JWR Articles: Commentary - NAB Show 2017 - Las Vegas (Featured speaker: Gordon H. Smith) - April 28, 2017
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NAB Show 2017 - Las Vegas

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NAB Show Opening truly out of this world

The 2017 edition of NAB Show lifted off to a resounding start with its varied opening session where a nearly full house congregated in the Westgate Paradise Ballroom. No wonder this has been recognized as “one of the top-10 trade shows on planet earth.”

This year’s theme, The M.E.T. Effect (Media. Entertainment. Technology) was deftly illustrated by all of the participants during the fast-paced, running-on-time event.

None better than Jane Pauley (long-time host of CBS Sunday Morning) to serve as emcee. With over 45 years as a broadcast journalist she has most certainly seen it all.

Dave Lougee (president of Media at Tegna Inc.) gave a succinct overview of the days ahead and reminded the crowd that with over 160 countries participating, the NAB Show effect can be felt around the world.

As the event sponsor, Blackmagic Design president, Dan May, used the brief podium time to share his excitement for the rise of exclusive, original content via streaming video to a wide variety of platforms, which clearly reinforces the week’s overall theme on all three fronts.

NAB president and CEO Gordon Smith began his remarks by extolling the growth and further potential of live 4K, using Hollywood, NASA and Amazon Web Services as prime, innovative examples of taking ever-better video to its next level. To make his point in an ideal way, the huge, twin video monitors were suddenly filled with astronaut Peggy Wilson, speaking to the delighted throng from the International Space Station (her 360-degree flip to sign off left no one in doubt that without gravity, we’d all be floating or hanging on for dear life).

Smith’s formal remarks took a page from Steve Covey’s (author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People) notion of the three constants in life, extolling broadcasters to focus on change, choice and principles as they adapt to new opportunities and technologies.

As has been heard already during the weekend NAB Show media conferences (including Evertz, Imagine Communications and Ericsson), the advent of streaming OTT alongside the rise of IP production and delivery will fuel many of the changes in business plans for anyone in the broadcast industry: ignore them at your peril, was clearly Smith’s subtext.

As he would several times in his comments, Smith made a strong plea for television and radio stations¾as their most important choice¾to continue and/or expand local coverage so that during any major calamity¾whether caused by terrorism or Mother Nature¾the public would have access to the latest information about their particular situation¾especially if other forms of communication were down.

Not surprisingly, given the current disdain by many in the White House and Capitol Hill for the media in general and journalists in particular, the principles section focussed on defending the First Amendment and unstintingly exercising the right of the press to “root out corruption” wherever it could be proved to exist. Sobering thoughts indeed for almost everyone in the room.

The interview by Rebecca Jarvis (Chief Business, Technology and Economics Correspondent, ABC News) with Steven Swartz (President and CEO, Hearst) was a pleasant, take-no-risks chat that echoed Smith’s words on several occasions¾particularly around the need to remain local while simultaneously seeking out “adjacent businesses” that make money. Hearst’s participation with Disney in developing SnapChat was cited as an excellent way for established media companies to keep dollars and interest flowing in from the younger generation.

The final item on the agenda was this year’s presentation of NAB’s distinguished Service Award to Good Morning America’s co-hosts, David Hartman and Joan Lunden. Trailblazers on many fronts (notably Lunden’s first appearance in 1975 holding her 8-month-old baby in her arms¾one small step for woman, one giant leap for the workplace, to paraphrase Neil Armstrong’s famous line made just six years earlier), the affable couple accepted the honour with grace and yet still another “protect First Amendment” statement from Hartman.

All in all, a fine start to a busy week. Tomorrow’s speech from FCC Chairman, Ajit Pai, will be another must-see event: Will he or won’t he give any hints as to the outcome of NAB’s request for broadcasters to adopt Next Gen TV? No doubt an approval would whet Swartz’s appetite for bringing more adjacent businesses into Hearst’s fold. JWR

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Featured speaker - Gordon H. Smith
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