This is the first of a series of articles written for the Public Media Alliance, and published in the PSM Weekly newsletter.

The Public Media Alliance is the largest global association of public service broadcasters. Our members are the organisations that communicate daily and free of charge through TV, radio and online with the 2.5 billion citizens living in the 54 countries that our members serve.

Making the most of available media technology is at the heart of being an effective public broadcaster.

The challenge is that the technology is constantly changing and the budgets are getting tighter. PMA aims to give members insights and information about all areas of multi-platform public media but the technical angle poses some specific challenges for us. We are unable to recommend products or services and we can’t answer your specific technology questions but we do want to stimulate and inform your understanding when it comes to what’s available.

So we’ve invited Rob Ambrose to explore some technology issues for us in the coming weeks. We’ve known Rob for some while and he has the benefit of coming at media technology with a practitioner’s insight and experience as well as his recent experience working in the technology sector. Rob is a consultant, industry analyst, journalist and technologist providing strategic advice and content creation to media companies and their technology vendors. He is happy to meet any PMA members at the upcoming International Broadcasting Convention (IBC) in Amsterdam by prior arrangement. If you would like to meet Rob at IBC just email us at info@publicmediaalliance.org

IBC 2017

More than 30,000 broadcasters from around the world will be in Amsterdam in mid-September for IBC, the leading global media technology event. With 1,700 exhibitors in 15 exhibition halls, along with hundreds of conference sessions, it is the perfect place to spot technology trends that will impact the future of your media business.

There are many reasons for attending IBC, particularly for those organisations planning a new technology project. But it can be a bewildering event. Getting the most out of IBC depends on some planning.

Shortlisting Vendors

IBC makes it easy to compare multiple vendors side-by-side: there is no quicker way to evaluate several potential solutions and draw up a shortlist. An IBC demo will not get into the level of detail needed for a final decision, but allows you to get the feel of a product and how well it could work for your organisation.

Vendors will always want to show you their latest, most exciting features – regardless of how relevant these are for your business. Plan ahead and build a check list of essential capabilities and use that to guide the demo and meeting.

Most important of all is the chance to test the vendor’s team and culture. Do they listen to your requirements and respond appropriately? Or do they try to force you into their “one size fits all” box? Are they a vendor you could see yourself working with in a difficult project?

Tip: Always book an appointment for a meeting and demo, don’t show up unannounced. This will ensure the vendor has their expert team on hand and will signal that you are a serious buyer with an active project.

Spotting technology innovation

IBC is a hot bed for the newest and most innovative technology. Expect to see wall-to-wall IP at this year’s event with many vendors demonstrating their IP-enabled solutions, and the evolution of new standards like SMPTE 2110. Artificial intelligence and machine learning will also feature prominently, and cloud-enabled solutions provided as-a-service are near-ubiquitous.

Technology to enable new business models like programmatic advertising and subscription OTT video services will also be widely featured.

Of course, the innovation being promoted by vendors is not necessarily what all customers need. Savvy IBC visitors focus on emerging technology that offers the chance to streamline operations, create more revenue and reduce costs.

Tip: Look beyond the biggest, glitziest booths to find the really innovative vendors who may have great solutions at affordable prices.

Hearing from technology leaders

IBC brings together the leading thinkers from a huge range of broadcasters and technology vendors. Our industry is hugely fortunate to have so many experts willing to share experience with their peers.

If you are fortunate enough to have an IBC Conference pass, use the online agenda in advance to plan which sessions to attend. The conference is in several streams, spanning technology, content production and business strategy – as well as keynotes from famous names.

Many vendors also arrange private events and seminars with leading speakers. Look out for their invitations.

Tip: If you don’t have a conference pass, make the most of the many free conference sessions. The paid-for sessions are usually freely available via streaming – worth catching up with after the event.

Social networking

What sets IBC apart is the chance to meet friends, colleagues and new contacts socially. These informal connections create immense value and will help you cut though the marketing and PR spin to find the real insights into emerging technology and the best vendors.

Plan your evenings as carefully as meetings during daylight hours, and if you are new to IBC or the industry there are dozens of events every night that provide an opportunity to build networks and create new connections.

Tip: You’ll be invited to many social events by technology vendors hoping for your business. Choose the events with the most interesting speakers, and use the chance to mingle with broadcasters from around the world to share ideas.