JWR Articles: Commentary - NAB Show NYC - 2018, Day 1 (Featured speaker: Robert De Niro) - October 20, 2018
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NAB Show NYC - 2018, Day 1

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“Now, that are we gonna do about it?”

This year’s theme, Media in Action, proved to be an apt title for the opening day morning’s keynote session.

Sponsor representative Vivek Khemani (Quantiphi) urged the standing-room-only crowd to stick around for his presentation immediately following: Are You Ready for the Software 2.0 Revolution in Media? (Revolution in the States in 2018? Say it isn’t so!).

NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith, citing the recent hurricane weather events, spoke passionately about finding the ways, means and technologies to enable ALL devices to be able the accept and play over-the-air broadcasts, so that when disaster meets the digital age, more and more people will be able to find their way to safety and shelter. Not two hours later, FOX Television Stations; NBC and Telemundo Owned Stations Group; Univision; TEGNA, Inc. (for Pearl TV), and Nexstar Media Group (for SpectrumCo) announced their collaborative effort and support for the introduction of ATSC 3.0, which allows for Smith’s vision to be greatly enhanced.

Actor extraordinaire and not shy about expressing his political views, New Yorker Robert De Niro used his famous voice, magnificent sense of humour (using the verb “fucking” brought the house down at the beginning of his remarks—really at a convention of broadcasters?) to challenge the assemblage to abandon complacency and actually take action: Let’s “get the country on track again.” No boos or interruptions from any of the Republicans in the room.

After decrying the abuse/neglect of the First Amendment, journalists as “the enemy of the people,” inconvenient facts as “fake news,” and the recent murder of Jamal Khashoggi coupled with America’s wishy-washy responses, the Academy Award winning actor sat down for a fireside chat, Dade Hayes (contributing editor of Dateline Hollywood) doing the honours.

Sadly the audio was not nearly as good as De Niro’s standup speech, but it was instructive to relive some of his triumphs (notably Mean Streets and Godfather II—Marlon Brandon is a hard act to follow, but Oscar was well pleased with the result) and hear more about his role as co-founder (along with Jane Rosenthal) of Tribeca Film Festival—“no glitzy parties in the early years”) and as a filmmaker. Asked about the rise of Netflix and pushback from other studios and particularly theatrical venues to the streaming giant, De Niro explained (referring to the coming film, The Irishman—directed by frequent collaborator Martin Scorsese), “It wouldn’t have been done the way it needed to be” (money talks, again).

Q: “Will there be a theatrical release?”
A: “There has to be…they’ll sort it out.”

What a curious Trump-like reply!


The ensuing Software 2.0 presentation, with just a few of us left, boldly looked at the future of Artificial Intelligence being utilized to find “micro moments” “Auto magic” and “cognizants” from thousands of hours of video content in the cloud. Using never-before-seen analysis, company executives will find new, provable ways of enticing advertisers into the next generation of logos at sporting events (automatically kicking off a screen banner with the “sell message” and exact “moments” in situation comedies (we were offered the shapely example of J.Lo’s appearance during an episode to spike viewership and fill the ratings coffers). Short bursts of music could have their rights sewn up in a flash (protecting producers) with 2.0.

Sounds like nirvana. What could possibly go wrong?

The panel (Luc Comeau, Strategic Initiatives, Dalet Digital Media Systems; Isaac Josephson, SVP, Data Platform, Viacom; Vivek Khemani, Co-founder, Quantiphi; Ritsel Patel, Co-founder, Quantiphi; Ishit Vachhrajani, SVP & CTO pf Global Technology, A+E Networks) had plenty of potential snafus to offer, causing them to agree that a fully formed Media Software 2.0 is about two years away.

Highlights of the challenges:

  • Meta data leaks (as witness Facebook in recent weeks).
  • Domain-centric data (the micro moments in sports being far different than news or dramas).
  • Simplifying the jargon so that decision-makers will come to see the benefits of what the resulting data can mean for their business.
  • False cognitives: the algorithms return a “happy couple chatting” when—actually—their smiles are fake and their bickering is non-stop.

Measuring the effectiveness of ad campaigns will most certainly be greatly improved. In the on-screen example, we saw the difference in recognition of the Nike checkmark logo viewed from the side on a player’s socks or from the front. In cases like this, a picture is worth $1,000!

Netflix again came into the conversation for the potential of 2.0 allowing them a huge cost savings for the labourious process of dubbing its productions in any language in the world without a human being required (especially when some countries demand scene cuts for all manner of reasons).

Big players and potential big savings like that will ensure that 2.0 will, eventually, come to any screen near us. JWR

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Featured speaker - Robert De Niro
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