NAB 2009: NAB Chief David Rehr Kicks Off the Show

LAS VEGAS: Sieze the day, David Rehr said in his opening remarks at the annual convention of the National Association of Broadcasters. Rehr delivered a keynote this morning that echoed much of what he said last year. Times are tumultuous, but new technologies present opportunities for growth. What follows is an edited transcript of Rehr’s remarks:

“We are witnessing exciting changes in radio and television. Changes that seem to happen in a blink of an eye--changes that can seem unsettling. But from where I stand, these changes are opportunities for us to seize.

The world is facing an economic crisis. That is unquestionable. But that isn’t stopping us. We are faced with making some tough decisions to ensure a strong future for our business. But from this adversity, we are finding strength, and directing our energy towards creativity, innovation and tomorrow.

We are taking control of our future.

…let’s turn to the journey television has taken and the opportunities, which are immense. We know that these past several years have been challenging for television. We’ve adapted to many changes in the marketplace, in consumers’ tastes, in technology and in the economy.

But in 2005, when Congress mandated full-power TV stations transition to digital, broadcasters took the lead in this digital revolution. By January, 97 percent of Americans were aware of the transition.

Over the past year, there has been a 57 percent increase in the number of stations offering their newscasts in high definition. Not since the first color TV sets entered American homes have we experienced such a revolution in television viewing. More than 600 stations across America have already encountered a smooth and successful transition.

The move to digital television has allowed us to move forward in making local, digital broadcast TV portable. NAB provided the seed money to support the Open Mobile Video Coalition--more than 800 television stations working to bring digital television to mobile and handheld devices. By 2012, we expect 130 million phones and 25 million media players will be able to receive mobile television. An NAB study concluded that TV broadcasters could see incremental revenue of more than $2 billion after 2012 with mobile DTV. I believe, the revenue upside is probably greater than we can even imagine.

We must focus on how broadcasters can be well positioned to capture these opportunities. And this mobile DTV revolution has already begun. Mobile digital television will launch across 66 stations and 27 markets…covering 38 percent of U.S. television households…and more will follow.

Television broadcasters are moving TV beyond the bedroom, living room or kitchen. That means watching “Lost” on your handheld media player or “Heroes” on your cell phone. That means anywhere you are, you can access the news or your favorite shows.

That’s our future.

I know many of you are thinking, “How do we do that during these tough economic times?”

First, we must make the best use of our resources. We must allocate dollars toward accelerating tomorrow.

With this in mind, three years ago, NAB established a multiyear, multimillion dollar technology advocacy program, called FASTROAD. This program is helping us explore, develop and accelerate the adoption of new broadcast technologies.

Every year computer manufacturers produce upwards of 40 million digital TV screens. We, of course, currently know them as laptop computers. Our FASTROAD program is working with manufacturers and their sub-system suppliers on how to incorporate DTV reception in laptop computers…both the chip and the antenna…so receiving digital television will be easier than connecting to Wi-Fi.

Second, we must work together to continue to accelerate technology and think of our business in new ways. We have recently seen a dramatic increase in online content being produced by broadcasters.

Our brands are unmatched in our markets. We know the power of radio and television. And using radio and television, we can drive consumers online. And once there, we can provide them with greater access to our advertising partners, further monetizing our platforms and theirs.

And third, we must maintain a realistic optimism. Nearly every industry in America faces tough economic times, but not many of them are as well-positioned to succeed as we are. During a time when there are more media choices than ever before in the history of the world…

[TV] viewership is increasing. In fact, it’s up seven percent since 2000. And though we’re providing more platforms for consumers to enjoy our content, 99 percent of video viewing was done on television in the past year. Broadcast TV stations are on the path to achieve $1.3 billion in interactive sales, a 26 percent growth rate this year. And in broadcast TV, we often forget the strength of our content.

In the 2007-2008 television season, broadcast content accounted for 488 of the top 500 programs watched in primetime. That’s a 98 percent market share.

That is stunning.

Ladies and gentlemen, radio and television are aggressively planning for the future. Though we’re focused on the future, we can find inspiration in the way great leaders faced adversity and change in the past.

President Teddy Roosevelt once said:

“Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”

Television and radio broadcasters are daring mighty things, forging ahead and spurring innovation that’s taking us into the future. And though we may stumble at times on our way toward victory, we will always keep our eye on tomorrow. We will not sit idle in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat. We will dare to do mighty things. And we, America’s radio and television broadcasters, will triumph.”