NAB2006 Focuses on New Distribution Channels

LAS VEGAS: </B>More than 80 years ago, broadcasters gathered for the first NAB convention. Then, as now, it was targeted toward the broadcasting industry, with attendees meeting in a small convention space to discuss broadcast equipment and mull over hot issues of the day.

As the DTV transition matures, broadcasters examine other digital media delivery methods


More than 80 years ago, broadcasters gathered for the first NAB convention. Then, as now, it was targeted toward the broadcasting industry, with attendees meeting in a small convention space to discuss broadcast equipment and mull over hot issues of the day.

No longer. After all, not all of the 100,000 attendees expected to pour into Las Vegas during the week of April 24-27 will be familiar with SMPTE standards or triax connections. And to analysts who cover the industry, that diversity seems just right: This year's convention is just as apt to focus on over the air broadcasting as it is podcasting and mobile devices.

"I think the biggest topic at NAB will be simply this: How can owners of video content make money from distribution beyond regular broadcast?" said Josh Bernoff, an analyst with Forrester Research. "This includes VOD, video streaming, Internet downloads and mobile.

"Secondary, but still important, is: How can they manage all this content distribution?"

The NAB2006 convention will respond to the industry's growing diversity with a fairly well-rounded mix of sessions, speakers and exhibits for the markets of broadcast, satellite, cable, the Internet and mobile television, which looks to be one of the bigger topics at this year's convention.

NAB also continues to welcome groups that might have previously been labeled offshoots of the show's core audience, among them Webcasters, multimedia and post artists and editors, with different ideas of how video ought to be acquired, manipulated and distributed.

"It used to be that this show was just about broadcasters, but that's no longer true," said Richard Doherty, an analyst with Envisioneering, a research and consulting firm. "Now the convention is also about cable, satellite, the Web and podcasting."

And multimedia. And post production. And radio. And so on. NAB will have its work cut out in 2006 in attempting to host a convention of this scope, while at the same time tailoring the spate of sessions, conferences and keynotes to try and address each of those hot-button topics.


One of those key topics will again be the ongoing rollout of high-definition television. This year, the HD conversation will likely ratchet up even further, as the television broadcast industry faces a definite date for the end of analog television in 2009. Though most professionals in the industry have at least embraced the concept of high-definition technology, stragglers remain, and the NAB believes that some of these could begin the process of purchasing initial HD equipment at this year's show.

That could make 2006 a key sales year for the industry, if last year was any indication. The 2005 convention generated approximately $3.4 billion in sales, according to the association.

After encountering success with a new HD venture in 2005, the convention will again sponsor the NAB-HD pavilion, an HD broadcasting facility built within the convention center and giving attendees the opportunity to see an HD facility in action. A growing number of vendors will donate equipment this year, including Pixel Power, with its Clarity 5000 GX broadcast graphics system, and Snell & Wilcox, whose Kahuna SD/HD production switcher will manage signals. Miranda will provide signal processing and master control equipment.

"Many people who are shopping for HD equipment have only seen pieces, never the whole puzzle," said Jim Lien with Pixel Power. "The HDTV station exhibit is an ideal opportunity to showcase the technology to the NAB attendees in a more realistic operational situation than a show booth."

Another key topic is expected to be local HD news production. "Maybe there were one or two stations doing local news in HD last year, while today there are nearly a dozen," said Dennis Wharton, NAB senior vice president for communications.

While prohibitive equipment costs may have limited the number of stations opting to do local news in HD in past years, the NAB thinks this year will be different.

"More stations are using it as a promotional tool, and I think they'll come to NAB to ask questions and spend money to invest in local HD equipment," Wharton said.

Along with new HD technologies from myriad manufacturers, attendees can also expect to see a new batch of next-generation tapeless workflow technologies from Grass Valley, Ikegami, Panasonic, Sony and others.


Another key topic will almost certainly be podcasting, "which has been quite the craze in the last year," Wharton said. For the first time, the NAB has organized a Podcasting Summit as part of the Post|Production World conference. This session will explore such issues as encoding and production techniques, licensing and copyright laws, and delivery methods. The convention will also host a Web and Mobile Development Conference, which will touch on the opportunities surrounding Web design, new visualization tools and software, and revenue opportunities.

While the influx of mobile video devices may not have the same enormous impact on the market as the original Apple iPod music player had on the music industry, analysts expect a sizable shift in the way many customers begin to view and consume video. For example, Apple's iTunes Video Store is now allowing its customers to purchase single episodes of popular TV programs a day after the program airs. This year's NAB will examine all the associated issues that come with that new delivery shift--from pricing and rights management to marketing and advertising.

NAB approaches these key topics under the tutelage of David Rehr, the organization's new president and CEO, who will give his first state of the industry address during the All-Industry Opening keynote on Monday, April 24. Taking his post in December after long-time NAB President and CEO Eddie Fritts stepped down, Rehr comes to the industry from the National Beer Wholesalers Association. Following the keynote at NAB2006, Rehr will award the NAB Distinguished Service Award to three well-known television anchors--Tom Brokaw, Dan Rather and the late Peter Jennings--in recognition of their contributions to broadcasting.

Hollywood will also play a big role in NAB this year, as the editors of the Academy Award-nominated films "Brokeback Mountain" and "Crash" will be featured speakers during the NAB's Post|Production World Conference, April 21-26.

Hollywood will also have a significant role in the Multimedia World Conference as well, as HP Digital Entertainment Services Vice President Willem deZoete expounds on "The Digital Media Supply Chain: Hollywood Meets Silicon Valley" during his keynote address on Monday, April 24. deZoete will look at how video content publishers, post-production companies, distributors and retailers can reach new markets through the deployment of new digital content management solutions and services.


The digital cinema market will remain a key topic, and this year's fifth-annual Digital Cinema Summit will focus on how the technology is being put to work in real-world applications.

This year, NAB will work with the Entertainment Technology Center at USC and SMPTE to pull together case studies, tutorials, keynotes and panels to examine some of the current issues arising from the production, post production, distribution and presentation of digital cinema. The summit will also explore the newest generation of digital cameras, digital cinema mastering and distribution and exhibition issues. Other key sessions within the Multimedia World conference include IPTV World; the Mobile TV and Video Forum; and the MPEG Industry Forum and ISMA, which will look at advanced video services from broadband to wireless.

NAB will again reach out to the religious broadcasting community through the third-annual Worship and Technology Conference. "This has been a big growth area for us, partly because software and hardware is becoming so much more accessible," Wharton said. "The conference helps [the religious broadcast segment] take advantage of that accessibility."

Sessions will touch on some of the unique issues that religious organizations face when pulling together broadcast productions, such as lighting and camera control, digital content and audio for video issues.

The convention will again host RTANDA@NAB in the Las Vegas Hilton. This program is designed to address issues specifically for radio and television news directors.


NAB will offer attendees a glimpse of what the future holds with sessions such as "The New Age of Broadcasting: Advanced Media Delivery." This will focus on The Research Channels' Visions '05 Project, in which HD video shot from the bottom of the Pacific Ocean was transmitted from an underwater robot to a nearby ship. The video was then retransmitted via satellite by a system known as "HD-SeaVision." Other key sessions include "New Technologies for Digital Media Distribution," which will discuss how entertainment technologies, studios and content owners can work together to offer more choices for consumers.

NAB will also induct several broadcast figures into the NAB Broadcasting Hall of Fame, including 40-year radio veteran Dick Purtan and television personality Regis Philbin.