The rise of the streamers, hybrid platforms and cloud technology – as well as a more diverse roster of speakers – were among the big trends at this year’s Amsterdam media technology festival, IBC.
Robert Ambrose, consulting editor of IBC 2019, spent much of his time working with content producers. Looking back at September’s conference, he argued there was clear evidence that the industry is going through a period of disruptive change and uncertainty, as content owners try to figure out new business models to deliver content.
This was particularly focused on delivering content direct to the consumer and building a successful subscription streaming service. Both gained lots of coverage at IBC.
The rise of hybrid platforms, such as Loves TV in Spain, also featured strongly. “Hybrid services on smart TVs that allow a mix of broadcast and online content are seen by broadcasters as a key strategy to maintain relevance and increase revenue, as they can start to target advertising on the digital platform,” said Ambrose, who is a managing consultant at High Green Media.
“As well as being a year of disruption, it was also a year for the rise of new [video-on-demand] platforms, and the rise and rise of the FAANGs [Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google],” continued Ambrose.
“The most popular sessions this year at IBC were Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google speaking on their plans – it’s interesting these companies are really courting the traditional broadcast industry. They’ve realised in order to build their platforms they need access to good content, so they’re busy talking to lots of content owners to get content for their platforms, while of course still seeing them as competition.”
Saleha Williams, digital partner in Cognizant’s media and technology business, also remarked on the big impact of the FAANGs: “Only two or three years ago we didn’t see them at IBC – this year they had a massive presence in the exhibition halls and in the conference.
“It was interesting to see how they are impacting the industry and how positive that impact might be, as opposed to being seen as a threat.
“There were some interesting discussions around budgets for content producers [and] about genres of production not so far utilised.”
Williams also noted the growing presence of cloud technology, which is facilitating a huge move forward in production technology for platforms. “The cloud will be important if you want to leverage your data and the intelligence behind it to inform your scheduling, advertising, viewership, plus storage and management of assets. Being able to use and integrate your data will be essential as you move towards direct to consumer distribution,” she said.
Artificial intelligence (AI) was more in evidence at IBC this year, according to Adriana Whiteley, a director of media consultancy Bonsight.
“The US companies are investing heavily in AI, and this IBC was the first time I saw AI used as a core part of a platform, generating metadata automatically and also off-the-shelf AI aiding content discovery,” she said. “Data is fundamental for the discovery of content, so the more data you can get on the consumer, the better.”
Williams has been going to IBC for 20 years and said a real highlight for her was the innovation and diversity she saw in the conference speakers. Women speakers were up 38% this year. “It was great to see such a diverse range of speakers, with far more women. It led to a much wider range of opinions on offer – and that was fantastic to see,” she said.
Williams also noted another IBC innovation this year, a new award for Young Pioneer of the Year awarded for having a social impact. “It shows how we need, as an industry, to look to the next generation and encourage them to participate in IBC as a place where the young can learn, grow and network,” she said.
The review of IBC was staged jointly by RTS London and The Institution of Engineering and Technology at the latter’s headquarters in Savoy Place on 9 October. Chairing the panel was Paul Robinson, director of Creative Media Partners, who produced and moderated some of the IBC conference sessions.