Confab to explore opportunities across media supply chain

LAS VEGAS—Does this year’s NAB seem to be an amalgamation of better ways to tell stories? If it seems that way to you too, you’re not alone.

Storytelling at the upcoming 2018 NAB Show is in the spotlight with innovative storytelling technologies like augmented reality, in the form of next-gen ATSC 3.0 options, in new processing leaps thanks to new IP standards and in new methods of storytelling through cinematic virtual reality.

Chris Brown

Chris Brown

“Effectively using technology is critical to creating quality content,” said Chris Brown, NAB executive vice president of conventions and business operations. “NAB Show offers inspiration, training and the very latest tools and technologies to help storytellers step up their game and advance their tradecraft.”

This year, more than 100,000 visitors are expected to descend on Las Vegas, April 7-12 to see an expanded range of educational sessions (more than 760 in total) and more than 1,800 exhibitors who are telling the story of where the industry stands as it transitions to IP, virtual reality, OTT, 5G, ATSC 3.0 and beyond. After trekking bravely across the nearly one-million-square-feet of space at the Las Vegas Convention Center, the goal is to get a clearer glimpse of where the industry is headed over the next 12 months.

One thing that is not expected to change: the way in which media and entertainment companies must create and deliver video content to a growing number of platforms, networks and devices.

SHOWCASING NEXT GEN TV

The options springing from the recently adopted ATSC standard are designed to push that boundary further. This marks the first NAB Show since the formal adoption of the new ATSC 3.0 next-generation broadcast standard. Officially authorized by the FCC in November 2017, the advanced standard is designed to “open the door to substantially improved, free over-the-air broadcast television service and fiercer competition in the video marketplace,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai when the decision was announced.

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The industry has been mulling over the opportunities available from ATSC 3.0 for some time as a way for television broadcasters to better compete in today’s digital media environment.

Now that ATSC 3.0 is cleared for takeoff, ATSC President Mark Richer expects this year’s NAB Show to offer a broad assortment of solutions for broadcasters making plans to deploy next-generation TV.

“We expect products from a variety of companies for various aspects and applications of the ATSC 3.0 ecosystem,” he said, pointing to an area in the Grand Central Lobby where the ATSC organization will show off early deployment options. The organization will also demonstrate other ATSC-enabled options such as advanced emergency alerting and interactivity capabilities of the new standard, which will be hosted in the Futures Park, a pavilion area in the North Hall. Other ATSC 3.0 demos, integrations and proof of concepts will also be found in the ATSC 3.0 Demo Pavilion, Future of Home TV Services and NextGen TV Hub areas.

OTT FRONT AND CENTER

What attendees can also see more of this year: innovations in OTT/streaming technologies. This year’s NAB convention is also dedicating more space to the streaming ecosystem, first with sessions and keynotes; secondly with a new one-day Streaming Summit.

Christy Tanner

Christy Tanner

"The media industry is in the midst of a great transformation so it's no surprise that streaming will be a big topic at this year's show,” said Christy Tanner, senior vice president and general manager of CBS News Digital.

At the show, Tanner will keynote the Online Video Program where she will offer insight on how CBS is leveraging its own news assets to develop expanded digital services. Tanner will also discuss the progress CBS News has made with its internal streaming video news service, CBSN, which was launched in 2014.

“With the convergence of traditional and new media, OTT strategy will be front and center in the discussion around the future of television, along with how connected home devices and voice technology will evolve the consumer experience,” she said.

Those strategies will be discussed in sessions held during the Streaming Summit, which will look at the technology behind the streaming media business, from transcoding to streamlining distribution or tinkering with new business models.

“This is where the content industry is headed,” said Rick Ducey, managing director of the research firm BIA/Kelsey. “Content needs to find its audience and revenue bases across multiple platforms and formats. Anything short of this is almost a failure of fiduciary responsibility for companies in the content business.”

Even referring to those long-lost “traditional broadcast roots” really begs the question of how best to define what it means to “broadcast” these days, he said.

Rick Ducey

Rick Ducey

“All of the major broadcast groups and networks are fully engaged in digital, mobile, interactive services and innovative ventures,” he said. “That’s today’s mainstream.”

And even though most ad spend and consumption remains in linear media, “the clear growth lines are in digital and interactive formats,” Ducey said. “This is a must have.”

IP NETWORKING AND DATA ANALYTICS

The industry is simultaneously moving in another direction: the ongoing adoption of IP facility networking.

The show will focus on this steadily growing area in a series of sessions and real-world solutions as part of the “IP Showcase,” which will include IP educational sessions, demonstrations of new applications and interoperability developments. Last fall the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers took the first step in standardizing video transport over IP with the adoption of the first standards within the SMPTE ST 2110 standards suite. This particular standards approval will help enable intrafacility traffic to be all-IP so that organizations can begin to rely on a single common data-center infrastructure.

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Another major trend attendees can expect to see: discussions and deliberations that revolve around ways to embrace the revenue side of the business. “[It’s positive to see the show’s] new focus on the revenue side of the business and its various components,” Ducey said. “[It’s being] viewed in more of an ecosystem profile rather than isolated parts distributed around the floor and conference sessions.”

The NAB Show has been ramping up the content, exhibitions and networking in this area, he said. “As we’ve seen the explosion of adtech and martech companies in the media and marketing space, the collisions between business strategy and revenue on the one hand, and the “tech stack” enabling —or frustrating—these business models are critical to understand, debate and evolve.”

That inevitably involves understanding the power of big data. Sessions on targeted advertising and intelligent data management will try and explore just how thoroughly the content business is being increasingly impacted by the analytics and insights built on that data.

“Audience data, advertising data, content metadata, marketing data—all tied to developing smarter product roadmaps, smarter business models, and smarter execution—will be tied to future success,” Ducey said. His advice: ask how data fits from a tech solution or a company offering will fit into your business model. “If there’s not a good answer, move on to the next booth or conference session,” he said.

Education about tomorrow’s next big thing will also be a big focus at the show this year. The new Destination NXT Theater will be an on-the-show-floor education program that talks about new methods of distribution, delivery and commerce. Other sessions, like “Converging New Technologies,” will look at the options for UHD, immersive audio, virtual reality and augmented reality for live sports programming.

Yet others will look at the ways in which technologies like 5G, and its promise of massive bandwidth capability, will boost new interactive virtual reality opportunities. The session “I Want My Mobile TV,” for example, will show how some are already implementing options you may have thought were still many years off: like selecting your preferred multiple camera angle during a live football game or watching 360-degree-video of a basketball game that looks as though you’re sitting courtside.

Other major trends at this year’s show will include discussions about podcasting, esports and sports broadcasting, and artificial intelligence and machine learning. New co-sponsorships this year include the awarding of the annual Technical and Engineering Emmy Awards in combination with the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

In addition, a slew of big names from the television space are expected at the show, including Wheel of Fortune pair Pat Sajak and Vanna White, Jeopardy king Alex Trebek, Good Morning America host Robin Roberts, and, in case you can’t let it go, the TV/film actress Kristen Bell.

For more information, visit www.nabshow.com.