James Rowley-Ashwood is event director of the Broadcast Video Expo, the second largest industry tradeshow in Europe which runs in London next month. He talks to TVBEurope editor Neal Romanek about trade shows, collaboration with the industry and the future of BVE’s Manchester-based brother, BVE North.
How did BVE start? Can you talk us through the genesis of what has become one of the broadcast industry’s biggest tradeshows?
BVE has evolved through its smaller guises to become an absolutely giant event -much loved by its visitors, exhibitors and sponsors, BVE is the second biggest event of its kind in Europe now. Of course BVE benefits from being in London, which is the leading market in Europe for content production and broadcasting.
The show profile now expands across production services, acquisition, post, storage, broadcast and connected multiplatform delivery. We create high-level seminar content to complement the excellent exhibition side of the show. As a visitor, it’s three days of insight, networking and exciting hands-on demonstrations of the hottest new kit.
What is the future of BVE North? Is there a place for two UK tradeshows?
BVE North was set up to reflect the changing broadcast employment demographic. This was in place before I arrived, but I’m proud that BVE has continued to support the growing broadcasting industry in the North and our commitment to this region will evolve in line with that growth.
To what do you contribute the success of tradeshows? Internet connectivity seemed set to do away with them, but they just keep on proliferating.
It’s impossible to compare a large scale industry event, which brings together end users and suppliers in one place for three days, with the internet - although clearly they are both essential parts of the marketing mix.
Nothing beats a manufacturer or dealer demonstrating new kit live, in the flesh. You can’t get the same sense of occasion reading second hand what industry leaders are presenting right in front of your eyes in the seminar theatres.
But perhaps most saliently, the industry is very much a people business. Our job is to put the right people together in the right context. The networking is essential.
What does BVE offer that other shows don’t?
First it’s location. London is an inspirational place to do business. BVE always attracts the industry leading vendors who exhibit on the show floor, but where we offer something different is our free-to-attend high level seminars, which take place over three days and each is themed in line with our show profile. For 2014, we will have producers, production, cinematography, post production, broadcast IT and connected theatres, as well as a fully kitted out 4K cinema. We deliver industry leading insight that other events charge for.
In addition we always create outstanding networking spaces around the show for industry professionals to get together in a relevant context.
Will BVE be expanding into areas beyond broadcast?
Any expansion into further sectors will always be led by feedback from visitors, exhibitors and sponsors and I’m well aware of the need to constantly innovate – and put potential new buyers in front of our exhibitors.
‘Beyond broadcast’ (in inverted commas, which could have been the name of our Connected theatre) incidentally is a relatively new focus for BVE. For 2014 we will be pushing into the ‘connected’ arena, which is multiplatform delivery of content over IP. We can see crossover in the future with some aspects of A/V and I’m keen to enhance the show profile to best accommodate new demographics to the show, such as commercial, retail and entertainment brands.
Of course at the heart of BVE is the broadcasting and production sectors – this forms the nucleus of the show, and we are not moving away from that.
The conferences and seminars at BVE always seem to be very successful. How do you manage and produce them?
We are fortunate to have a legacy of very high quality speakers at BVE, often leaders in their sectors. Sitting in the audience are often experienced end-users and vendors. Naturally we start our research there – by interviewing key people. Further to that, our media partners, industry body partners and our internal researchers, who have access to publically available and privately commissioned research, shape the basis for the seminar structure. From here, we look to seek out the best speakers for each topic or panel.
How has industry feedback figured into the design of BVE and BVE North?
One thing I’ve been pleased with, from myself and the wider BVE team, is that we always look to include feedback from our exhibitors in any changes or improvements.
These companies are the key stakeholders in BVE. Of course with 350 brands on the show floor, we can’t take on every suggestion, but where there are clear signs of agreement between BVE stakeholders, we will look to make decisions which positively affect as many exhibitors as possible.
For BVE North, I’m in the process now of reviewing key visitor and exhibitor feedback – this will factor into our plans for next year.
What has your personal journey been in the development of BVE?
I joined BVE in October 2013 when it was in the middle of moving to Excel, and a few weeks just before BVE North 2012. My first role was to plan the sector expansion into the connected sphere. Previously I had been very active as a part of the Creative Coalition and the UK Industry Trust in future digital policy and digital piracy – because this massively effects the revenue development for OTT models. I’m actually a believer in IP delivery models and I still find it odd when I hear conference speakers say they don’t understand why OTT doesn’t work for anyone other than Netflix and Lovefilm. It works perfectly, just that the platforms which are ‘succeeding’ are unlicensed, taking eyeballs away from the licensed ones.
My career spans 18 years and started, funnily enough at EMAP, (former BVE parent before i2i). Having owned an advertising agency in the past, I know my way around a camera and editing gear – so for me, I love this job. I’m a creative tech nerd at heart who has spent quite a lot of his career thinking about the future of television.
What show are you watching now?
I’m actually in the middle of rewatching Arrested Development – (arguably) the finest comedy of all time. When that’s finished I want to catch up on Fresh Meat, loved the first episodes.