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Technology wins the day at NAB2003

Despite the war in Iraq, a mysterious virus and a sluggish economy, 89,000 attendees came to Las Vegas and focused on the technology on display. The NAB said that number and the proliferation of new and exciting things to see--coupled with broadcasters’ lack of spending the past two years--helped invigorate the show.

While the crowds seemed smaller, the mood at NAB2003 was generally upbeat.

While the crowds seemed smaller than the official NAB attendee number would reflect — particularly among Asian and European attendees — the mood was generally upbeat. “I think there was a good crowd that was genuinely interested in investing in new technology,” said Ajay Chopra, founder and co-president of broadcast equipment vendor Pinnacle Systems’ Broadcast and Professional divisions. “That was not the case at last year’s show.”

Indeed, many manufacturers seemed generally pleased with the turnout, citing a record number of sales leads, an improving sense of the U.S. economy going forward and broadcasters’ seeming willingness to begin spending money on new digital equipment. Most executives also agreed that the next two months should provide a clearer picture of the perceived recovery and its impact on business.

Also changed from last year was the halting of consolidation among equipment vendors that seemed to sweep the industry. Of course, this being the NAB convention, there were a few rumors. At this year’s show Pinnacle Systems announced a number of joint technology “initiatives” it was entering into with Sony Electronics, to enable Pinnacle’s technology to work directly with Sony’s in such major production areas as editing, playback, recording and servers. This touched off speculation that Sony might acquire Pinnacle, but both companies denied such negotiations were in place.

The FCC was unusually quiet on such important issues as the digital transition and media ownership rules, which caught some people off guard.

At the public meeting, Powell did hint that the Commission’s stance on relaxing the ownership rules — that currently limit one company from owning a newspaper and TV station in the same market — was legally sound and that it would stand up to expected challenges in court. However, he would elaborate on whether the Commission would require cable operators to carry all of the broadcasters’ digital channels. Powell did say that while Congress mandated the transition to digital television transmission by 2006, it did not require dual “must-carry” on cable.

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