It’s that time of the year again, when the broadcast industry makes its annual visit to IBC, swapping the indoor canals of Las Vegas for the outdoor variety in Amsterdam. It’s an opportunity to assess progress on some of the industry’s key trends, share insights with fellow attendees and check out the latest wares of the vendor community. So, what can we expect to headline at this year’s show?

IT Broadcasting

To paraphrase a joke in the car industry about the never-quite-ready state of hydrogen fuel cell technologies; “IT is the future of broadcasting, and always will be.” We have long heralded the arrival of broadcast systems, built as abstracted software applications, on virtualised generic hardware, connected using IP networks. If we focus on file based media and OTT distribution, then of course we got there some time ago, and have been improving ever since. But in the real-time domain of studios and linear playout environments we have been edging closer without quite reaching the Promised Land.

We are however tantalisingly close to fully realising this now, and there will be much discussion in the conference sessions and on exhibitors’ stands about just how close we really are (I am speaking on a conference panel session entitled Are IT and IP Ready to Replace the Entire Broadcast Chain? for example). As always, it’s the last 5-10% that pose the most difficult technical challenges. Expect to hear a lot of talk about TR-03, Microservices, virtualisation and the cloud.

AR, VR and Immersive Experiences

While IT broadcasting is an exciting topic for the more technology focused amongst us, it means little to audiences. Thankfully we have something to excite that constituency too with a plethora of viewer facing innovations in the areas of Virtual and Augmented Reality. If HDR was, quite literally, the bright new thing at last year’s IBC, then these new forms of immersive experiences will offer the equivalent this year. We have seen the launch of flagship VR hardware already from the likes of Oculus Rift, HTC and Samsung, with Sony delivering later in the year and Microsoft just opening up sales of their HoloLens AR kits.

None of this equipment is of value without great content, and the TV and media industry is getting pretty excited about the potential. It will take some time to see just how mainstream such experiences turn out to be, but there will be no shortage of discussion at IBC on this topic. Expect to see long queues at the stands that provide demos.

The Future of Advertising

Sir Martin Sorrell, CEO of WPP and all round advertising guru is delivering a keynote speech at this year’s show and we can expect to hear a lot of discussion around advertising technology. Advances in data science, a rapid increase in connected devices (particularly TVs and STBs) and ever more focus on ad measurement, targeting and personalisation is driving significant investment into this area. Expect to see this topic well represented at IBC this year.

Finally, and part of the draw of IBC, is that there will be much else besides. New business model discussions, the rise (and fall) of MCNs, updates on UHD rollouts, viewer personalisation and no doubt a few drones. It makes for a must-attend event, and I hope to see many of you there.

Steve Plunkett, CTO, Broadcast & Media Services, Ericsson