Plenty of releases hit our in-boxes regarding deals announced at the 2008 China Content Broadcasting Network (CCBN) show in Beijing, which closed a week ago. The event deserves a second look, if for no other reason than show season and other metrics.
The show closest to CCBN in North American terms is that of the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), which in 2007 attracted some 111,000 attendees. (Indicating a slowing economy, this year’s numbers are tracking 5 percent below where they were this time last year, according to our colleagues at CableFAX Daily.)
A comparison is in order. Five years ago, in a post-bubble and down year, NAB 2003 drew 88,000 attendees. The numbers for CCBN in 2003 were 35,000. But in the official boilerplate leading up to CCBN 2008, event organizers said that the show "attracts more than 60,000 professional visitors."
How many attended this year? According to one attendee, ARRIS Media Relations’ Alex Swan, the official number this year was 75,000. Whether this year’s event welcomed 60,000 or 75,000, those numbers are revealing. Whereas over the past five years, NAB has grown by about 25 percent, attendance at CCBN has increased by some 70 to 115 percent. Cable China Much of this year’s activity at CCBN and beyond derives from Beijing’s hosting of the Olympic games. What becomes of Tibetan or other protests against the Peoples’ Republic of China (PRC) remains to be seen, but it would take considerable force to derail the momentum building up to this three-week event scheduled for August.
A chartered Air China plane carrying the Olympic flame touched down Monday morning in Beijing, in a country whose infrastructure has been prepped for the burst of activity it will most likely see in about four months.
"Cable technology has been a prime beneficiary of the Games," said ARRIS’s Swan.
The Chinese cable market already was in rapid growth mode. Swan said that the overall digitalization of 37 of the nation’s major cities has resulted the deployment of some 30 million digital set-top boxes among an estimated 160-190 million cable subscribers.
Olympic games or other programming notwithstanding, the organic drivers of this growth appear to be not so much video as Internet access and gaming. "Operators who charged $2 a month for high-speed data a year ago now get $12, with next to no incremental network cost," Swan said.
Yet video on cable and beyond is advancing all the same. Swan said that video on demand, ad insertion and high-definition television were three areas in early-growth mode. "For those on the go, there is a lot of trade ink about Mobile Multimedia Broadcasting, four to five years in the research mode, as to how best to provision end-user device reception," he added. "(That’s) now in a Beijing trial with three other (large-city) trials to begin before the games."
That China has a lot of big cities goes without saying. Shanghai and Beijing each have more than 17 million residents, which is about the size of Los Angeles.
As for CCBN, Swan said that the "99/1" show rule still applied. (Ninety-nine attendees for every one buyer.) But given the size and ongoing growth of the Chinese market, that’s still a lot of buyers and related subscribers. And reason enough to take seriously the news emanating not only from non-Chinese vendors, but also from Team China’s emerging and branded domestic telecommunications manufacturing sector, which has its own reasons to look beyond its borders.
– Jonathan Tombes