Future of Trade Shows

Often you hear the question if trade shows will survive in a digital world. The belief is that most products can be presented and traded online. Let’s look at the TV content industry. Entertainment for instance, in this case TV series, TV movies etc. that are sold to TV channels – and online platforms – worldwide. If you break it down to the basics content is nothing more than huge data files. Therefor media industries were the first ones disrupted by digital. Remember the music industry and the shake up caused by MP3 and iTunes. However, songs are small files, easy to transfer online even in limited bandwidth environments. Movies files are much larger. In consequence it took longer for the wave to arrive. But now, when you look on streamed Video on Demand services like Neflix or Amazon the shake up is on its tide.

Let’s look at physical market places like mipcom in Cannes or NATPE in Las Vegas? Are they being disrupted too? Not really! Regardless of so-called online market places got founded around the globe, promising easy access to screen favorite shows and easy negotiation deals with channels, none of them really got off the blocks! It’s usually independent producers or small distributors, people that are anxiously looking for more outlets for their content they can’t generate because channels go where the big content providers are and therefore don’t come to these new platforms.

The reason is the market’s dynamics requiring a different approach! Big content deliverers like the major Hollywood studios and other big production and distribution conglomerates are very keen to stay in full control of their content and would never put it into a “public screening library” regardless how much security is promised. It takes a lot of effort of potential buyers to come to markets like mipcom and to make screening appointments. And you can be sure that the studios will consider very carefully if they let you screen their stuff.

The other issue is pricing, to apply a price tag to an individual piece of content. Flat discount rates depending on how much content is acquired don’t work. It depends on how much you already purchased in the past and what can be expected for the future. How important is your network and what role will it play for strategic moves in that individual market? All these considerations cannot be covered by the algorithm. And of course, the TV content business is people business rooted very much in mutual trust. You don’t build trust easily in front of computer screens.

For physical market places this obviously is good news. Trade show companies such as Reed Midem, the organizer of the MIP markets in Cannes, successfully launch spin off markets in Asia and Latin America. These successes have a reason. Digitalization means an immense increase in competition, in this case, new platforms that all need content. To be successful you need FRESH content. Suddenly also remote areas of our globe become interesting and an economic push for the audiovisual production industry. Well, nobody knows how long this will last. Consolidation waves are part of the economic cycle and – most likely – those will be more regular and most likely much heavier.

What does this example mean for the exhibition industry? A lot, I believe. It shows that physical market places will survive – in any industry and regardless of waves of mischief. This does not mean that there are no challenges. However, this remains to be discussed in a separate piece.

Photo: mipcom