The lights on the infamous Las Vegas strip were not all that shone brightly last week. In addition to serving as an advocacy group for American broadcasters, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) touts the largest forum of electronic media in the world, The NAB Show. An estimated 100,000 participants descend upon Las Vegas each April to engage in the business of media creation, delivery and consumption across platforms. This year’s event boasted 103,443 registered participants from 161 countries, about 1806 exhibitors in 1,091,792 net square feet of space, and numerous sessions and keynotes with media notables. The NAB Show event serves as the quintessential venue for anyone in the broadcast and entertainment industries.
This year’s theme, the M.E.T. Effect (Media, Entertainment and Technology), examined convergence, communities and transformation and what M.E.T. means for the future of media. While it was impossible to see everything at NAB, allow me to point out some show highlights:
ATSC 3.0/Next Gen TV
The industry’s new broadcast standard went from last year’s conversation to this year’s demonstration, prominently featured on the Grand Concourse of the Las Vegas Convention Center. So what is Next Gen TV? Essentially, it allows for, two-way communication, live data delivery to multiple places (cars, homes, televisions, mobile devices) and can carry high dynamic range 4K TV, among other things. This takes it steps above the current over-the-air system, making for a richer viewing experience. The standard is currently being finalized in the U.S.
4K Livestream – From Space
On Day 3 of the show, a crowd of about 300 people was treated to the first-ever 4K livestream from space, thanks to a partnership between NASA and Amazon Web Services (AWS). The crowd cheered loudly as astronauts Peggy Whitson and Jack Fisher spoke from space, making live stream history.
NAB Television Luncheon
It was evident that recognition of diverse voices is still some part of the NAB conversation. The honorees at this year’s Television Luncheon were actor/activist and star of ABC’s ‘Superstore’ America Ferrera, and longtime Univision journalist Maria Elena Salinas. Ferrera earned the NAB Television Chairman’s Award and Salinas was inducted into the NAB Hall of Fame.
Virtual Reality gets social
One of the more talked about aspects was VR,AR and 360 video. From the M.E.T. 360 Pavillion on the concourse to vendors providing VR experiences, the VR, AR and 360 are starting to span beyond just being ‘cool’ to practical applications in advertising and medicine. One of my favorite experiences was Canon’s 60-foot Virtual Reality Dome. Virtual reality is usually solitary experience, but leaning back in a comfy bean bag chair with 17 other people makes it more collective. Though the resolution could have been sharper, it won’t be long before this is the standard for the movie going experience.
Live video is the new static
In addition to industry mainstays like Teradek and Live U who offered the latest in affordable livestreaming solutions, there were numerous sessions and dozens of media publications and personalities using Facebook Live (who had their own pavilion at the show), YouTube and Periscope to share the show floor with the outside world, present company included.
…and podcasting is still the new black
The success of the podcast ‘Serial’ and spin-off ‘S-town’, and the fact that the podcast ad market is projected to hit $250 million in 2017, has sparked even more interest in the platform. As such, there were sessions aimed at audience building, monetization, and radio using podcasts for growth.
The biggest takeaway? In this age of vilifying “the media”, and despite skeptics, that media matters, perhaps more than ever.
This post was written by Dr. Chetachi A. Egwu, Communication Faculty at University of Maryland University College. Her scholarship focuses on media, tech and pop culture and the African image in film, with an emphasis on documentary. The Howard University alumna is the host of the livestreamed show MediaScope, co-host of the podcast TV Channeling and owner of Conscious Thought Media. Follow her on Twitter @Tachiada.