Both an exhibitor and a visitor, Jonathan Try, vice president of technology at the Digital Media Centre, gives his impressions of IBC 2009, which came to a close on Tuesday.


This year IBC appeared to get off to a good start, plenty of people about, but after a while it became obvious that the show is a lot quieter. It’s not just fewer people but the noise level is much reduced. Previous years it’s been virtually impossible to carry on a conversation in some halls as manufacturers demonstrations bellowed at each other, just like market stall traders. But this year there is almost none of that, and the show is better for it.

As usual, the size of the show means that as I write this, I’ve still not entered every hall, but I will make it before the end of Tuesday. What I have seen is the expected demonstrations of 3D and some surprisingly good (if you stand in exactly the right place). Pricing is nowhere near low enough to get general acceptance by consumers, but then I was reminded yesterday that it took a while before HD was rolled out. It’s more than 20 years since the first HD demonstrations at IBC and only now are we seeing HD channels available in the home.

One noticeable change is that there is even more willingness by manufacturers to work together to provide solutions. Standardisation of interfaces and messaging means that this has become simpler and it’s now widely accepted. A very positive step in my view. Otherwise it looks like a lot of consolidation and product improvement has gone on since last year and there’s a lot of equipment being shown in reduced cost versions.

The Harris stand should get a special mention for their innovative display of a broadcast facility and the areas where they can provide products to support the operation. They have even put this into the world of ‘second life’ so it’s possible to take a virtual tour. Very creative!

The announcement that the BBC iPlayer will become available to other providers is good news in some respects. It will probably lead to a de facto standard but at the same time increase the amount of content consumed outside of the traditional broadcast channels. Who know where this will lead.

One question I’ve heard being posed many times is who will pay for innovation in a difficult economic environment. The consumer expects more for less, for example HD for the same cost as SD and this feeds all the way through the value chain. This ends up putting financial pressure on many of the exhibitors at the show and no doubt will lead to traditional competitors having to merge to combine resources.

It’s a shame Sony aren’t here this year and they’re not the only ones. Many people use IBC as a time to compare products from suppliers and missing one of the major players makes that difficult. If a purchase decision has been left to now, then those who are not here will not necessarily be in the race.

It seems a quieter show this year but a more productive one from my point of view with plenty of opportunities for in depth discussions. Whether it’s the economic climate or the threat of the ‘flu, it seems quite a few visitor have stayed away, but for those that have come it continues to be a very valuable event.