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As the industry gets used to working within the virtual space, U.K. media consultancy K7 Media has surveyed 40 clients — made up of some of the biggest international TV distributors, broadcasters, and production studios — to learn more about their experience with these new virtual events and the role trade shows will play in the ‘new normal.’ K7 Media’s head of strategy Girts Licis looks at what’s next for TV markets and conferences.
As it became increasingly clear that physical events would be unable to go ahead as planned, we noticed everyone — from existing event organizers to publishers and analysts — rush to establish an online footprint.
There’s no doubt the industry has adapted well to ‘attending’ events online, with 55% of clients surveyed reporting watching or listening to an online session curated by a TV event. Highly anticipated annual markets, such as MipTV, Realscreen, Asia TV Forum (ATF) and the Edinburgh TV Festival proved to be most popular. Beyond moving their physical event online, organizers have looked to diversify their offering, with these annual markets now providing a new service that isn’t attached to the scheduled event dates.
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Despite the accessibility of online events, only 30% of respondents claimed to have attended a market or conference they would not have shown up for in person; suggesting that the position of established events remains relatively strong. There could be an opportunity for these established events to build on the success seen this year by further developing an offering that runs alongside future physical events. The chance to virtually attend these events would be attractive to smaller companies, who view markets and conferences as too resource-consuming.
Looking forward to next year, we found that 52% of those surveyed had no plans to reduce budgets for attending markets and festivals for 2021. While this shows that the perceived value of physical events remains largely unchanged, we did note that 87% of the businesses surveyed think the number of people sent to attend each event would be reduced.
Examining the reasons for this, clients cited time and money spent on long-haul travel; growing uncertainty about the relevance of attending multiple markets; and positive experiences with virtual events.
On a whole, those surveyed were positive about their experience with online events. There were no reports of businesses feeling they’ve been adversely impacted as a direct result of the move online, with some even claiming to find digital events more effective. It’s worth noting that the majority did highlight that it’s too soon to comment on any long-term impact, and many expect physical trade shows to return once it’s safe for them to do so.
In terms of attending further events, safe distancing and other precautionary measures guaranteed by event organizers, as well as hope for a vaccine, are considered most important by those surveyed. Company-specific policies will also be important. As attendance can no longer be assumed, it’s possible we’ll need to see a number of big players announce their attendance before the rest of the industry decides to go to an event.
When asked what they are missing most about physical events, clients reported that networking — usually a major part of markets — was notably lacking and that it felt harder to build trust without face-to-face interactions.
The TV industry is very much a relationships-based business. For all the flexibility offered by online events, they are unable to replicate the social element offered by physically meeting with your contemporaries.
Ultimately, digital events have worked well while social distancing continues to prevent physical markets and conferences from taking place. Events should look at adopting some elements of their online offering moving forward, but this can’t replace physically attending industry trade shows.
While there hasn’t been an immediate impact on the lack of events, problems may arise further down the line if younger companies and executives aren’t able to travel and make trusted face-to-face connections that are fundamental to business deals.
Girts Licis is K7 Media’s head of strategy.
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