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15 September 2022

IBC 2022: Raucous return or unsustainable rout?

The future of IBC as an industry staple has been thrown into question more so even than the technologies that underpin the Amsterdam affair.

This is an unwelcome distraction from people wanting to do business at IBC, and there was a sense of urgency about the 2022 return after three years off the wagon.

It was focused and efficient. Consolidated into fewer halls and with the fifth day shaved off the calendar, this was a fat-trimming exercise from IBC organizers – giving the show floor a feeling of being just as bustling as years gone by.

The reality, however, is that the count has withered from 56,000 attendees in 2019, to 37,000 in 2022.

While the drop-off in traffic is not totally unexpected, and many will frame this attendance as a resurgent return to brick-and-mortar events post-pandemic, a 34% decline in footfall is unsustainable for IBC in its current form.

If we were talking about a pay TV service churning out 34% of its subscriber base, or a broadcaster faced with a 34% viewership decline, would we be making similar excuses? No chance.

From inside the RAI convention center, the need for such consolidation is clear, as rival and partner product portfolios overlap and interweave with little sense of individuality.

Faultline’s usual task of spotting who is going to get rich and who will be irrelevant or acquired in five years is made much more difficult from within a shrinking talent pool.

The diluted presence of US video technology companies is a noticeable drawback. Harmonic is one obvious example of a usually prominent name that was virtually invisible at IBC 2022.

Read into that what you like, but if this were to cause a domino effect of US money pulling out of IBC, it could be crippling for the event itself.

Each hall this year resembles a different closet displaying a separate set of skeletons – the effect of years of M&A more jarring than ever before. As such, many of our interviews throughout the show lose focus as executives dive distractedly down rabbit holes – revisiting past roles rather than sticking to the job at hand.

Don’t even get us started on the front-end developer crowd. For all the thousands of screens on show at IBC, not a single one stands out. They are indistinguishable; indeterminate even.

But while this lack of diversification is frustrating on some levels, fundamentally the content providers don’t care about injecting an edge into their UI. Everyone wants to look more like Netflix for a reason. It is simple, not revolutionary.

We picked up on more than the odd reference to how streaming UXs must appeal to older generations not just in content but in design – drawing comparisons between simplicity in the UI and simplicity in the remote control.

Hundreds of companies showcasing on thousands of separate square footage of floor space what could easily have been exhibited on one. But we must do well to remember that the value in the front-end lies in enhancing the value of the back-end.

Despite the ominous backdrop, there is fierce innovation on show at IBC 2022 – in metadata, analytics, processing, delivery, sustainability, security.

Our more focused technology write-ups from the show this year are evidence of how virtually everyone is a potential customer of streaming media technologies in a post-Covid-19 world.

Video is ever-present, even if the people that once defined IBC are not.

While this is more of a conversation for the pub, not the pages of Faultline, we cannot wrap up without mentioning that thousands of visitors will be deterred from IBC 2023 thanks to the situation at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport.

But even before security queues spiraled out of control, there were already murmurs that Barcelona’s Fira Gran Via – the current home of Mobile World Congress – is attempting to poach IBC’s business.

Having called Amsterdam home since 1992, a change of scenery might be a welcome reawakening for IBC.