What’s New for 2015 NAB Show

Building on momentum started at last year’s show, the NAB Show this year is introducing the “Aerial Robotics and Drone Pavilion” in the South Upper Hall.

LAS VEGAS—It’s the land of reinvention, where a parking lot normally filled with tumbleweeds is transformed into a cleverly-themed roadhouse that holds the thrilling promise of escapism in the desert. Change and more change is the theme of both Las Vegas and the NAB Show itself—sometimes welcome, sometimes confusing. The industry thrives on these variations—it’s what keeps us coming back some eight decades after the first convention; it’s what has transformed the NAB Show’s engineering-heavy sessions and conferences into a new-media-savvy show that now welcomes broadcasters, bloggers and comedy aficionados in the same welcome sweep.

It’s set to be one of the most exciting spots on the convention floor. A cage, flying vehicles… what’s not to love? The NAB Show will try and give the masses what they want with a new “Aerial Robotics and Drone Pavilion,” including an enclosed flying cage that will give attendees a close look at the technology behind drone cameras. The pavilion will include demonstrations as well as a panel of industry experts speaking on laws and regulations surrounding drones, the use of drones for news gathering, capturing aerial video and employing range extenders. The pavilion is open during exhibit days in the South Upper Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center, 9:15 a.m.–6:00 p.m.

“We saw these types of devices jump out during last year’s show,” said Chris Brown, executive vice president, NAB Conventions and Business Operations, who is responsible for overseeing the content within the conferences and sessions at each NAB Convention. “That was perhaps the first time we had some significant presence overall from companies in this category. Then, over the course of the last year there has been an increasing focus on drones in the media and at other events. Clearly in the world of content capture, these devices can have enormous utility. It may be early in the lifecycle for these products, but part of what we want to do with the show is feature technology that is on the horizon.”

With seven separate conference tracks offered at the show, the NAB Show will introduce a new “Online Video Conference” to focus on the key issues facing online video providers of original content. Sessions will cover topics such as virtual MVPDs, the migration to OTT, online original content, gaming and sports, user-generated content, cross-screen targeting, online advertising metrics and new online video platforms. The program is intended to provide a forum for those that may not normally think of the NAB Show as their event; which covers anyone from online video distributors and others from the non-traditional side as well as those from broadcasting, cable and MVPD, all of which are working on the digital side. (Tuesday and Wednesday).

“We really felt it was important to create a dedicated conference for the online video space,” Brown said. “Part of this was driven by the fact that the growth on this side of the media ecosystem just continues to accelerate; but part of it was also driven by a desire to make it very clear that the NAB Show provides a great home and learning lab for anyone playing in this space.

“That means friends, competitors, partners, you name it,” he said. “And all gain so much more when they can sit together to share ideas.”

To recognize the impact that digital technologies play in our industry, the NAB Show is introducing a new “Digital Leadership Award,” which will be presented to an individual from a broadcast station, group or network who has had a significant role in transforming a traditional broadcast business to succeed on digital media platforms. Those up for consideration include the use of technology, mobile applications, social media, and Web-based information management and marketing. This honoree will be recognized at the 2015 NAB Show Technology Luncheon on Wednesday April 15. “The idea is to hold these companies up as an example that may inspire others,” Brown said. “[NAB hopes to be a] champion for innovation in the broadcast sector, to help keep the industry ahead of technological change.

The digital fingerprint will extend to conferences, too, with an expanded lineup within the Broadcast Management Conference and Broadcast Engineering Conference. A new two-day “Digital Exchange Strategies for Television” workshop will cover issues of importance to TV managers who are moving their operations into the digital space. The workshop will discuss the value of digital partnerships, social strategies, and multiplatform monetization ideas as well as the use of aerial robotics in broadcast, cybersecurity and programmatic options.

Though it’s a topic sometimes lost among deep discussions over standards and technical updates, a new three-day conference will focus specifically on finance and investing. Enter the new “Media Finance and Investor Conference,” which will take place Sunday, April 12 through Wednesday, April 15. Designed for CEO, CFO and investor relations experts, the conference will include panel discussions that look at advertising growth and future strategies that will impact on everything from spectrum auctions to OTT technologies to political advertising. There will also be individual company briefings by publicly held media companies. (Sorry journalists, no press allowed.)

“This program is important because it will link discussion about the broader trends impacting the media and entertainment industry to the effects those trends are having and will have on the financial dynamics of the industry,” Brown said. “It is really a unique forum that, to some extent, formalizes much of the interaction that tends to occur around the show in hotel suites and elsewhere with companies meeting with brokers and other financial executives.”

For the first time, the NAB Show will welcome in the co-located ���New Media Expo,” which will give voice to bloggers, podcasters, Web TV content creators and social media folk in a separate conference. The conference—which will actually be a full conference and expo held next to the Convention Center at the Westgate Hotel (formerly the LVH)—will include more than 100 educational sessions within new media exhibits and the popular Speed Networking sessions. The expo will cap off with two new award programs: the “Podcast Awards” and the “Web Television Awards.” And if you’re hunting down celebrities from the new media world, this is where you’ll find them, from speakers like comedian Dennis Miller to radio personality Adam Corolla.

“They will bring a new level of energy, entrepreneurial spirit and perspective to the entire audience mix,” Brown said. “This helps further diversify, and strengthen at the same time, the overall NAB Show audience.”

A new feature within the conference programs called the “Crave Cave” is designed to give fans a chance to meet and talk with speakers after the session. Add couches and mood lighting and let the hero worship begin. The caves will be found in rooms S226 and N231 in the LVCC during show hours.

For those looking for a chance to ask detailed, technical questions that only an expert can answer, the NAB is introducing the “Post Production Campus,” a learning and networking area on the show floor that will feature 30-minute sessions by instructors and editors as well as an “Ask the Expert” booth. The campus will be open during show hours all week.

“The production and post-production communities are inherently geared to collaboration and shared learning so we think the campus will add significant value to the overall show experience for these professionals,” Brown said.

Though not technical brand new this year, the two-year-old SPROCKIT program brings something new with it each time. The program is designed to give entrepreneurs a leg up when it comes to getting a foothold in the professional video community— a longed-for move both for new companies and the old-school media firms who are looking for new and innovative partners. About 30 new companies will participate in the week-long program, companies like aioTV, an over the top video platform; Bcast, a next-generation social broadcasting network; and Unruly, a video ad technology company. Haven’t heard of them yet? Perhaps that’s a good thing when it comes to keeping the industry invigorated.

“We have seen these companies turn their SPROCKIT experience into real results,” Brown said. “Last year’s class was able to book significant business through their involvement and a number drew some major investments,” with a number of SPROCKIT companies either acquired or funded by major media companies, including Shelby TV, which was acquired by Samsung in 2013; SnappyTV, which was snapped up by Twitter in 2013; and Watchup, which received $2.75 million in new funding from Tribune Media in 2014.

There’s a good reason why it’s tough to find a seat at an NAB keynote address. One of the more popular events are these signature speakers and keynote addresses, which this year will include a reasonable amount of zombie and witch discussions. Thank heavens. The director of the film “The Blair Witch Project,” Daniel Myrick, will share secrets at the Post|Production World keynote; while the creators and producers of the TV show “The Walking Dead” will host the opening general session. At the Technology Luncheon, Actress Tracee Ellis Ross will be honored with the NAB TV Chairman’s Award just before the annual Radio and TV Engineering honors are awarded.

To encourage busy attendees to stop— even briefly—and listen to what’s new, the NAB Show is introducing a set of “NAB Show Snackable” tidbits, which include a Super Session conversation with activist and filmmaker Morgan Spurlock and a live broadcast studio setup known as StudioXperience.

What’s a must-must see?

“This is nearly an impossible question to answer as there is so much to see and to some extent it depends on what lenses you are looking through,” Brown said. That aside, a starting point might be the North Hall, where the future-focused featured areas are sitting, including SPROCKIT, the NAB Labs Futures Park where “the true R&D projects are on display—think 8K and holography,” Brown said, the Connected Media IP area, and the ATSC Technology Pavilion.

“Of course, this is only one of three halls, so it is only scratching the surface,” he said.

Good luck to us all.

Susan Ashworth

Susan Ashworth is the former editor of TV Technology. In addition to her work covering the broadcast television industry, she has served as editor of two housing finance magazines and written about topics as varied as education, radio, chess, music and sports. Outside of her life as a writer, she recently served as president of a local nonprofit organization supporting girls in baseball.