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Inside the chief executive office

Managing growth for one of the key events on the industry’s calendar is the unenviable task that befalls IBC CEO, Michael Crimp, on an annual basis. James McKeown sat down with IBC’s chief executive to discuss IBC2014 and all that lies beyond

Managing growth for one of the key events on the industry’s calendar is the unenviable task that befalls IBC CEO, Michael Crimp, on an annual basis. Not only that, but this year also marks the launch of IBC’s new Content Everywhere series of conferences that will be hosted in Europe, MENA and Latin America. James McKeown sat down with IBC’s chief executive to discuss IBC2014 and all that lies beyond

We are fast approaching IBC2014, and I imagine all systems are very much ‘go’ for everyone at the company. So close to the event, what aspects are you now focusing on ahead of day one in Amsterdam?

At this stage of the process, our core campaign is in full swing to ensure that everyone who wants to come to the show is registered and organised in time. IBC is a big event and Amsterdam gets very busy when we are in town. The sooner attendees know when they will be here and where they will be staying, the smoother things go for everyone.

We are also finalising the last details of the conference programme and the special feature areas we have dotted throughout the show, not to mention confirming speakers for the IBC2014 Conference, Rising Stars Programme and the IBC Leaders’ Summit. There is a lot to do, but our experienced team is working hard on all the different and diverse areas of the show and will be ready to hit the ground running in September.

In terms of your role as CEO, what areas typically provide you with the most challenges once the event is underway?

Dealing with the unexpected is always a challenge. When you have over 1,500 exhibitors and over 52,000 visitors there will always be some onsite issues. But we have processes in place to deal with pretty much every eventuality, supported by a great team of creative and hard-working people who are more than capable of responding to any unusual situations that might arise.

Oddly enough, it is also when the show is on – and we have a good proportion of the people that run the industry under the same roof – that we do much of our future planning. That is always exciting but you can’t let it distract you too much from what is occurring out on the show floor and in the conference.

IBC is an undoubted success, with total registrations and attendance growing steadily each year. What are your expectations for this year’s event in terms of numbers and the demographic of attendees?

We are looking to increase and diversify again on last year when we had 52,974 attendees. We are lucky in that for many of our attendees, IBC is a firm fixture on their calendar, but we never take that for granted which is part of the reason why we are constantly looking to evolve and add new features, such as this year’s debut of IBC Content Everywhere. Given the high profile and disruptive nature of IP connectivity and the second screen, I would expect that should prove highly popular and help us bring in a new audience to the show.

Plus, of course, with Professor Brian Cox OBE delivering what should be an absolutely riveting keynote this year, we are further elevating the international profile of the conference.

How difficult is it to keep building on the successes of previous years to retain that growth arc?

As I mentioned, we are a fixture on the calendar but we are also one that is constantly striving to improve. We reflect the industry, and as it changes, so do we. We have an innovative and highly experienced content team that has a deep knowledge of current industry trends and direction and this feeds back into the conference and the special areas we develop.

IBC is in constant motion and different every year. Sometimes the changes are obvious, such as with the launch of IBC Content Everywhere and in previous years the establishment of IBC Rising Stars and the IBC Leaders’ Summit. However, sometimes it is incremental, such as the subtle reorganisation of this year’s conference into themed days, each one telling a different part of the innovation story of our industry.

One thing that does not change, though, is the great service the exhibition team provides which means that, even with the economic climate still being a challenge, we are in the enviable position of having a waiting list for space.

What did you learn most from last year’s experience that you have taken on board for 2014?

Last year we trialled Touch & Connect, which uses near field communication technology to provide contactless information exchange, as well as granting access to a 24/7 online portal. It was a great success, and we are now rolling that out to all of our expected 10,000 visitors to IBC Content Everywhere Europe.

You mentioned that Professor Brian Cox OBE will be giving the keynote address in Sunday’s ‘Television’s Expanding Universe’ session. How significant is his involvement for IBC, and what can delegates look forward to from his address?

Brian is rapidly establishing himself as one of the best science broadcasters of his generation. As you would expect, he is also an extremely entertaining and engaging speaker, but beyond that he also has some genuinely interesting perspectives about the industry. That is partly because he trained in a very different discipline and can step back and examine it as an observer, and partly because he is such an ardent enthusiast for broadening the public — and industry — engagement with science.

In terms of the conference programme itself, what can delegates look forward to from what is a busy five-day schedule?

Aside from our keynote address from Professor Cox, and you can expect some truly incisive addresses from the other pre-eminent thought leaders including Channel 4’s CEO, David Abraham; President of Google Europe, Matt Brittin and Tim Davie who is CEO and Director, Global BBC Worldwide. The new conference format we are unveiling for 2014 means that each day will be anchored by a keynote session as we examine a different aspect of the industry. We still have our streams that form the pillars of the programme, themed through technology, business, content and strategic overview, as well as the free-to-attend industry insights sessions. In general, though, this subtle change in format will make it much easier for delegates to plan their time and avoid clashes within areas of interest.

You’ve also announced the new IBC Content Everywhere series of events, the European section of which will launch in Amsterdam, with further events in MENA and LATAM. Why was this the right time to launch such a series, and what is the primary goal for these events?

IBC Content Everywhere lets us expand in many different ways: to different audiences; to different regions; from being a one-week event to being a 365-day-a
-year presence. With the Touch & Connect technology, it truly takes us into the digital space as well. It was simply the right time, both for us in terms of growth and for the industry that is pioneering new development in the field.

To lean on your experience in the content everywhere space, how well do you feel the traditional broadcast sector is applying itself to the changing landscape brought on by developments in technology, systems, platforms, connectivity, and much else besides?

I think it is doing very well. You only have to look at some of the astonishing figures that have come out of the World Cup in terms of terabytes per second streamed, downloads for the official apps, tweets per second, and more, to understand how quickly the traditional sector has adapted. There is shakeout underway, as the spate of high-profile mergers from earlier this year indicates, but consolidation in some respects is simply a sign of a maturing industry and increasingly commoditised technology.

Looking to a vision of the future, there has been a lot of focus on TV/media 2020 – in the absence of a crystal ball, how do you think the industry will change by the time we reach 2020?

Viewers will expect content everywhere and be able to watch what they want, when they want, on what they want. They will want the experience to be seamless, painless, and genuinely transmedia. As an industry, we have to supply that. I think you will also start seeing more pronounced influences from different regions, both in terms of the way that technology is used and deployed and in the content too. A global audience consuming content sourced from a free and global marketplace will fundamentally change the established patterns of commissioning and consumption in the industry.

Finally, you announced the very sad passing of IBC President, John Wilson. What are your reflections on Wilson as a person, and his achievements in helping to shape the modern-day IBC?

John is one of the main reasons I’m talking to you today. He made IBC what it is and has been hugely influential, both for us and in terms of the wider industry. He understood that change was an inevitability and that we had to embrace and reflect that if we are ever going to progress. It is his legacy of constant progress and development that underpins all that we do, and which makes IBC so successful.