Michael Crimp, CEO of IBC gives us a preview of the preparations IBC has made to receive attendees in light of the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
How is IBC preparing for the upcoming edition?
IBC’s main priority is delivering a safe live event for the content and technology industry. The past couple of years have been tough for everyone, but it has been inspiring to see the industry transcend the pandemic’s challenges and continue to collaborate and innovate at pace and scale. We think now is the right time for the industry to get together again to educate, learn and network at an in-person event. The overwhelmingly positive feedback from the industry supports our decision to return to Amsterdam in December.
We have some exciting plans in store for IBC2021, most notably for our content programme, which will be available for free to all attendees. This means all attendees will be able to watch our convention keynotes, featuring industry visionaries from Discovery Inc., Fox Sports, HBO Max, Netflix, Olympic Broadcasting Services, Starz, Unity Technologies and Warner Media. The convention keynotes will be hosted in the new Showcase Theatre in Hall 12, along with thought leadership-led sessions on rapid-growth markets from exhibitors and sponsors.
We’ll also have four themed Show Floor Stages placed in the main exhibitor halls with dedicated themes: Production & Post-production, Content Supply Chain, OTT/Direct to Consumer (Content Everywhere), and Live & Remote Production. Innovation is the fifth theme for this year’s content programme, which will be mirrored in presentations from sessions from the 2021 Technical Papers Programme and IBC owners. The 2021 Accelerator Media Innovation Programme also falls under the theme of Innovation and will showcase boundary-breaking live demonstrations, along with discussions with participants about their challenges and solutions.
The IBC Innovation Awards will also return, and this year we’ll be spotlighting collaborative projects and announcing the recipient for IBC’s highest accolade: the IBC International Honour for Excellence.
How are exhibitor and visitor numbers faring this year?
This year we are on track for at least 700 exhibitors at the show, and visitors can expect to see exciting demos and hear the latest industry insights from major industry players, such as Amazon Web Services, Blackmagic Design, EVS, Grass Valley, Nagra and Synamedia. Over the past month, we’ve also experienced a sharp uptick in visitor registrations, which were buoyed by the Dutch government removing any need for fully vaccinated visitors to quarantine upon entry into The Netherlands. This means that coming to IBC is possible for almost 100% of our usual visitors.
Are you expecting Middle East attendees this year?
If it’s safe and viable, we hope to see exhibitors and visitors from the Middle East. Some Middle Eastern countries are on the EU’s safe travel list. However, we understand that it may not be possible for everyone to travel to Amsterdam, but they will be able to join onscreen at home via IBC Digital to avoid missing any of the action.
What would you say to potential visitors concerned about health and safety?
We welcomed the Dutch government’s decision to relax Covid-19 restrictions and remove the 1.5m social distancing requirements and mandatory wearing of masks. It means IBC exhibitors and visitors will enjoy an enriched experience based on simpler safety protocols. In line with the Dutch government’s announcement, IBC will relax several guidelines that previously compromised the value proposition of the show, such as meeting room and stand capacity, and face masks and personal contact — this will now be at the individual’s discretion.
However, at the beginning of this year I said that health and safety are of paramount importance, and this hasn’t changed. IBC will still have a perimeter fence around the venue. This is mainly to provide a safe environment for people to come and go smoothly in the knowledge that all attendees will have been vaccinated, tested negative or have proof of recent recovery from the virus. Similar to the Dutch guidelines for entry into the Netherlands, access will be granted by means of a digital Covid certificate, paper proof of an EU-approved vaccine, a negative covid test or evidence of recent recovery. This documentation will be required daily.
We urge visitors to respect others’ personal preferences and sensitivities around those areas. Additional cleaning and sanitising stations will still be evident, along with signage reminding people to respect others’ choices. Respect is the key message for everyone attending the show, and I am confident that the industry will come together and support individuals’ preferences and levels of comfort.
Could you elaborate on some tech trends that IBC intends to spotlight this year?
One of the things I’m most excited about is the return of the IBC Accelerator Media Innovation Programme, because it’s spotlighting key industry trends and helping solve them through cross-company collaboration. One of the major industry trends is 5G, poised to revolutionise how we deliver, watch and interact with content. 5G is a big focus for this year’s Accelerator Programme, and project participants are developing innovative solutions in three areas: Innovation in Live Production Workflows; Remote Production in Live Sports; and how it is enabling LB XR (Location-Based eXtended Realities).
AI will also be a big trend, and Al Jazeera is leading a project on how AI can be used to detect, measure and flag bias and tonality in the representation and portrayal of diverse genders, cultures and ethnicities in reportage and news coverage. Sky is leading an RT-3D Interactive Content Creation project for multi-platform distribution. There are also projects focused on providing low-cost smart animated remote production and Immersive audio and sound Imagery. A team of world-class broadcasters are leading a project on sustainability in live production, examining how to improve production efficiencies and reduce energy consumption.
Any special features that IBC hopes to have in place this year?
IBC Digital launched on 21st October and will empower all attendees, whether attending in person or virtually, to create their own IBC experience. IBC Digital is not separate from the show. It will run in tandem with the live event and was created to enhance the IBC show experience for exhibitors and visitors in Amsterdam and those attending online.
As a part of the IBC Digital platform, attendees will be able to schedule online meetings with exhibitors and other attendees, review exhibitor profiles and invite colleagues to live meetings. The information provided by attendees during the registration process will be used by IBC Digital’s powerful AI technology to offer personalised recommendations for sessions, exhibitors and products, creating an individualised IBC experience for every attendee. All of the sessions from this year’s content programme will be streamed live or made available on-demand on IBC Digital for all attendees, ensuring the compelling insights from industry leaders are accessible to everyone. This content schedule will run from IBC Digital’s launch date of October 21st, until the end of March 2022.
Following the pandemic, what’s your outlook on the future of trade shows?
There is no doubt that the future of trade shows is hybrid. We believe in-person events will still be a business imperative for most companies, because they provide unique opportunities to build meaningful relationships with customers, partners and industry peers. When I talk to people about what they miss the most about IBC, more often than not they tell me about the impromptu meetings and conversations that happen everywhere from the show floor to the cafés and hotel lobbies, and lead to incredible partnerships, projects and even friendships. However, we are now at a point where technology can and should be integrated into live events to make them more accessible than ever before. Just because a speaker, exhibitor or visitor cannot be at the live event doesn’t mean they should miss out on the opportunity to participate in knowledge sharing, sales and networking. Additionally, an event’s digital offering should not only be for an online attendee. When we created IBC Digital, we wanted it to benefit all IBC Show attendees, regardless of whether they’re on the show floor or onscreen at home. We believe a true hybrid event will combine the best live and digital elements and create a compelling, personalised experience for each attendee.