NAB: Despite Downturn, a Global Economic Machine

Broadcasters are cutting back, selling stations and firing staff, but NAB still expects the NAB Show to help generate some $50 billion in sales, with the DTV transition as the top driver.

Attendance is expected to be “right about” at last year’s figures, said NAB Executive Vice President for Communications Dennis Wharton—100,000-plus attendees and more than 1,600 exhibitors, assuming flight cancellations do not spread too far beyond American.

“We’re feeling really good about the way the numbers are holding up given the economic downturn that the country’s experiencing,” said Wharton. “The great thing from our perspective is that over 200 new companies are exhibiting on the NAB show floor this year, which speaks to the incredible power of the NAB brand.”

And the reach is global: More than 27,000 attendees, nearly one third, are international visitors.

In focus this year is content—everything on the content food chain from production to the end-user, Wharton said. Among the technologies likely to gain attention are mobile DTV, and delivery of mobile content across multiple devices gizmos.

And, of course, it’s the end of an era—the final NAB show before full-power stations cease analog broadcasts.

Exhibitors say they have the tools broadcasters need for today’s technical opportunities and tight budgets.

(For a look at some late-breaking NAB technology news, including the world’s smallest HD camera, see this week’s HD Notebook.)

“Even since NAB 2007, the demands on successful broadcasters, content creators or network operators have increased dramatically, especially with the current unsure economic outlook,” said Jeff Rosica, senior vice president for Thomson’s Broadcast and Production Solutions, Systems Division “It’s clear that the composition of revenue streams is changing, as are viewers’ and subscribers’ behaviors. The proliferation of technological advancements offering entertainment, news, information and sports choices from a growing array of multimedia platforms are reinventing business models.”

“In this environment, two things are going to grab peoples’ attention: Content creation and client devices that support multiple applications that deal effectively with HD and that have the ability to automatically create content, in real time, simultaneously, for multiple platforms with different attributes,” Rosica said.

And some note that in a tough economy, the need for tools that improve efficiency is even greater.

“Harris has high expectations for NAB,” said David Glidden, vice president for marketing operations at Harris Broadcast. “Regardless of the state of the economy, broadcasters are always concerned with implementing cost-effective solutions that improve the impact, reach and profitability of their operations.”

He said Harris expects its booth at this year’s NAB to be filled with customers from around the world.

“NAB is one of the few display environments where our customers can see the latest Harris products not only working but also working across a broad range of workflows,: he said. “Since we are featuring a significant number of new products at this year’s show, we expect our business after NAB to continue the growth we’ve been experiencing. NAB is also a great opportunity to catch up with our customers.”

Maximum Throughput Inc. provides software for broadcast and post and says this year’s show will see the birth of the SaaS (Software as a Service) trend in our industry.

“Especially in light of the unclear economic outlook and the continued fragmentation of content providers and content distribution channels and formats, we expect our customers to continue to seek out solutions that reduce their costs of operations,” said CEO Giovanni Tagliamonti.

Media distribution solutions provider Wegener sees several technology trends particularly attractive to attendees, including increased use of file-based workflows for regional ad insertions and greater bandwidth savings and bandwidth-saving
technologies, such as DVB-S2 satellite modulation and MPEG-4/H.264 video compression.

“NAB provides a tremendous venue for finding domestic and international opportunities,” said Kamy Merithew, Wegener vice president of marketing.

“NAB is always an important date on Sony’s calendar. It sets the tone for our business for the remainder of the year,” said Alec Shapiro, senior vice president of Sony Electronics Broadcast and Production Systems Division. “Of course, our goal is to always attract new business and, yes, we will be announcing new deals this week, but most important to us is that NAB gives us the chance to meet with our customers, spend some quality time with them and really listen to their needs–finding out what’s working for them and maybe what isn’t working so we can help. The focus is always on new technology and new products at any trade show, and those are important, but in the end, this industry is really about relationships.”