Ahead of IBC SHOWCASE, IABM CEO Peter White looks at how the industry is adapting to the new Covid-19 world.

Peter white

Peter White

‘Adapt or die’ was the theme for IABM’s annual conference back in 2014, and we’ve been beating that drum very hard ever since; industry transformation has been accelerating ever more quickly in the intervening years. The Covid pandemic has now pressed the transformation accelerator pedal right down to the metal, and we are seeing rapid, irreversible change across the industry; just keeping up is a struggle for many – let alone laying solid plans for the post-Covid future. That’s why our Special Report, timed to coincide with IBC, is about ‘Charting Media & Technology Drivers of Change’. The report is based on extensive qualitative and quantitative research carried out over the last few months by IABM’s Business Intelligence Unit. It identifies five key areas where change is most pronounced and where companies need to act fast. These are:


The pandemic has dropped a digital bombshell on the media industry. The lockdowns in the second quarter of the year have driven digital services consumption worldwide while putting the industry’s traditional revenue sources under pressure. Netflix added about 26m subscribers in two quarters while Disney signed up almost 30m between March and August. Most media organizations were hit hard by pandemic-induced shutdowns and have had to accelerate their move to direct-to-consumer models.

Technology only as enabler

The shutdown caused by the pandemic has forced media companies to increasingly see technology only as an enabler of business continuity and future digital business models. The business continuity crisis has forced broadcasters to prioritize technology solutions that enable them to continue operations in extraordinary circumstances.


The pandemic has accelerated media companies and technology suppliers’ transition to as-a-service technology business models out of pure necessity. These include subscription-based and on-demand models. As-a-service is more suited to the unpredictability of modern media markets, which has been taken to an extreme by the pandemic. Technology users are moving their budgets away from hardware and legacy software and towards subscriptions, on-demand payment models, and cloud computing services.


Despite the shutdown caused by the pandemic, media companies still want to control technology roadmaps to make them more flexible through insourcing and direct technology investment in suppliers. In a shift from the previous long-term trend towards best-of-breed, some media companies are now prioritizing solutions that cover several parts of the content supply chain to guarantee interoperability and consolidate spending. This could be either a short-term shift due to changing priorities in the pandemic, or a longer-term trend – only time will tell.

New Generations

The move to direct-to-consumer platforms is causing media companies to radically transform their organizations. This not only includes a change in the business and technology fundamentals of their enterprises but also a change in the fundamentals of their workforce. Skills such as software engineering, cloud architecture, UI/UX design and data science are becoming more important for media organizations. When moving to direct-to-consumer offerings, media companies are more likely to cut existing staff and acquire new skillsets in this process.

Responding to the Special Report, Telestream CEO, Dan Castles, sums the outlook up perfectly: “An old saying goes that technology only exists for two purposes: to make you money or save you money. As we have seen in the last five months, our industry has risen to the challenge and technology has been the enabler to help business to survive. When we exit this current environment, all of our businesses, including Telestream, will look different but will be stronger as a result.” 

What’s the future for shows?
The pandemic lockdowns have also wrought havoc on the way our industry does business, with physical shows cancelled and replaced with online offerings. IABM moved early in this regard – more on this below. But what is the future for exhibitions – will they become just virtual events as some predict? My feeling is that major shows such as IBC, as well as continuing to provide the vital, concentrated networking and business meetings between buyers and sellers, will also play a key role in getting company teams together who now work remotely – both vendors and broadcast and media companies. This particularly applies to global businesses and will provide a valuable opportunity for relationships to be maintained and enhanced so that when they return from a show back to their remote environment, people will feel closer together. The smaller shows should recognize that they will not attract an international audience certainly in the short term and focus their differentiation through concentration on regional audiences and/or sectors – sports, post etc.

Whatever happens, the shows themselves will likely not command the same level of investment that they used to pre-pandemic. Some companies I have spoken to - despite reduced sales due to the impact of the pandemic - have returned good profits this year, some even record profits. They told me this is due to the substantial cost savings made by not going to shows with big booths etc. around the world, the magnitude of savings from which came as a surprise to some. I cannot see any CEO or Board giving up these savings lightly and, with a strong digital presence proving effective for certain elements of the business, the impact on shows will be substantial going forward. On the other hand, given the long business cycles in our industry, these companies may still be benefiting from legacy investment in pre-lockdown events and have not yet seen the full impact on sales; the full picture will only become clear in the next six to twelve months.

Bringing the industry together
Right from the start of the pandemic - even before the lockdowns – IABM moved decisively to support its members digitally. Many SMEs make up the backbone of our industry and don’t have facilities and skillsets to do virtual stuff. That’s where IABM came in with its wide-ranging virtual platform, standing solidly behind our members and enabling them to reach out to our industry-wide audience. This includes many broadcast and media technology buyers and users who have voluntarily become more involved and engaged with IABM via our Global Engaged Partner programme.

This has proved itself as a genuine two-way street, with vendors hearing what end-users are wanting, planning and thinking, while end-users have their eyes opened to the widest range of offerings - and not just from the large companies that can maintain a sophisticated online presence. IABM’s virtual platform has evolved into a central repository for industry information and it has become very clear that the end-user and vendor communities are ever more inextricably linked, collaborating, recognizing the need for change and building ever stronger relationships. This has become a central pillar of IABM’s mission – to bring together all parts of the industry from students to media companies and every stage in between.

IABM is also running the Future Trends Channel in conjunction with IBC throughout September and early October. The mission is the same as the physical Future Trends Theatre, which IABM has been curating for the last few years: a packed agenda of both live and on-demand presentations that explore up-and-coming technology and business trends and how they will segue from today’s environment.

People matters
My final thought is on business transformation – a subject that has been dear to me throughout my career. Yes it was happening in our industry anyway, but the pandemic has massively accelerated it. Many companies will never return to full on-site working – it has become clear that many roles can be carried out equally or more effectively remotely. What will become key is the need to manage that remote workforce successfully – keeping it motivated and engaged. We have all become much better at remote communication and working; my own team at IABM has amazed me with its energy and drive, with maintained or even enhanced lines of communication. The trick is going to be maintaining this level of performance over the coming months and years. My earlier comments about the important role that industry events can play in bringing teams together will be of tremendous help here. What is certain is that we will all be learning new skills!