A preview of the commercial AV forecast.
What a world we live in now! When each of us started this year, the furthest thing from our minds—apart, perhaps, from a select few of us—was the possibility of going through a massive economic closure due to a global pandemic. Commercial AV was booming, riding the wave of a strong global economy rooted in exceptional in-person experiences. By contrast, now, here we are, working from home as we avoid those very experiences that AV professionals had worked to support and enhance. This situation makes us all wonder what the world will be like once things are open again, and we’re free to move about. As for the commercial AV industry, what will AV providers be working on?
The good news and the bad news is that things will certainly be different, even if the extent of that difference will only wholly be known once we’re on the other side of this crisis. That’s bad because some business models have been disrupted and they must change; that’s good because, in many ways, we’re witnessing an acceleration of trends that had already been in place. AVIXA’s past and present market research sheds some light here, even if definitive answers remain elusive.
To start, let’s look at the top five solution areas that AVIXA forecast to dominate commercial AV revenues from 2019 to 2024, back when the Industry Outlook and Trends Analysis (IOTA) reports published their 2019 version. They were as follows: conferencing/collaboration (15.6 percent), digital signage (13.8 percent), learning (13.2 percent), content distribution (11.7 percent) and live events (10.9 percent). I included each one’s respective percentage contribution to global revenues in 2019.
The clear casualties of the current environment, based on AVIXA’s weekly COVID-19 Impact Survey, are live events and digital signage—in that order. Live events are in-person gatherings by definition, and, so, with nearly all global events of any kind on hiatus right now due to large gatherings being prohibited, this solution area is at a standstill. There is some optimism that live events might return by late in the third quarter of this year, although that will vary dramatically by country and even region. Accordingly, we’ll see a clear hit to revenues, perhaps pushing live events well out of the top-five ranking.
Digital signage has been affected similarly, even if not quite to the same degree. Originally, AVIXA had forecast this solution area to experience strong enough growth to propel it to the top of the list by 2020. The key vertical markets in this case are retail and hospitality, which rely, respectively, on shoppers and travelers venturing out of their homes. Some projects can continue as businesses finish out work and plan for an eventual reopening, but a meaningful return to strength for this year hinges on timing. If the economy reopens early enough in the third quarter, retailers will have time to go forward with signage projects meant to support the holiday rush. That will certainly happen in some parts of the globe, but it might not occur in key western economies. That makes digital signage a lopsided opportunity area—one more likely to fall in the rankings list than rise in it.
Looking past the declines leads us to the opportunities and the accelerations we previously noted. Let’s start with a less-obvious one that is linked to the live-events discussion we just had: content distribution. With events temporarily benched, corporate enterprises have been forced to shift their approach to communications. Instead of gathering at corporate events, companies have instead become more and more like broadcasters, producing audio and video content that can be pushed out via a number of channels. Although this happened before as a way of reaching audiences with increased preferences for video, the trend has received a boost in the current environment; that’s translating to opportunity for AV providers, some of whom focused on live events in the past. To be specific, this means investment in hardware for recording, storage and distribution, as well as investment in pre- and post-production services. Providers that AVIXA surveyed point to this as a rising opportunity now and beyond the end of the pandemic. Accordingly, expect content distribution to climb in the solutions rankings.
Conferencing/collaboration and learning go hand-in-hand from here. As we are all aware, a significant portion of workplace interaction is now occurring via cloud-based toolsets. Zoom, Teams, BlueJeans (recently purchased by Verizon) and WebEx are just a few examples. Moreover, education has been forced to transition over to distance learning, with classes moving to virtually 100-percent online in many cases. Some of this is done using the same software and cloud-based solutions. Camera-mic-speaker bundles exist, and they’re needed at every endpoint. It’s no surprise, then, that AV providers have been asked to help support business needs like this through solutions offerings; this development serves to amplify what were already strong areas for commercial AV.
AVIXA’s Impact Survey reveals conferencing as the most pronounced opportunity both within the next six months and beyond. Even a return to out-of-home offices is viewed as a continuation of the trend, as companies reimagine their workspaces in light of a heightened interest in—and acceptance of—remote work. Education will likely be similar.
The big question now is whether the growth areas for commercial AV are enough to offset the declines other areas are seeing. AVIXA plans to tackle this as part of its annual refresh of the IOTA reports, due out this June. Tune in then to learn more as we reveal how the trends discussed here translate into the revenue outlook for this year and beyond. The results might surprise….
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