Looking for that 'Secret Sauce'

Tom Butts is Editor-in-Chief of TV Technology.

Do you remember your first NAB Show? Regardless of how many notches you have on your convention belt, you probably remember it as a raucous, overwhelming mix of technology, policy, marketing and late nights. Kevin Gage described his first NAB Show as "like a kid in a candy shop," technically speaking.

That was many moons ago and now, as the NAB's new (and first) chief technology officer, Gage is even more excited to return to the show as an executive with the association.

I recently had a chance to talk with Gage about his new duties with NAB and his thoughts about where the broadcast industry is heading. Gage has spent more than two decades in the entertainment and media industry, developing digital platforms in television and music. While at Warner Bros. Studios, he helped launch the WB Network and helped developed interactive standards for interactive TV across multiple industries. He also helped develop the DVD specification and production facilities at Warner and was responsible for online TV strategies at NBC Universal.

Since coming onboard, Gage has spent much of his time canvassing the broadcast industry and taking stock of where we're heading. "I was really in 'sponge' mode when I came on, to really understand what the drivers and challenges are in this industry, from a technical, market and political standpoint," he said. "I'm having a lot of fun. Our ability to get out [our content] out to the consumer is as strong as anybody."

While Gage doesn't try to predict the future, he is trying to assess where the various players are heading in a multiplatform, multidistribution media universe. "I don't think it's any different than anybody else providing content into the marketplace," he said. "We're really trying to define that 'secret sauce' as to what works in a multichannel environment."

New broadcast services and initiatives like Mobile DTV and next generation ATSC standards development are just a few of the items on Kevin's to-do list. He describes ATSC 2.0 as an "evolutionary step" from the current standard but 3.0 as a "wipe the slate clean, blue sky" approach that looks at the future of broadcast without any constraints from current standards. "[ATSC] 3.0 is looking at—without anything holding you back—what could happen in the future," he said. Likewise with Mobile DTV, he says the "pieces are falling into place," noting the 70 percent increase in deployments over the past year as well as the recent branding and distribution deals that will help make Mobile DTV a "compelling user experience."

On his schedule for the NAB Show is a keynote address at the Broadcast Engineering Conference where he will discuss progress on the association's NAB Labs initiative. In addition to a physical lab and showcase housed at NAB headquarters in Washington, Gage says the lab will work to develop domestic and international and cross industry partnerships. "Ultimately it's going to be education and evangelism of what broadcast is doing today and where it's going tomorrow," he said. NAB Labs is also sponsoring the International Research Park, at the show, which will include the first U.S. demonstration of a 200-inch, glasses-free 3D projection system from the Japanese research lab, National Institute for Information and Communication Technology (NICT).

Last year, just prior to his appointment as CTO, Gage returned to the NAB Show after having taken a few years off from attending and says he found it "incredibly exciting." He's even more enthusiastic about this year's show. "We're really starting to ramp up the sessions that we're putting together," he said. "There's going to be a lot of new information coming out—not the same old same old—it's about innovation and the future."

Tom Butts

Tom has covered the broadcast technology market for the past 25 years, including three years handling member communications for the National Association of Broadcasters followed by a year as editor of Video Technology News and DTV Business executive newsletters for Phillips Publishing. In 1999 he launched digitalbroadcasting.com for internet B2B portal Verticalnet. He is also a charter member of the CTA's Academy of Digital TV Pioneers. Since 2001, he has been editor-in-chief of TV Tech (www.tvtech.com), the leading source of news and information on broadcast and related media technology and is a frequent contributor and moderator to the brand’s Tech Leadership events.