NAB Show: 105,000 Close Personal Friends in a New ‘Golden Era’

NAB staff were all smiles Thursday as they wrapped up the NAB Show, with a robust 105,259 attendees during the most uncertain economic climate in years. The show brought a record number of international attendees, 200 new companies among the 1,650 exhibitors, and about 1,300 members of the media.

The show saw some controversy (provocative statements by actor Tim Robbins) insight from the creators of “Lost,” a packed state-of-the-art theater with, among other things, the latest in 3D—and exhibitors busy with prospective customers well into the show’s final day.

“You build a city, you invite 100,000 of your close personal friends, you welcome them,” said NAB Executive Vice President for Communications Dennis Wharton. “And host them for a week, and do it all over again the next year.”

Despite a few high-profile exhibitors who stayed away, the show boasts enormous anchor tenants like Sony and Panasonic. Others on board for just a few years, like Verizon Wireless, reflect the industry’s move toward the distribution channels of the future.

Wharton noted that the breakfast session with the Open Mobile Video Coalition attracted a standing-room-only crowd.

“Five years from now we’ll look back at the 2008 show as the show where the idea of mobile live mobile TV really got its jumpstart,” he said, adding that it’s critical to get a standard done soon and to avoid a VHS–Betamax-type format war.

As director Barry Sonnenfeld noted in his Spotlight Session, movie studios, saddled by massive distribution costs, are going with safe bets like sequels and romantic comedies. Television faces pressure on the other end from YouTube and other low-rent content. The result is innovation on television in shows like “24,” “Lost” and Sonnenfeld’s “Pushing Daisies.”

“The writer’s strike screwed things up royally, so it’s going to take a while to get back into the groove, but I would argue that this is the golden era to a certain degree for high-quality television shows,” Wharton said.