deal with
Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) for placement on its X1 platform as the kind of deals Netflix wanted to make. In particular, he mentioned expansion in Turkey and the Middle East as a major objective. Then, right after the event, Netflix announced a deal with Liberty Global Inc. (Nasdaq: LBTY) for deployment in 30 countries.
Meanwhile, Google announced that the MediaFirst TV platform from Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) would be integrated with Google's Android TV, allowing all MediaFirst customers to reach Android TV subscribers. Sascha Prueter, head of Google's Android TV, said that the "web experience was switching to TV expectations," and that Google wanted partners in the service provider eco-system for their TV knowledge and experience.
There were plenty of reminders in case anyone forgot that IBC is fundamentally a broadcast show. The transition from baseband SDI to IP in broadcast facilities was uppermost, but had limited relevance for telecom operators. Similarly, there is a push from broadcasters to adopt software-defined video and cloud services, though perhaps at a slower rate than operators. And there are security concerns about the impact of cloud and IP adoption, which have increased sharply among broadcasters recently (and are growing among telecom operators as well).
Interoperability was another important theme, with SDI-to-IP in particular being highlighted. Standards to help facilitate interoperability were also important at the show, but again, all this was primarily aimed at the broadcaster audience, not the telecom operators.
Surprisingly, there wasn't as much debate about the future of mobile, 5G and mobile broadcasting. But every mention of millennials and young demographics was accompanied by a statement about mobile being their preferred device. Mobile broadcasting also fits more comfortably with the broadcasters, as they feel they understand live broadcasts better than on-demand OTT services.
Content owners also expressed interest in targeting the mobile device, with James Currell, COO of Viacom International Media Networks, saying that he believed "many mobile operators are on the cusp of becoming fully fledged TV platforms." As a result, Viacom is investing in long- and short-form must-have content and making it available "everywhere."
That's all we have in Part I of the IBC wrap-up. Part II will address two remaining but very important themes at the show -- 4K UHD and virtual reality -- as well as other important comments and themes. We will be posting that next week.