NAB2006 Gets Underway

The really big show draws nigh, and it's shaping up to be another doozy. It could possibly be even a little bigger than last year, and that one generated $30.4 billion in business for exhibitors, according to Dennis Wharton, spokesman for the NAB and its eponymous show in Las Vegas. The figure was derived from a post-show survey of exhibitors after NAB2005, he said.

Based on attendance numbers, NAB2006 could exceed last year's all-things-TV extravaganza.

"If the trend lines hold, we'll actually top last year a little bit," he said. Wharton said the final tally last year was in the range of around 104,000.

This year, a total of 1,450 exhibitors will cover 860,000 square feet of the Las Vegas Convention Center -- just a bit more than last year. The number of people coming from abroad is tracking ahead of NAB2005 as well. International registration stands at around 25,000, about 10 percent more than last year.

Registration for the concomitant Radio-Television News Directors Association convention is up as well. Noreen Welle, vice president of communications for the RTNDA said the organization was tracking more than 11 percent higher than last year.

Even spark head registration is up about 9 percent over last year's 1,100 registered members of the press corps.

The big buzz at the show this year will be the itty-bitty screen phenomena.

"That whole issue of mobile content delivery is going to be a recurring theme at this show. From a broadcaster's perspective, our members are going to want to know how to monetize that. There are a lot of partnership opportunities that will be explored at this convention," Wharton said.

Mobile content delivery, which consists primarily of watching TV on a cell phone or iPod, as well as other forms of delivery; chiefly, streaming. What with ABC and Fox recently announcing they would make certain network content available on the Web, broadcasters are keen on getting a piece of that pie, or at least safeguarding the one they have.

One of the more recently arranged sessions at the show -- "Turning TV Content into Revenue," Tuesday at noon in the Hilton -- will be keynoted by Anne Sweeney, president of the Disney-ABC Television Group.

"She'll be talking presumably about the deal where they're doing popular ABC shows for free online the day after they actually air," Wharton said. "That raised a lot of eyebrows at TV stations. There will be a panel discussion after that where they'll talk about new revenue opportunities in new distribution."

Those participating on the panel include moderator Tony Kern, deputy managing partner of technology, media and communications for Deloitte & Touche LLP; Bill Hague, vice president of Frank N. Magid Associates; Ric Harris, executive vice president and general manager of NBC Universal Television Stations; Larry Kramer, president, CBS Digital Media; Terry Mackin, executive vice president of Hearst-Argyle Television; and Susana Schuler, vice president of news for Raycom Media.

The streaming revenue session is but one example of how NAB is no longer just a broadcast show. Digital cinema is a growing area of interest, with Director James Cameron keynoting this year's weekend summit on the topic. Interest is booming in post production as well, Wharton said.

"Fifteen years ago, we could have kept this purely a show about broadcast technology," he said. "That would have been the wrong decision. That's why you see the world coming to NAB... even if you're in satellite, cable, motion picture, streaming or wireless... This is not your father's or your grandfather's broadcast business."

Wharton, who will mark 10 years with the NAB come June, said putting on the really big show is a snap, like say, constructing the pyramids... "Our job is just to build a city in the next couple of days and tear it down a week later."