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IBC CEO, Michael Crimp talked exclusively to us about the past, present and future of the IBC Show.

ProductionHUB: IBC is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. What is it doing to celebrate this occasion?

Michael Crimp: 50 years is a great achievement, and of course we will be recognizing it. We are producing a commemorative book, and our annual party will be particularly special this year. IBC is also starting a new charitable venture, supporting an Amsterdam group that provides support through sport for disadvantaged and disabled children. If you want to play against former
Ajax players in our Saturday night match, bid now to join the IBC All-Stars! But the most important way we can celebrate the golden anniversary is by carrying on being the leading global forum where the real issues of the industry are discussed and new strategies developed. Back in 1967 the founders of IBC knew that to be a success the event had to have three strands: a comprehensive exhibition, a visionary conference, and the networking opportunities to share ideas. 50 years on we have a huge amount to talk about: from Ultra HD to 5G connectivity; from IP to cyber-security. And IBC is still the best place to do that.

PH: How has IBC evolved over the past 10 years?

Michael Crimp: The simple answer is that IBC has evolved along with the industry, or rather IBC has strived to identify the key trends which will transform the industry, and ensure that we are ahead of the curve.

Looking back 10 years, digital cinema was still a work in progress: the total transition we have now seen was just beginning. We had dedicated areas focused on mobile video and digital signage, again things that we take for granted today. You can see the equivalents in IBC2017, like the IP Showcase and all the work done on interoperability.

The one area I would say that IBC has evolved significantly is that we are much more proactive in leading strategic thinking and business transformation. Five years ago we started our Leaders’ Summit, the behind-closed- doors conference for CEOs from the top broadcasters and media organisations, and it has proved hugely successful.

This year we are adding two more similar, invitation-only events, this time aimed at CTOs. We have a day focusing on cyber-security and another looking at the potential for 5G – a great example of IBC’s ability to look ahead and help determine the media industry’s position on new opportunities.

We are also trying a new business match-making venue this year, the IBC Startup Forum. Working with Media Honeypot, we are aiming to bring startups and scale-ups together with the media companies that might want to use their talents and the investors who might back the deals.

PH: Will IBC and annual trade shows still be relevant in another 50 years?

Michael Crimp: Yes, I firmly believe they will. Of course, you will be able to research basic information online – you can do that now. We have added to the online resources available with our IBC365 year-round online presence.

But it is much harder to exchange opinions and experiences that way. Human nature dictates that we learn best from direct contact, from friendly discussions, from chance conversations. You cannot do that online. It is why we regard the opportunity to meet old friends and new peers as one of the key parts of the IBC experience.

PH: What are some of the most important decisions you face in your job on a daily basis?

Michael Crimp: IBC is an interesting business to head. In some ways, of course, my job as CEO is the same as the head of any other company: make sure the staff are all pulling in the same direction, the customers are happy, the finances are secure. But IBC is unlike any other business because our focus is on spreading and sharing knowledge, and because our shareholders are our customers. IBC is organised by the industry for the industry, and at the top of our organisation is the Partnership Board which contains representatives of the six leading professional and trade bodies in the industry: IABM, IEE, IET, RTS, SCTE and SMPTE. So, my day job revolves around the invaluable feedback we receive, from our partner bodies and from the committees which again draw upon industry knowledge. I take all that input and try to develop a strategy for the continuing development of IBC as an agile platform for industry education, ready to respond to new trends and technologies as they arise.

PH: Why are trade shows important for the business community, and why does IBC consider itself to be in the top tier?

Michael Crimp: Trade shows are the opportunity to get hands on with technology, and to ask the awkward questions of the vendors. With the whole industry in one place, it is also the chance to bring technology partners together, to talk through the details of interactivity and interoperability. IBC is the best place to do this because we work hard to deliver the best experience for the visitor. More than just ensuring that all the industry’s vendors are present, we lay out the show floor logically by technology. Visitors looking to compare products will find them all near each other, minimising the unproductive time walking across a vast site. Then we add value to an exhibition visit through free events like the movie screenings and our Awards Ceremony; through presentations on stages around the exhibition and in the IBC Big Screen; and through providing enough catering facilities and informal meeting space to maximise networking. We do all that in Amsterdam, one of the friendliest, most accessible and cosmopolitan cities in the world. IBC is welcoming to everyone, which is why last year we had visitors from around 170 countries.

PH: What are you most excited about for IBC2017? What do you hope attendees take away from it?

Michael Crimp: To take the second half of the question first, IBC attracts around 55,000 visitors and every one of
them has a different agenda. My fervent wish is that every single one finds the answers to their
own particular questions.

What am I most excited about? Personally, I know I am in the right job at around 11.00 on Friday, when the exhibition halls get that first surge of visitors and the hum, the noise of business being done, begins to rise. The charity football match on Saturday night is going to be a good event, too!

PH: In terms of technological trends, what are you most excited about as we approach IBC2017?

Michael Crimp: It is not really my role to get excited about technological trends. Our exhibitors, our conference and events team and our committees identify where the industry is going and therefore where IBC needs to be. My role is to empower them to deliver the best possible IBC. But I do see IBC as an important enabler for change in the industry. Last year we pulled off an incredible achievement, with our partners, in building the first IP Interoperability Zone, bringing together large numbers of different vendors to demonstrate that the next stage of the IP transition, live production, was practical and the big challenges could be resolved. That was an initiative of massive global importance. As IBC2017 progresses, I have no doubt there will be equally ground-breaking events.

PH: What are some of the hot topics that will be addressed during the conference?

Michael Crimp: One significant development from that first IBC 50 years ago is the nature of the conference. The founders were insistent that an exhibition needed a technical conference, and in 1967 it was based solely on papers outlining the latest research. Today the technical papers programme still forms the centrepiece of the conference, and it is still seen as the most important, as well as the most prestigious place to introduce new thinking. But today our conference is much broader, speaking to the creative and commercial people in our community as well as the engineering and operational.

This year’s conference is subtitled Truth, Trust and Transformation, and has five tracks running over five days. Session topics range from the deeply technical, like new codec design, to fake news and alternative facts. Speakers range from Alberto Duenas, the principal video architect at chip-maker ARM to Dan Danker, the product director at Facebook. There is not just something for everyone: there is a lot for everyone.

PH: How are the attendees and companies participating in IBC changing? How are you continually growing attendance for IBC each year?

Michael Crimp: The industry is so much broader than it once was. Consumers used to watch television, because that was all that the technology could achieve. Today, they expect to choose what they want to watch, when and where they want to watch it, on the device and platform which happen to be convenient at the time. As the industry expands, so does the IBC community. This year, for example, we have the biggest temporary structure we have ever built for an IBC, to house hall 14, dedicated to content everywhere.

PH: How important are non-European visitors for IBC? Given that international travel can be painful, what compelling reasons should those outside the EU consider?

Michael Crimp: The I in IBC stood for International in 1967, and we absolutely regard ourselves as the one true global event in our industry now and into the future. Amsterdam is, in truth, a very easy place for visitors in any part of the world to reach. Its airport is a global hub, of course, but the country and the city have a centuries-old traditional of welcoming outsiders. The EU maintains an open attitude and a practical approach to visas when required, so there should be no barriers to anyone wanting to visit IBC. And why would you not want to visit IBC? The same open and welcoming attitude to IBC visitors applies to conference speakers and exhibiting vendors. Where else would you be in September?

PH: What are the latest developments in adding capacity at IBC?

Michael Crimp: We have a very strong working relationship with the RAI. The team there understands IBC and its future strategic vision very well. We are already talking in detail about our plans out to 2020 and 2021 and we are confident that, together, we will meet all of IBC’s needs. There is always talk of the need to move to another venue, and of course as a responsible business we keep this continually under review. But where would we move to? There is nowhere that offers the same combination of exhibition space, conference facilities and catering and networking under one roof. There is nowhere that can provide the range of hotels at all prices that Amsterdam offers, nor its friendly and welcoming atmosphere. Talking of hotels, visitors this year may notice a large building site between hall 12 and the station. This will be a large on-site hotel, scheduled to be open in time for IBC in 2019.

And regulars who have resigned themselves to walking around the hoardings covering up the now not-so-new underground station will be pleased to hear that the North-South metro line is due to open in July 2018. Test trains are already running, and visitors to IBC next year will be able to speed from the centre of the city in under 10 minutes.

PH: Is IBC seeing the same growth in outdoor exhibits?

Michael Crimp: The outdoor exhibits – not just OB trucks but satellite links, drones and more – are always popular, and identifying space is always important for us. I cannot visualise an IBC which does not have an outside exhibits area. Incidentally, accounts of IBC 2017 talk about the two new outside broadcast trucks parked next to the venue, and the popularity of their exhibits.

PH: The over-arching theme for IBC2017 is “Truth, Trust and Transformation”. What is the rationale behind this?

Michael Crimp: No one can have failed to notice the rapid proliferation of terms like “fake news” and “alternative facts” over the last year. Broadcasters have traditionally been the trusted brand for news: is the era of social media and universal internet access changing that? It is a critical topic to debate at IBC, because the industry’s response to it is central to its future, commercially as well as technically. Providing true, accurate and honest access to news (and related genres like sport) is expensive and demanding. How do we address this key issue? The phrase has resonances in other ways than the obvious, too. One of the challenges of the transition to IP connectivity is the risk that the media industry will become a major target for malware and hackers. As the transport platform becomes more open, the more we need to focus on cyber-security and the intrinsic design of safe, secure systems.

OTT and social media delivery are sometimes seen as “disruptive” but probably “transformative” is the better word. It brings new challenges for creativity and business, and it is right that IBC looks at them. It runs right through the conference, not least in a keynote session from Brian Sullivan, president of the digital consumer group at Fox, in which he says “In a digital world the consumer has the power. Deal with it.”

PH: How are you catering to the AV professionals visiting the show?

Michael Crimp: IBC is a hugely important event for the AV industry, but largely because of the convergence of all media industries. Whereas once there might be specialist sessions, or even a separate event, for the presentation industry, or digital signage, or local television infrastructures, now they have all become part of one open, connected media world.

There is no difference, for example, between a broadcast monitor wall and a large-scale digital signage system or an industrial control centre. They all depend upon IP connectivity and intelligent processing to put multiple virtual screens on a single high-resolution display. That same IP connectivity might connect a broadcast facility or an AV centre. Our IBC Big Screen is the absolute showcase of presentation technology, featuring multiple high resolution, high output projectors and Dolby Atmos audio. All of this is available to all visitors to IBC, and we continue to warmly welcome the many AV professionals who attend each year.

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