It used to be so easy. Spend a few days at a media industry trade show. Come home. Wait for colleagues to ask, ‘So, what was big this year then?’. Do a big eye roll, and prepare scoffing face. ‘Well, it was all nonsense about…’ And for the last as-long-as-we-can-remember there was always something to insert to epitomise ‘nonsense’: second screen, 3D, UHD, VR, Cloud, AI. There was always a technology on the horizon that was presented at trade shows as if it was close at hand – and thereby easy to take a swipe at.
But no more. Not at IBC 2019. Yes, you could try and insert 8K – and the wearisomely truistic exclamation that ‘no one’s even got an 8K TV!’ could indeed occasionally be heard in the IBC halls. But, frankly, 8K was a term that cluttered very little of the show stand signage.
So what was it like to be at a trade show without hype? Oddly refreshing? Could you hear the cash tills ringing as salespeople cheerily offloaded real world technology into the grateful hands of trusting customers?
There’s only one thing harder than trying to solve for the future – and that’s trying to solve for the present. I found myself in an extraordinary amount of discussions about what it takes to re-engineer a media business at speed while trying to ensure the wheels don’t come off. A couple of years ago it sounded faintly clever to observe that consumers are now driving change. Now it’s just plain fact. One that’s raising some fundamental questions.
So when I came home and got asked ‘what was big this year then?’ I didn’t roll my eyes. I slightly narrowed them, and replied ‘business.’ I’d found myself in a lot of conversations – with both customers and suppliers – about the business models and relationships that are now required of an industry being forced to face the fact it is now just that: an industry. We have to create a huge amount of content, in a huge range of versions, at speed and with quality. The good news is that the technology to enable that industrial process is – pretty much, and with some significant hiccups – with us. The bad news is that knowledge of how to architect both our financial models and our technical implementations is not.
The result is a palpable sense of anxiety, but also of energy. There are some amazing opportunities to do things differently – and that’s both driving rapid change in some established players, and creating a market for new ones.
But perhaps more than anything there is acceptance of a need to talk. The spirit of collaboration feels stronger than I can remember for some time – perhaps ever. And as we get ready to share the DPP’s work plans for the year ahead, that gives us an enormous sense of purpose.
Let’s just hope we don’t get 16K Mind Control for at least another show or two.