Hottest Tech Topics On Tap for 2018 PBS TechCon

LAS VEGAS—Skinny bundles, new business opportunities stemming from ATSC 3.0, UHD and High Dynamic Range, metadata, the SMPTE ST 2110 standard for professional media over IP, cybersecurity and artificial intelligence and machine learning are among the hot topics that will take center stage during PBS TechCon 2018 at The Mirage in Las Vegas, April 4-6.

This year’s TechCon sessions fall into five general categories: traffic, I.T., station management and professional development, digital and broadcast.

“As usual, ATSC 3 is running out ahead of the pack in terms of the broadcast side of things,” said Kevin Rupenthall, PBS director, Technology Communications & Engagement, during a webinar this week to examine the upcoming event.

[Putting Next Gen TV to the [Full] Test]

The broadcast program will include a couple of sessions on new business models and opportunities made possible by the Next-Gen TV standard. The “Dr. Lovestrange, or: How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love ATSC 3.0,” session by consultant Chris Homer, Mark Corl, SVP of Emergent Technology Development at Triveni Digital, and Walid Hamri, VP Solutions & Business Development at ATEME, will cover the latest ATSC 3.0 standard developments. There will also be a presentation on ATSC 3.0-ready antennas.

For those interested in the nitty-gritty of building out UHD, Alan Popkin, director of engineering at KLCS, will present “Building a UHD Production Workflow, Studio, Post and Beyond.” Sessions devoted to UHD and HDR standards developments as well as standards work in in MXF with AAC for next-generation interconnect, SMPTE ST 2110, the Precision Time Protocol and the AMWA Networked Media Open Specification (NMOS) are planned. The “When Meta Met Data” not only will examine how stations can use and benefit from metadata, but also may be the TechCon session with the catchiest name.

“This year we have a really strong data and analytics track related to digital analytics,” said Max Duke of PBS Digital during the webinar. Jim Sterne, chairman of the Digital Analytics Association, will discuss the latest developments in artificial intelligence and machine learning during his “Digital Transformation Through Data.”

Dan Haggerty, PBS director of Digital Analytics, will present the “How To Think About Data, Not Just Access It” session. “He is a favorite in the metrics area for his presentations just being filled with takeaways,” said Duke. Other digital track sessions of note include “Data Visualization Tools and How To Use Them,” “The World Isn’t Flat, Why Is Our Video?,” which will examine 360, VR and 3D TV, and “Digital Infrastructure and Strategic Collaboration,” a tech-heavy session discussing a project involving CPB, NPR and PBS.

The traffic track will address three general areas, including workflow, technology and networking, said Nick Agresti, PBS Scheduling Implementation. Network sessions will focus on Service Interconnection (sIX), including “sIX Overview and Update” and the “sIX Alpha Panel Session” with traffic and engineering representatives discussing their experience with deployment. Workflow sessions will examine the general break structure and how breaks are created, said Agresti. Wendy Ross, of the PBS Traffic Advisory Committee, will present “Raising Your Visibility-Welcome to Traffic Brandcamp.”

The IT program will give attendees the chance to have their enterprise and broadcast IT questions answered during the “IT Roundtable Discussion” hosted by Josh Winterrowd of MontanaPBS and Rhonda Holt, PBS head of enterprise technology. Cybersecurity will be the focus of a 90-minute supersession, “Cybersecurity: Ransomware, Hacking and the Aftermath” by representatives from KQED and WGBH who will share their experiences, as well as “Broadcast Infrastructure Cybersecurity,” presented by Wayne Pecena, director of engineering for Educational Broadcast Services at Texas A&M University.

[CES 2018: Big, Thin and Very Smart is TV Theme]

The station management and professional development track also will offer sessions with a technology focus, including “PBS TV Translator Relocation and Grant Program: Strategies for Success.” Representatives from T-Mobile will be on hand presenting. The “Managing Tech Teams: Creating NextGen Broadcast Teams” session will be led by Shadi Sabra from Ideastream—WVIZ in Cleveland, who will discuss his experience.

However, there is more to TechCon than sessions. The event will open Wednesday, April 4, with a presentation from PBS CTO Mario Vecchi and PBS Chief Digital & Marketing Officer Ira Rubenstein. On Thursday, April 5, Geoff Ramsey of eMarketer will present a keynote in which he will take a deep dive into platform usage and audience behavior by platform as well as examine how audiences are changing the way they consume content.

There are other extras as well, including an ETAC meeting and Station Rapid Innovation Lab gathering on Tuesday, April 3. Both will continue the next day. Wednesday, April 4, will begin GM day with a breakfast. There will also be a Digital Immersion Project workshop.

For those who couldn’t get enough of the TechCon daytime program, this year’s event will offer two Night Owl sessions on Thursday, April 5. “Skinny Bundles: A Night Owl Session,” will be a conversation-style session on various opportunities presented by virtual MVPDs and how best to leverage them. The other is “Why Can’t We Just Use iPhones? A Night Owl Production Roundtable.”

On Friday, April 6, there will be two breakfasts, one each for the Public Media Women in Leadership and the NETA Technology Council. There will also be an Interconnection Committee Meeting lunch. The day will close with a TechCon Town Hall where attendees can share what they’ve learned and ask any last-minute questions.

On Saturday, April 7, the day after the official close of the event, Amazon Web Services will conduct a boot camp from 9 a.m. till noon for TechCon attendees focused on cloud services and the new AWS portal.

More information is available on PBS TechCon 2018 website.

Phil Kurz is a contributing editor to TV Tech. He has written about TV and video technology for more than 30 years and served as editor of three leading industry magazines. He earned a Bachelor of Journalism and a Master’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism.