Is the IBC international enough, is it becoming more so?
The visitors come from more than 150 different countries, so in that sense it’s very international indeed. One of the reasons we’re in Amsterdam is that it’s a very open, multicultural society that welcomes people from everywhere. The conference is covering a range of different topics; on Indian business – there’s one on Bollywood, then there’s some American issues and different issues from different parts of the world. If you look at the speaker list, we try and draw people from every part of the world to have a representative view of what’s happening on a particular topic. So I think we do very well on that.
We do ponder sometimes whether it should all be in English or whether there should be some translation. But historically the language of broadcasting has been in English, so currently we do the whole programme in that way.
If you were to choose some other languages, which would they be?
It would take a long time [to translate] for 150 countries but if you look where Amsterdam is on the map, we’re strong in northern Europe, and there are lots of different languages there, southern Europe and South America – quite strong, but the biggest contingent from South America would be Brazil, so that’s Spanish and then Portuguese. Probably Spanish and then Chinese maybe. It’s difficult to know. What we’ve done in the past is that if there’s been a particular topic, a particular interest for people, for instance we’ve had a Russian session, we’ll put the translator into that session. Otherwise we would look at the topic and probably put a range of translators into the simultaneous translation booths that are here. But it’s not a central thing to what we do.
Are there any regions you want to reach more? Any where it’s difficult to get people to attend from?
What happens is that there are a whole number of sponsorship opportunities. IBC is owned and run by the industry, so the IABM for example, are one of the owners, the SCTE are one of the owners. So with their interest in IBC, they tend to run competitions or bursaries or sponsorship training to bring people here. And I’m always quite thrilled to meet them because to me sometimes it’s like another big trade show, but for them it’s just an amazing world, being left alone in biggest toy shop in the world, and very often it’s technology which they’re not likely to see or be able to buy, but it’s important for them to understand it and see it as part of their education and a privilege. So we do what we best can to encourage people to come. Amsterdam is an expensive place and long way away from a lot of the Commonwealth. So, not as many [able to attend] as we’d like, but we’re always happy to help out.
What’s IBC Content Everywhere about?
That’s something that we’re launching in Dubai, then in Sao Paolo, and we might then take it to Asia if it’s successful, or when it’s successful. The reason for doing it is that in some countries the economies are growing fast, and there’s a proliferation of connected devices, and the consumption of content over IP is huge. So many people are walking around with a smartphone in their hand, with not so much access to a tablet, and of course you get a different sort of information on a smartphone as well if you just think about news and social media. So it’s a hugely interesting editorial topic, a hugely interesting growth in the economies, and huge interesting and exploding amount of people who can receive that content. So we picked those two markets to have a show which is basically focused on receiving content over IP.
That’s something that’s covered somewhat in the Amsterdam show, why take it outside?
We’ve kind of grown the concept of IP through the development of IBC Connected World, which is just a zone. What’s happening now is that you can’t really do it in a zone because almost every exhibitor is interested in the ‘content everywhere’ IP concept, because that’s a lot of the future. So we’re putting on an event next year, so you will recognise IBC Content Everywhere through the branding and people can take part in it, then it will kind of be a roadshow. In essence it will be Amsterdam [in] September and then in November it will be Dubai and in the first quarter of the next year it will be Sao Paolo, and then it will come back to Amsterdam again. So we’re trying to make it into a roadshow, but that roadshow won’t miss out IBC, it will be a core and growing part of IBC. So hopefully that will feed it.
But we do have exhibitors who want to get into those new areas. We’re a trusted brand, we have good quality and we’re trying to give them a reasonably priced package to get into it. And what we’re working on now is building relationships in those parts of the world, and our visitor marketing plans – because that will be the key measure – whether we get people to come and learn at these things. So it’s a new and exciting for IBC and it’s going pretty well so far, I have to say.
Will Content Everywhere have the same format as the IBC, for instance, with a conference?
It’s slightly different. When you go to regional trade shows and national trade shows, they tend to be a bit old school, a bit 20th century, where you’ve got just some booths, and some people selling some stuff and some people wandering up and down. The IBC is very strong on its educational side, so we’re going to build a theatre – like an arena – in each one, and there will be the opportunity for some exhibitors to stand up and talk about what it is they’re doing, but there’ll also be some purely educational sessions there. We want it to be almost the heart of the event, and we’re not looking at charging people to come to a conference, we’re looking at creating an engagement package for the exhibitors and the senior broadcast people, which means that they will come and engage with everybody who’s there, and help inform and educate them as part of their presence there. So what I’m trying to say is that it’s not like the exhibitors pay to exhibit and the people pay to come into the conference – there won’t be any fee to go to the conference, that will be part of the package, underwritten effectively by the exhibitors and IBC. So it’s trying something different. A lot of regions say they can’t find a business model for a conference, and to be honest in my experience there isn’t really a business model for conferences in areas where people are not used to or expected to pay, or the company can’t afford to, or is unwilling to invest in them. And I can’t change that, that’s macro thing. So we’ve tried to have a model where they can come along and learn, and the model is from people who want to build relationships with them.
Is the IBC getting too big?
I think IBC itself is not in danger of getting too big, because it can’t get any bigger here. We’re bursting at the seams and the city is bursting at the seams with the 50-odd thousand people that we’ve got here, so it’s a little bit self-regulating. Now we could move to another city that was bigger, and we could get more exhibition space, I have no real doubt about that. But whether you could grow the visitor audience as fast is doubtful. And we don’t just want to pump it up for the money, for the space, we want to make sure that we maintain the amount of visitors per square metre as we grow, so that there is a value for everybody here. We haven’t had to [turn people away], you can see the temporary structures – we used to have to turn people away, but we haven’t had to now and we’ve grown every year. The area where I think we do need to look a little bit is the actual conference programme itself, it’s very wide, very international, there’s something for everybody there. But sometimes that grows so big that people have got four, five different stream choices, and maybe that’s too much. And we should maybe look at it as a ‘less is more’ approach. It’s not that I want to take them away, I just want to make it easier and clearer for the delegates to choose what’s important to them, they can’t really be in two places at once.
We measure what people think afterwards in various surveys and feedback, and we’ve got various committees who are very forthright with us. People see the value and we listen to them, and we keep adjusting, and I think that’s what has made us successful really. People come to IBC and they really love it, they really care about it, you can tell they’re passionate, and that helps us to make sure we’re in tune with what they want next.
Could it be held elsewhere or moved around?
We do consider all these things, but the complexity of having to reinvent something as huge as IBC – just in the buildup period there were 8,000 people here on site building. The complexity of having to reinvent that and completely understand a new venue every year and everything that goes with it, would be very difficult. Most venues wouldn’t want us to do that, because from their point of view if they’ve got a massive show, they would need it fixed in the calendar. That’s what happens with big shows, it’s difficult to take them on the road, and not necessarily the best thing to do. We do look at other venues for moving permanently, because we feel a responsibility to benchmark and test and make sure our stakeholders are getting the best value. It’s good to go out there and just have a look occasionally. But each time we’ve done it, we’ve ended up with the answer that Amsterdam’s probably still the best place for us.
What’s the biggest standout change in broadcasting this year?
I think there’s a lot of 4K pictures around, and that’s really interesting. In our leaders summit, where we invite 100 top European CEOs to come and debate strategic issues, Big Data and 4K were big issues. It’s interesting the Big Data is all about personalising the content and the advertising to individuals, which is a one-to-one approach. But actually 4K is real old-fashioned broadcasting – one to many. I think where the broadcasters are fighting back with this, with 4K and then later down the road, 8K, is it’s really difficult to see how you can send that to an internet connection. Just the sheer amount of noughts and ones and everything that would have to happen if lots of people want to watch it at the same time. So you’ve got that contrast of big 4K stuff, with second screen/smaller screen/personalised experience. And I think the theme for the future was how they join up and work together. That would be my assessment of what I’ve seen so far.
What I like about this business, it came out of the strategy, is that broadcasters don’t shy away from new technology and ideas and push them away too long. It was clear from some of the things that were said from big media CEOs who have got a portfolio of things, maybe they’ve got newspapers as well, maybe they waited too long to try and embrace some of the new technologies that would come along in the the newspaper and music industries and it went into declines. Whereas all the broadcast guys and the guys on the electronic media side saw connected devices, Big Data and 4K pictures as an opportunity to link up, to create more viewers, more business, more revenue – they didn’t see it as a threat, they saw it more as an opportunity. That’s a cultural thing which is fascinating and I totally support.
Is content becoming more important? Is it covered enough by the conference?
IBC used to be an old-fashioned black box technology show. But if you go to the awards ceremony tonight, you’ll see Peter Jackson on screen, and you’ll see some of his work. And we had some big Bollywood people here. He was very gracious as well, about encouraging technology, because without it you can’t have the creativity. So what we’ve tried to do is bring more content creators, like James Cameron, for example, and Will.i.am, last year, to just reinforce that link between talent and technology. So content is becoming increasingly important. Important to us, and technology is becoming increasingly important to the filmmakers and TV-makers out there. And on the flipside of it, I got a really good little video that my team have made, who have put it on YouTube, which was just about them going around with a couple of iPhones during the buildup. And they did a little animation – a little character that goes around helping people, and it’s really good fun. But it was easy, well, they’re very creative, and they’ve got an iPhone, and they downloaded it out to an editor, and they’ve put it on YouTube, it’s on our social media and people are looking at it. A few years ago you would not have been able to do that. And I just think that’s amazing. So creativity and content comes from everywhere.
My big plan for the future is to go to sleep! Well, when we’ve got all the development work done for Content Everywhere, we’re not complacent about IBC – we’ve got a huge amount of debriefs and conversations going about how we need to develop the event going forward, for the next few years. I see us like a big tanker, an oil tanker that’s heading in ‘that’ direction and if we want to change direction, the best thing to do is start gently tilting it around now, not wait till people start to ask for too much change and try and yank on the wheel, because it won’t move anywhere.
What direction is that?
Well we’ve got ‘one to many’ in broadcast, we’ve got film, we’ve got devices over IP… I think IBC is pretty much covering all of those things. An area which get constantly discussed now and I think will be a big issue for the next year, as it is everywhere, is cloud. What does that mean, what does that mean for IBC? IBC did a conference in London in June, and there was a huge amount of interest in broadcasters using cloud, and I found it quite interesting to listen to some of it, and that will emerge in some way, IBC will accommodate it in some way, we’re not quite sure how yet, we’re still having discussions about it. There’s a lot of cloud-based stuff anyway but some companies like to have a heart, an area where they can be which is specifically about that, others don’t.