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06/09/2013

IBC2013 - A Time For Review...

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In addition to a spectacular array of technology on display in the exhibition, the conference provides an opportunity for strategists and management to debate the future and help us all to get a better view on what’s in store. For many, the success of their company or broadcast operation depends upon "placing the right bets".
There is also a need to sift out the reality from the hype. Very often the most talked about developments are not where the money is being spent right now. They are of course vitally important, but further down the road. So we have to ask ourselves are 4K, 3D and the cloud a real mainstream business for today? How much do I need to invest in these developments and when will the payback come?
The IABM as always is at the heart of these debates. With approximately 300 members worldwide and representing a significant percentage of the industry revenues puts the IABM in a unique position. Market research is a key element of the services provided to the industry and at IBC, the IABM will once again be sharing some of that data and additional analysis in a conference breakfast session.
Where is the money? Where is the growth? These are essential questions and with the rate of change we are currently experiencing, devilishly difficult to answer. But making the right decisions requires reliable answers.
The broadcast and media industry is, as of now, unique. It is very small compared to the telecoms, IT or consumer sectors. It does not therefore attract the same level of analysis from the major research organisations. The high degree of fragmentation adds to the challenge. Unlike others, broadcast and media has a large number of important suppliers but many of them are SMEs. There is of course concentration in a handful of major players but much less so than in the larger sectors where much more of a "winner takes all" dynamic prevails.
Therefore, our business is a varied and fragmented ecosystem of markets which does not attract much attention from market researchers but that doesn’t make good information and data any less important. As the sector’s primary trade association, the IABM has sought to step in to this gap and provide the answers which are so hard to find elsewhere.
At the IBC conference session; ‘Broadcast and Media Industry Strategy and Valuation’, Peter White, IABM Director General, will present the latest market intelligence based upon several research activities charting the overall health and direction of the industry.
A panel session following his presentation will feature some of the most influential market leaders and CEOs who will debate their take on the current situation. We are a $24bn Dollar industry which is only now returning to 2008 levels after several very difficult years. There have been some signs of ongoing optimism but this is heavily influenced by the different regions of the world. Europe for example is still in a period of uncertainty.
The IABM has looked at the influence of the move to commoditisation on profitability, leading to the need for new business models and fundamental restructuring. The good news is that when measured against other technology industries, broadcast and media is doing well. Margins, profits and liquidity are declining but remain stronger compared to other technology verticals. Investment in R&D is particularly high and we can perhaps attribute this to the rapid transition from SD to HD to file-based to multiplatform to software solutions and so on, all requiring substantial investment.
In summary, market growth does exist previously measured at about 5%, with larger companies doing better than SMEs. Profit is in decline but again there is room for optimism as IABM data shows more companies in our industry returning to profit.
Assuming (and hoping) the improvement is sustained is already demonstrating a new problem; a skills shortage. Companies have restructured and in many cases downsized. As business returns, a lack of skilled staff can limit a company’s ability to capitalise on the improvement. This is another area the IABM is working on to improve by providing training courses, in some cases targeted at transitioning engineers from other industries, notably IT, to the demands of broadcast.
This sets the scene for IBC. The IABM’s latest figures will be released at the conference session and will give us all a chance to re-evaluate the technology and business trends.
Read the article in the online edition of Regional Film & Video here.
(MH/CD)
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