Editor’s Corner—Streaming, next-generation TV headline NAB Show 2019

The National Association of Broadcasters’ (NAB) annual show in Las Vegas is just around the corner, and this year streaming video and ATSC 3.0 next-gen TV are poised to be the hottest topics of discussion.

The NAB Show had more than 93,000 attendees in 2018. Ann Marie Cumming, senior vice president of communications for NAB, said that although the organization is unable to project final attendance for 2019, preregistration numbers are in line with last year.

If 2018’s figures hold up, this year’s attendees can expect to see more than 1,700 exhibitors scattered across nearly 1 million square feet of space at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

This year’s event will feature a handful of celebrities, including actor Alan Alda and Sterling K. Brown (“This Is Us,” “Black Panther”) alongside speakers including FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, Entertainment Studios CEO/founder Byron Allen, Lionsgate President Sandra Stern and Fox Entertainment CEO Charlie Collier.

Throughout the entire schedule of speakers and sessions, OTT and streaming video will be a recurring theme as imminent direct-to-consumer launches from Disney, NBCUniversal and WarnerMedia are being closely tracked.

“More and more content is being delivered and consumed via streaming services, and the industry is heavily focused on improving the workflow and consumer experience,” said Chris Brown, head of conventions at NAB. “There is also a great deal that needs to be sorted on the business model side of the equation as streamers and traditional content providers alike seek new ways to monetize online content. Streaming is also intertwined with all of the other key topics—5G, AI, esports, next gen TV and in-vehicle infotainment.”

Amid those overlapping topics, next-gen TV and ATSC 3.0—significant points of interest at NAB Shows for years now—take on more urgency as many broadcasters prepare to deploy 3.0 this year and in 2020.

“This year we will have multiple single frequency networks and numerous new receivers that are highlighting the capabilities of the standard, including interactivity, mobility, and superior video and audio,” Brown said.

An IP-based standard like ATSC 3.0 can’t help but be included in the conversation when it comes to 5G, which is still in the very early stages of development but gaining more industry hype and consumer awareness with each passing day. Brown said it was important to tee up some serious conversations about 5G this year considering the role cellular networks have played in newsgathering and the potential impact 5G could have on video networking.

Aside from big technical subjects like 5G and ATSC 3.0, growing content opportunities like esports will be a popular topic. Brown said that at the rate esports is growing it will quickly reach a point where there is a need for a higher level of production and distribution.

“This is a new sector that can benefit from the expertise of veteran media organizations to take the genre to a new level,” Brown said.

Brown also pointed toward the in-vehicle entertainment space and the critical need for media organizations to be connecting with automobile manufacturers and their network of component and technology suppliers.

“The reality is that this will be another frontier for content distribution,” said Brown. “Media companies need to ensure they will play a role when it comes to fruition.”

As it has in the past, artificial intelligence will continue to be an amorphous buzzword on the stages and show floors at NAB. The possibilities related to search, personalization, marketing and advertising or simple processes like closed-captioning are exciting, Brown said, so it’s important to spotlight the current and future realities of the technology.

With a show this big, there’s bound to be a lot of speculation mixed in with solid facts, so it will be up to attendees to separate fact from fiction, particularly when it comes to assessing how emerging technologies like ATSC 3.0 and 5G will materialize. A good amount of skepticism is healthy when dealing with future technologies that have yet to live up to the hype. But the NAB Show will provide a good proving ground for ATSC 3.0 and 5G and help set a true compass for following what should be formative years for both. — Ben | @fierce__video