JWR Articles: Commentary - NAB Show NYC 2017 - Day 1 (Featured speaker: Gordon H. Smith) - October 26, 2017
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NAB Show NYC 2017 - Day 1

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Opening keynotes provide early food for thought

Once the logistics of finding the correct press room had been taken care of (there were two due to a simultaneous same-venue conference of the Audio Engineering Society) and solving the mystery of “Where is Hall 3D?” (the signage had been obscured by all manner of banners), I only missed the first five minutes of TV2020 Keynote, featuring an interview of NBC Broadcasting and Sports Chairman, Mark Lazarus by Harry Jessell, Co-Founder and Editor, TVNewsCheck.com.

This chat, like all of the subsequent sessions in TV2020, was designed to predict the emerging changes just three years from now.

According to Lazarus, NBC is committed to “total audience delivery” across all platforms with an eventual goal of “seeing” TV channels on smartphones (just as the technology is already there on most to “hear” FM stations if the providers choose to turn that feature on—Apple still a notable holdout).

Of course, as is well known, “cord cutters” are having their inevitable effect: rather than annual increases in cable subscribers/fees, the latest stat shows losses in that market of more than 1% per year.

Having snagged rights to both the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea (surely politics with the North will be left for another day…?) and the Super Bowl in small-stadium Minneapolis, Jessell’s question (like the direct financial results) was danced about with characteristic ease by Lazarus, who did allow that a few Olympic venues would suit up for 4K and that the World Cup of American football was still in the wait-and-see stage. (Yet NBC’s Telemundo divisions was eagerly awaiting the World Cup with many, many Spanish-speaking countries in the line-up even as the U.S. team must await another time.)

As technology emerges (hello there DirecTV 3.0) and the watchful eye of the FCC threatens/promises (depending on who you believe) to intervene as only a regulator can, it will be a fascinating few years ahead to see if NBC and its often-but-not-always-in-agreement affiliates to keep—much less increase—their share of advertising revenue that seems to be shifting as much as delivery methods and platforms are developing.

Just 15 minutes later (and challenged with ineffective microphone “solutions” in the early going—another omen of the future?), the NAB Keynote session kicked off with its unflappable President and CEO Gordon Smith reminding one and all how the devastating hurricanes Harvey and Irma proved once again how invaluable local stations (radio and TV) and over-the-air broadcasters were the only media capable of providing a “vital lifeline” to those looking for information and answers as the waters continued to rise.

That was followed by IBM Global Media and Entertainment Marketing Director Rich Michos’ panel: DraftKings, McAfee and the future of Cybersecurity.

Citing his company’s mantra of employing “speed, loyalty and differentiation” as the pillars of its business plan, Michos went on to offer the three tenets of continuous growth: (a) Get personal with customers (adopt auto curation of their interests), (b) [Reliable] Scale: Networks and platforms must be able to deliver [without unwanted failures/interruptions] all of the time, and (c) Continuous reinvention.

The possibility of failure (including data breaches) readily set the discussion table for the panel (Moderator: Kevin Collier, cybersecurity correspondent for BuzzFeed News along with panelists McAfee Chief Consumer Security Evangelist Gary Davis and DraftKings Co-Founder and COO Paul Liberman). Tellingly, the theme from Mission Impossible ushered in the group and metaphorically underscored the subject matter.

With recent disasters of Equifax, HBO and Netflix still fresh in the air (but none so large as WikiLeaks lo these many years ago), everyone in the room was looking for the elixir of unbeatable security, only to despair when it became obvious there never could be one.

Human error/collusion was often referred to:

Gary: “They [Equifax] were notified [of the threat by Homeland Security], but that information was never acted upon.” “The bad guys are lazy so smaller [easier to hack due to lack of resources] companies are easy targets for Ransomware and phishing.” “Be careful what you click on.”

Paul: All companies need “a culture of security…you are always at risk, never 0%... [government policy] will never fix a malicious employee.” “I don’t have the answer” [to complete security].

Permeating the entire discussion was the issue of trust. Long gone are the days where everyone on the payroll could have almost company-wide access to information. These days, Big Brother must be smiling as there seem to be as many threats within companies as there are hackers and phishers on the other side of the ledger, so the secure comfort of data-protecting firewalls is limited at best.

Inventive humans on both sides of the divide will ensure that this topic will never be irrelevant. JWR

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Featured speaker - Gordon H. Smith
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