Ah, Amsterdam…famed for its tulip fields, wooden clogs, bicycle rides through the city, and an annual industry gathering that unites more than 55,000 media and entertainment professionals to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing the world of broadcasting.

The International Broadcasting Convention (IBC) is always a great opportunity to connect with our global customers, partners and hear about the major developments taking place in media & entertainment today.

This was my 4th time attending IBC and, as at previous conferences, there was no shortage of exciting product announcements, customer and partnership wins, and spirited discussions about what’s ahead for us in the coming year(s). Here’s a high-level snapshot of the major trends I saw at IBC this year:

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Enterprise IT Shaping M&E’s Migration to IP

We continue to see progress in the migration to all IP workflows, and this evolution is taking shape with lessons from enterprise IT. In an industry where flexibility and agility are key, proprietary media hardware will quickly become a roadblock to the next generation of simplicity.

I had the opportunity to visit the IBC IP Interoperability Zone, which featured more than 30 diverse demos of verified technical interoperability over IP. The new initiative was developed by the Alliance for IP Media Solutions (AIMS) and the International Association of Broadcasting Manufacturers (IABM), with a shared vision (as expressed by Peter White, IABM CEO in an article from SVG) to “remove the roadblock that uncertainty over standards and interoperability has put in the way of end-users’ decisions to transition to the many potential operating and cost benefits of IP technology in the broadcast production chain.”

Potential, not pixels, is what matters

I think the next significant growth area in the M&E space will be around data analytics, particularly in light of how “TV” as we know it has evolved. Further, machine learning (AKA AI or deep learning), is becoming increasingly sophisticated particularly around the areas of video search.

Look at the ways that televisions themselves at been evolving. Even as recently as a few years ago, when it came to buying a TV (or any ”entertainment viewing device,” for that matter), what mattered most was the picture quality. Screens were still relatively large and bulky in size and resolution was often the primary consideration for consumers. Those buying factors have changed, to where we think of TV (again, “entertainment viewing devices”) more as a sophisticated media hub than just a humble television. Long gone are the days of “appointment viewing,” where viewers had a specific day and time to watch a program before it was gone forever. Today the conversation is around USB ports, storage, networking, wireless connectivity and on-demand viewing, just for starters.

In fact, I’d like to designate NHK for “T.V. Burns Top Pick for Best Demo at IBC” for their awe-inspiring 130″ 8K display screen f(made up of 4x4K OLED panels) that was just 2mm thick, including bezel! Talk about taking your next weekend movie night to the next level!

Virtual Reality (VR) Closer to Becoming Actual Reality

VR was everywhere at IBC, with myriad demos, launches and partnerships being announced that will ultimately bring us all one step closer to experiencing true VR. The fact is that the way that consumers experience programming is fast becoming richer and more lifelike than ever. It’s not far-off to say that soon we’ll no longer “watch” TV but rather “experience” it through full video and audio immersion with a 360 view of our content.

Notably at IBC, Kaltura launched the VR Alliance, in conjunction with founding partners Inception, 24i Media, Encompass and Harmonic. The “Future Zone” on the exhibit floor was incredibly popular, with attendees being able to interact with realistic avatars via LiveLike, and an interactive cooking show from BBC R&D (Cook-Along Kitchen Experience, or CAKE) that adjusts the content in real-time to align with the viewer’s cooking.

The World Gets Smaller

Consolidation and partnership were definitely in the air at IBC, with a slew of acquisition announcements coming out around the event. Rovi closed its $1.1B acquisition of TiVo; Blackmagic Design bought both Fairlight and Ultimatte; Ross Video announced the acquisition of Abekas, Inc.; and Telestream announced the acquisition of UK-based Quality Control (QC) technology specialist, Vidcheck. In partnership news, Ericsson and Google joined forces to combine Ericsson’s MediaFirst platform into Google’s Android TV ecosystem.

If you were at IBC – or if you were monitoring developments from home – what were your favorite announcements and developments? Let us know what you think the next year will bring for the M&E space after this year’s event.

Tom "TV" Burns

CTO, Media & Entertainment at EMC
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