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INTX is dead – Is this the beginning of the end of trade shows as we know it?


 

The International Broadcast Conference 2016 ended a few weeks ago. IBC is but one of many trade shows of 2016 very full TV trade show calendar. It is, I am afraid, an anti-climax to be back in the office, having toiled for the best part of a year to have a presence that was worthy of a large multi-national in the TV technology space. Don’t get me wrong it is a buzz being there, with great products and great people, meeting comrades in arms from all facets of the industry – But at what cost to the business, our health, and the environment? Naturally, on the first day, there is the anticipation of getting the show on the road; the doors open and in they all swarm – from the serious businesspeople to the tire kickers who are merely sent to look at the competition’s wares or the many amongst them who are looking for a job. We live the noise, the hustle and bustle and aching feet: Then suddenly it is all over – WHAT! All that work and suddenly back to the office … Yes, an anticlimactic end to the high of a trade show.  Let’s get ready for the next.

ATTENTION: Then out of the blue INTX (The NCTA Cable Show) was culled, and we were all stunned by the news! Is it the start of the demise of the traditional Trade show?  What next? How will this work out?

That led to some reflection.  Perhaps we are just kidding ourselves with this form of ‘peacock tail presentation’ of our wares because if we were to condense the actual ‘real-opportunity-for-sales’, we would see that the ROI is at best a little light from most if not all trade shows when they have gone on for far too long. Those of us who have done multiple TV trade shows will understand what I mean. It goes like this – A whole bunch of companies spend thousands of hours (and millions of dollars) organizing pop-up buildings to house technology presentations to have customer meetings and prospect for new clients. We ship the demos from around the world to that pop-up location (a place very unlike where they would be used) – They are expected to faultlessly work as if installed at a consumer’s home or an operator’s plant (for the back-office stuff). Booth ‘staff’ stand there in their corporate colors hoping that the sales team bring them prospects to see the TV offering. Yes! TV programs accessed with a remote control or tablet, which is the same as or similar to all their competitors in the same and adjacent halls. Oh! But wait, this is different it is from the ‘Cloud,’ you can get rid of your cable/satellite costs now, isn’t that wonderful? – Are you looking for such a solution? Oh! There is an RFI out. Great! Here’s my business card. INTX have called out the trade show in the quote below.

From the INTX website – “We believe large trade show floors, dotted with exhibit booths and stilted schedules have become an anachronism. Contemporary venues emphasize conversation, dialog, and more intimate opportunities to explore and interact with technology. Ending INTX gives us a clean slate, and we are excited to explore presenting our industry in new and different ways.”

Coming back from a trade show is quite an anti-climax because having crammed in hours of meetings throughout the year it all seems over too quickly. So much time to organize – so quick to end.  Remember those hundreds of international calls to decide on people, product, and placement. The ideas garnered for storytelling; the designing of phrases to capture the attention of prospectors who may want to buy some TV technology, and all of the stress of deadlines. There are so many heated debates and petty arguments that take place on the way, all over many minor things before the show even begins, such as shelving or no shelving, screen sizes, story sentences and then BAM! It is all over in a flash, torn down with mountains of carpets, cable and crap dumped in the trash. Am I the only one that finds that disappointing? What happens to all the people that fill the IBC halls full of intellectual phrases such as; ‘World Leaders in …, Best in Class Providers of …’ Well they all go home and prepare for the next event that is right around the corner.

The question is – In 2017 and onwards do we need to spend millions of dollars on steel girder structures, carpeted concrete floors and millions of megawatts of expensive electricity for TV, 4K UltraHD, VR, HDR demos that only live for a week? It is not ecological, sensible or healthy for humans, let alone the planet. The NCTA thinks not.

N.B. In the USA alone Tradeshows generate an incredible 600,000 tons of trash every year, just to show-off ‘product and services’ to the 60 million people who attend them. Ironically we even have trade shows around Waste & Recycling!

All of this wasted money and mountains of trash that we pour into landfills and incinerators is especially troubling when the poor are still starving, and the world around us is a bubbling hotbed of xenophobia and warmongering.

Meanwhile, back at base, there is the post trade show autopsy that discusses how it went, were the goals achieved, what can we do better? Of course, there are good points to be had at all of these events. Some people/companies will have maximized their presence with press, analysts, customers and prospects. We have the positives and the negatives from all corners of the enterprise, we do write it all down, share it and get on with business. Then in a very short space of time we brush off our dusty last show personas and look towards the next show, which is the BIGGY – CES2017 … Where it all starts over again in a more gigantic and irrealistic manner.

p.s. Who has a better idea of how to get all these worldwide industry executives to your people, to your stuff? That is not an easy question. Because if a show does not close down like INTX has, we will always be present the following year.  The reasoning is that if we are not then the Company must be in trouble.’

HDR – I Have Seen The Light


cartoongoHDR was a finalist in the DTG Innovation Awards, and had a presence on the DTG stand at IBC 2015.  This is the first time that I have seen the light as far as HDR is concerned.  Up until now I have not seen any good reason as to why HDR should be advertised as a ‘product’, rather than a technology ‘feature’ or ‘option’ for the TV industry.  Desperate times needs desperate measures I suppose, especially in a market where 3D flopped and 4K is being chased by 8K.    At the IBC 2015 show all the furor was around HDR offering brighter, better pictures, however I finally saw a real and very good practical use for the technology being demonstrated by goHDR a spin-off from the University of Warwick, England.

goHDR was able to show how HDR technology can be used to enhance ‘segments’ of the screen or ‘items’ in the shot. i.e. in difficult lighting conditions (e.g. outside broadcasting) at, let’s say, St Andrews, you could highlight a golf ball and track it in a cloudy sky enhancing its visibility as a unique enhanced HDR object … and there were many other examples of other use-cases.  In simple terms goHDR could be described as the video version of Dolby Atmos, with its manageable ‘sound-objects’…For those who are not familiar with Atmos, you are now able to manipulate sound objects to create an immersive multi-dimensional environment in a theatre.  Imagine hearing a helicopter that is flying from behind you, over your head and then enters the screen, or an arrow shot towards you flashes past your left ear and you hear it fly past … OK, OK it’s got to be heard to be believed.  It is truly amazing.  However in this story HDR was invented for video and designed to enhance the picture quality of a TV in both HD and UltraHD.  Without the technobabble, HDR is simply all about high contrast at the pixel level that creates depth and dimension and makes colors seem punchier…however it is applied to the whole picture on the TV, not objects in the scene as shown by goHDR.

The technology that goHDR demonstrated has to be fully analysed for its relevance to TV and whether or not it really does what it says on the tin,  however, the basic understanding is that it really has taken HDR to a new place and, by the way, it works very well on handheld devices.  Suffice to say I saw its relevance in Surveillance i.e. HD & UltraHD CCTV, also for Military, Scientific, Broadcasting, Medical and many other areas where you might want to manipulate a segment or item in a video using HDR for optimum effect.  I feel that I have seen the light and can now be more positive about this technology.  But hey! Don’t let me tell you the story, let the wonderfully ebullient Professor Alan Chalmers explain it to you at goHDR explained his enthusiasm is uplifting.

‘televisionis horribilis’ – The TV Industry Bringing About the Demise of it’s Own TV Content Business


IMG_1707‘televisionis horribilis’ – 2009 – “Don’t be fooled by the technology gurus and those who would build a better mousetrap each week thus disrupting the status quo of Television. We don’t always need a lot of what is offered but unfortunately, in this day and age, we believe that in Digital TV, technologically speaking, we need to offer such complex products even down to Twitter, Google and all that other Social Media access; and even Widgets…Deployments however are struggling to make sense of the business models and technology is leapfrogging technology before chosen deployments can take place”.   I will highlight the issues, mock the troublemakers and generally comment on what the world of Digital TV is doing in the race to capture our money…because after all that is what it is all about – making money from the customers and increasing that well know acronym; ARPU.

That aforementioned piece was written in 2009 when it was clear that fragmentation and disruptive technology had been identified as the future mess that was to befall Digital TV. I did highlight issues, I did mock certain pretenders to the throne but like all modern businesses there is a desire to keep rolling along regardless of whether things are indeed required or not. In fact, during this period, fragmentation was mainly about the plethora of different transmission, middleware, security, applications and a whole swathe of other technologies for TV. It is now 5 years on with fragmentation about the only word we now hear at conferences, seminars and during interviews with TV Tech personalities. Finally! Has the penny dropped? – Well it is not quite as simple as that. Yes we have a huge fragmentation problem but it is now multi-faceted. What we have now are both technology and business model fragmentation, all mainly due to the surge in larger bandwidth offerings, cheaper memory, more powerful chips and content available just about anywhere at all; even when you buy a Starbucks [1]coffee. Fragmentation of technology is one thing and there is a lot of scrabbling about to have standards and common software principles in every sector both old and new (as there always has been)… but now the fragmentation at content level is wreaking havoc.

Yes technology fragmentation (there I said it again!) has handed the market an additional problem which is the unravelling of the TV business into individual content providers, on a provider by provider, App by App basis with some of them offering unique content. The term ‘A La Carte’ has been bandied around for many years but it has finally unfolded with Netflix, HBO, Amazon, Google, and others trying to be the unique supplier of TV content to consumers. Not entirely a la carte but not bouquets and bundles as per the payTV providers either. This week, someone was heard announcing on a UI-UEX panel at Connections Europe, that consumers have been asking for ‘What They Want -When They Want – Where They Want’, and as a result of this need has seen them abandoning traditional payTV services to achieve that. Not all of the TV industry believes in that 10 year-old made-up mantra.

The reality of ‘What I Want When I Want, Where I Want’ is quite different in different markets, especially outside of the USA where ‘Local Language, Broadcast Rights and Release Windows’ are a sport in themselves. At Connections Europe the Roku representative had the answer to our terrible TV fragmentation problem – ‘We have addressed the problem of fragmentation with Roku TV, an OTT device, which allows all content to run on a single platform’ – Dah! Dah! Well I was flabbergasted to say the least, sat there wondering if anyone at Roku has ever really been in the TV industry.   Apple TV got there first, some years ago, dear Mr. Roku and failed to be able to solve the common platform for all content issue even with their world-wide deployments. We saw them naturally defaulting to local language, an inability to provide access to a wide range of content because of the very convoluted licensing issues that abound in a complex European marketplace. iTunes default by offering up mostly the Top Ten (most popular content) … and that dear friends is perhaps a sign of things to come for all the others now entering this market.

We know that we can listen to music over and over and over again but Video Content, TV Shows, Movies etc. is a different proposition. It is in the main a single viewing experience. We want NEW and WE CANNOT WAIT and we even BINGE voraciously (well some tiny percentage do) and then we sit pensively awaiting the next show to be produced. In the meantime we have other Top Ten shows to consume and we are like sheep we all follow the masses from Walking Dead, Game of Thrones to House of Cards and Braking Bad as if there is nothing else interesting to watch. Well that is what we are led to believe by the protagonists of OTT TV who only mention these ‘hot’ shows during all discussions concerning the future of TV viewing. Gardeners World, Living Planet, The Simpsons, The 10 o’clock news never gets a mention!

In the world of TV the channels are not helping themselves much – programming is becoming unusually boring in some sectors. On certain nights in France you can see 4 to 5 same genre shows transmitted one after the other on the same channel. The average viewing time in France is a mere 3.5Hrs/day/person.   With 4 NCIS in a row you are already close to that … as is 4 episodes of Bones or 1 news, 1 quiz-show, 1 movie and perhaps another programme added to that line-up makes 4 hours easily reached.   The film could come off a VOD catalogue or a PVR not from live broadcast. So little time for all that content but such a choice! My point is that the over-abundance of channels with thousands of hours of shows, films et al cannot be consumed. Tastes are so diverse that any ‘personal’ line-up will be diverse. We also believe that everyone KNOWS what they want to watch. However if they have not seen it how will they know what it is all about? Marketing works. TV advertises forthcoming shows on TV, Magazines also, Billboards too.

So what will happen if it gets to the point that you pay ONLY for what you watch? Will we arrive at a situation whereupon we will have to re-hash the way the content is packaged – It will be impossible to please 100 million people each evening with their individual viewing packages and for a sufficient panorama of content to always satisfy all the tastes of all the people.  TV programming is a little like running a restaurant with the need to stock up the kitchen ready to serve a public who choose meals randomly from a menu ; done so that you have some control of the purchasing of ingredients and delivery process ‘n’est ce pas’? Splitting everything up into individual suppliers will quite frankly only lead to a dog’s dinner of a situation for the consumer. We also all know that ‘A La Carte’ in a Restaurant is more expensive than a ‘Set Menu’.   Imagine that you can only get a full meal by having to pay to go into each restaurant in order to have a satisfying array of limited choice. An entrance fee per restaurant – Fish from one, Meat from the other, Dessert elsewhere, Cheese in another, Wine from elsewhere. You would soon look for someone who could supply you a one-stop-shop location offering up a whole bunch of variety I would imagine. I know I would!

The debate about ‘A La Carte’ [2]and individual content suppliers always turns around a made up work at Connections – ‘recency’ i.e the most recent TV Shows and Movies without anyone considering the other content that is very heavily consumed such as News, Documentaries, Light Entertainment and many other genres. So we all clamber for the ‘Top Ten’ and the masses pay for the ‘Top Ten’ and all that other content just gets ignored or is badly served – long-tail or back-catalogue and then eventually dies away due to lack of funding…

It may be the younger generation who don’t watch TV like their parents or so we are told. There is constant scaremongering regarding cord-cutting and the millennials and their refusal to pay for content that they don’t watch; add to this the fact that they don’t want advertising either, begs the question – Who will fund content? Is the TV industry heading towards an era of ‘televisionis horribilis’.

I found this very informative piece at Variety.com (reference below for full article) … A quick aside about a la carte. If the government forced networks and distributors to offer individually priced channels at retail — yes, that could lower the total cost of someone’s bill. But the cost per channel would skyrocket (ESPN could go up to $30 per month, according to one analyst estimate), and consumers would end up paying much more for far less. A broad shift to a la carte would spell doom for many networks.

Quote reference: http://variety.com/2013/biz/news/pay-tv-prices-are-at-the-breaking-point-and-theyre-only-going-to-get-worse-1200886691/#

[1] http://www.starbucks.com/coffeehouse/wireless-internet/starbucks-digital-network

[2] http://www.rapidtvnews.com/2014112336161/ott-bundles-will-cost-as-much-or-more-than-regular-cable-subscriptions.html#axzz3Jy26uWhB

TV and Twitter – #Abuse or #Banter


The Eurovision Song Contest whether you like it or not is one of those annual events that is very divisive. Some people claim it is the best three hours of television in Europe each year, others state that it is an annual cringe-fest best watched drunk with friends. In the good old days, when it was cool to do so, this mega event would have seen fervent discussion, in both the work environment and the pub, with a lot of moaning about the performance of the UK’s song. You would have no doubt heard the infamous, “La Norvege nul points” done in the best French accent regardless whether Norway was in the running to win, which actually happened back in 2009. The UK, by the way, has not won the coveted Eurovision crown since 1997. #WTF. Please excuse that Twitter expletive; it has relevance later in the piece. Finally the discussions clearly centred on the much renowned and vilified block voting practices that always make each year a hoot. This banter about TV shows is known in colloquial terms as the water-cooler moment. For many of you reading, the water-cooler discussions now centre more on scenes from Breaking Bad and House of Cards, which is hardly the same now, is it? You might say if you are a fan of the event, that the Eurovision Song Contest is clearly a form of light-entertainment that will most likely outlive the complex TV drama series for years to come.

So the wonderful Eurovision Song Contest, for the hilarity of the commentary and tongue-in-cheek moments, will remain a guilty secret pleasure for those that are afraid to engage openly on the subject with colleagues. Fear not dear reader there is a new, wider TV water-cooler way out for those who feel the need to give opinion and commentary; without coming out of the closet on Eurovision. This is Social Media. Whilst more pertinent during the show than after this new communication channel will give you access to millions of like-minded people and plenty of hearty banter. Hang on this is not quite the same I hear you cry! Well you are correct because this way of interacting changes the commentary landscape enormously. Let us explore this more. Combining Social Media Platforms with popular TV shows offers up a soapbox for wider serious commentary, hilarious banter and a whole lot of trouble. Here is an example during the Icelandic performance: @bbceurovision – He’s been Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar. Wouldn’t Icelandic Jesus be Jesus Godsson? #eurovision. #LOL! …

 

Full Story Here: http://www.marketme.co.uk/tv-and-twitter-abuse-or-banter/  

Is There Really A Loss Of Allure To CES 2013?


200px-The_Bubble_British_PosterWhen you don’t go to a Trade Show that you have been regularly visiting for the past 8-10 years it is a slightly uncomfortable feeling.    It sort of feels like you are missing out on something…but are you really?  CES is after all a gadget show and do we need to go if we are not Retailers of Consumer Electronics?  What a lot of people do not know is that there is a lot going on behind the scenes in more of a Business-2-Business nature; especially in the Television world that I move in.   A lot of networking takes place, and a lot of  ‘private suites’ allow for plenty of businessmen to gather, show of their wares in private, discuss and potentially deal-make!

However as a ‘tech journalist’ you might think that things have a different allure.  Certainly the BBC’s writer David Pogue has just publishd a very poignant article from his perspective.  It can be found in full here: http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20130104-does-ces-have-a-future

His outlook is that there is mostly years of repetition of  technology along with what I call ‘catch-up’ Companies there ‘en-masse’ with cheaper but the same gadgets from the year before and therefore swamping the floors, the industry and the news with old stuff in effect.  There is also a decline in the Big Companies with Microsoft having pulled out!   Apple is not there either and if Apple is not there how can it truly be called THE Consumer Electronic Show?  Qualcomm even did the keynote speech this year – Qualcomm?

Another journalist from our immediate industry Leslie Ellis pointed out that the the trending products were waterpoofing gadgets for your smartphones and tablets.   I suspect the Hunting Knife Company and the Mini Flying Helicopters will still be there in the South Hall and that Spearmint Rhino will still get its CES clientele.  Ummm, so what is it I miss?

Well in all honestly I do miss it as it kicks off the business year with a hectic, manic traipse around Vegas!  Therefore life without an early dose of CES certainly makes for a less-tired more calculated start to 2013.