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Media, Entertainment and Technology Is Both Theme and Goal For NAB Show

For the international entertainment industry, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Show, recently concluded in Las Vegas, is still the world’s grandest bazaar, registering a record 103,443 attendees (of which 26,714 came from 161 countries outside the U.S.). It’s followed by the IBC, which will take place in Amsterdam in September, with 55,800 participants.

At this year’s NAB Show, every aspect of the industry was represented and, even though hardware got the largest share, TV stations, regulators (such as commissioners of the FCC, the U.S.’s Federal communications regulatory agency), ad agencies, content producers and distributors, also took part in a prominent way under the unifying theme: “Media. Entertainment. Technology” and, for good measure, they added: “The M.E.T. Effect.” Then, to further stress the entertainment portion of the show, the sub-theme was: “Where Content Comes Alive.” An important segment of the show was represented by Internet giants such as Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook and Google, to the point that some participants nicknamed the NAB “Nothing About Broadcasting.”

In terms of figures, there were 1,806 exhibitors (of which 750 came from outside the U.S.), 700 sessions and 150 trade publications represented by 1,518 reporters, all gathered in a one-kilometer wide Convention Center complex. The exhibition space was divided into three main areas: the North Hall, the Central Hall and the South Hall, which had a lower and an upper level. However, exhibitors were mostly scattered, which made it difficult to locate content companies.

Clearly identifiable were exhibitors in the Drone Pavilion and Futures Park, featuring the new TV broadcast standard ATSC 3.0 — defined as the Next Gen TV — which, among other elements, will provide interactive features. There were also Beijing, Bavaria, Belgium, France, Argentina, Brazil, Canada and Israel pavilions. One pavilion that received lots of media attention was the Cybersecurity and Content Protection Pavilion, especially geared toward the Hollywood studios.

While April 22 and April 23 were exclusively reserved for conferences, the exhibition floor was open on April 24 through the 27. There were also a total of 58 hospitality suites scattered among four hotels. Free shuttle service was available from 36 citywide hotels.

The latest technology was not only on display, but also being used in practice. For example, pre-registered badges were once again available for pick-up at 14 hotels. The highlights of new technology ranged from the new ATSC 3.0 broadcast TV standard that the FCC is hoping to make into a voluntary adoption by the end of this year, to something so esoteric as the possible changing habits of radio listeners during autonomous driving.

In terms of A-list speakers, on the podium stood Steven Swartz, president and CEO of Hearst; Ajit Pai, FCC chairman; Robert Greenblatt, chairman of NBC Entertainment; Craig Barry, EVP at Turner Sports; talk show personality Larry King; and Maria Elena Salinas, of Noticiero Univision. At the Television Luncheon, Salinas was inducted into the NAB Broadcasting Hall of Fame.

Slava Levin, of Canada’s Nextologies and Ethnic Channels Group, has been attending the NAB Show in Las Vegas for the past 20 years, and found the event important “to meet with lots of program partners [i.e., ethnic channels that his group distributes internationally] and small TV channels looking for signal distribution.” However, he didn’t have a stand, and met people at hotels, on the convention floor and at restaurants instead. Nonetheless, his schedule was “jam-packed through the end of the show.”

Since Levin also runs a technology company, he attended the show to look for “new forms of signal delivery for both linear and OTT.” In this respect, Levin emphasized that “for linear I mean ‘closed networks,’ like cable and satellite TV, while OTT is an open network. And please note that IPTV can be used for both a closed network and an open network.”

At the Futures Park Pavilion, several companies featured the new broadcast TV standard ATSC 3.0, which received lots of media attention.

The standard combines IP with over-the-air broadcasting and can display up to 4K UHD resolution, which will open up some issues with MVPDs. A total of 21 sessions were devoted to the subject.

On the market’s opening day, NAB president and CEO Gordon Smith delivered the annual State of the Industry address, focusing on changes and the resilience of local broadcast television. “We are witnessing the thrilling innovations taking place in 4K UHD and Next Generation Television, along with new technologies bringing radio to every device.”

He continued: “John F. Kennedy said, ‘Change is the law of life.’ Comedian Steven Wright once noted, ‘Change is inevitable, except from vending machines,’ and [the late comedian] George Carlin said, ‘I put a dollar in a change machine. Nothing changed,’ [and] professor and author of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey, [added] ‘there are three constants in life: change, choice and principles.’

“But there are some things technology will never change: Listeners and viewers will always want that local connection that broadcasters provide — with the weatherman who tells them if a storm is approaching, or their favorite DJ who warns them of the traffic building up ahead.

“Even in this era of unprecedented competition for eyeballs, broadcast TV airs 90 of the top 100 most-watched television shows every week. This brings us to the very exciting development of Next Gen TV,” he said. “This is the world’s first broadcast standard that offers the advantages of broadcast and broadband. With Next Gen TV, we see the seamless convergence of over-the- air and over-the-top. We are pleased that the FCC is carefully considering our request that broadcasters be permitted to voluntarily adopt Next Gen TV — just as the wireless industry is permitted to move from 3G to 4G to 5G as technology improves,” Smith concluded.