JWR Articles: Commentary - NAB Show 2018 (Featured speaker: Gordon H. Smith) - April 15, 2018
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NAB Show 2018

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A future with innovation, opportunity and caution

Even before the NAB Show officially opened on Monday, there was a considerable amount of activity and events over the weekend.

A post production seminar on Adobe Premier Pro CC¾with the instructor struggling to keep pace with his own solutions to the complex software in real time, making the rest of us feel much better about our own miscues within projects¾had many useful nuggets of procedures and shortcuts for video and audio editing.

At the much-anticipated ShowStoppers event (a wide variety of companies displaying their latest and greatest), my highlight was an extended conversation with Ian McDonough (CEO Forbidden Technologies, now master branded as Blackbird) gave an overview of Blackbird Ascent, Blackbird Forte and Blackbird Edge¾cloud solutions (complete with closed captioning in the workflow) which, he explained, is fast becoming an industry favourite.

Later on, the panel hosted by CISCO’s Bob Gold and sponsored by Grass Valley and EDS, zeroed in on the role of IP solutions during the just-completed Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. Long story short (as told by Dan Robertson, senior producer from NBC): the cloud wasn’t used as much as people might have thought, but usage will certainly only increase in the future. As the Internet/Cloud solutions gain more reliability, the goal for large broadcasters is to “leave as much kit at home as possible” (frequently taking three months by boat to arrive at the host destination, making some of the state-of-art gear obsolete once deployed in the field).

In the longer term, IP solutions will greatly enhance personalization and interactive features aimed to draw in the younger (future) generation no matter what platform, device or social media channels they use¾an offshoot as to what many see as the troublesome aspects of “citizen journalism” which, nonetheless, produced the “hilarious” (to some) footage of Olympic officials struggling down a snow covered ski slope in search of a walkie-talkie.

See for yourself: http://www.nbcolympics.com/video/race-officials-chase-walkie-talkie-down-mountain

Riveting TV?

Then, as is the custom for many years, the NAB Show Opening lifted off promptly at 9:00 a.m. Monday morning. Sadly, the change of venue (from the Paradise Ballroom, Westgate Las Vegas Resort and Casino) to the North Hall’s Main Stage¾with its greatly enhanced video screens and TV talk show-like set¾had nowhere near the required seating capacity, leaving hundreds of delegates standing in the aisles. Not a wise move when it’s the number of paying delegates that can make or break any convention or conference.

Beasley Media Group’s CEO, Caroline Beasley, served as the energetic and affable host. As usual, NAB CEO and President, Gordon Smith, kicked off the speeches with his annual State of the Broadcast Industry Address, but prefaced his remarks with a somber statement from Neal Mohan, YouTube’s chief product officer, who cancelled his appearance due to the recent shootings at the company’s San Bruno, California headquarters. The room grew eerily quiet with the reminder that those who put the news on the air or onto many digital platforms can also become the breaking story.

During his remarks about how Next Gen TV is poised to become part of driverless, autonomous vehicles, Smith’s quip, “I guarantee they [cars] won’t hit anybody” fell deservedly flat (naturally any footage of the recent driverless vehicle death was not shown…).

The bulk of Smith’s comments focussed on the five achievements of the past year:

  • FCC approval for the voluntary deployment of the Next Gen TV standard.
  • Successfully arguing against a tax on radio stations by record labels.
  • Ditto a $169 billion tax on broadcaster advertizing revenue.
  • Encouraging the FCC in its work to modernize legacy media ownership rules (all the better to compete with social media, where regulations are as rare as a united Congress), the recent Facebook fiasco may soon change that “unfair” advantage.
  • Becoming the catalyst for the recently announced $1 billion reimbursement package for radio and television broadcasters impacted by the long-delayed spectrum auction.

The last accomplishment readily set the stage for a fireside chat between Smith and his fellow Oregonian, Greg Walden¾a former radio station owner and currently serving the U.S. House of Representatives as chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, whose mandate included dealing with the “repacking” legislation.

The two friends easily succeeded in patting each other on the back. Walden managed to draw enthusiastic applause when he pointedly called out Apple for not making the FM radio chip standard equipment in its phones (like conventional radios, the chip would keep broadcasting even in the event of a digital calamity due to the ramifications of all manner of disasters).

The program ended with the presentation of the NAB Distinguished Service Award to Robin Roberts. For those of us who do not wakeup with such shows as Good Morning America (where Roberts served as co-anchor), the video tribute filled in many of the biographical blanks, not least of which were her struggles with life-threatening diseases. And in her own words, she has faced all challenges by adhering to the three Ds: Discipline, Determination and DeLord! A most fitting honouree without a doubt and a long way from YouTube shooter, Nasim Aghdam, who might well have benefitted from a mentor the likes of Roberts. JWR

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Featured speaker - Gordon H. Smith
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