Broadcasters are up against an ever-widening sea of competitors; yet their role in
the communities they serve has never been more important, said Gordon Smith,
NAB president and CEO, in his opening address at NAB Show.
Partisan shouting matches and celebrity misdeeds characterize cable television and
the vast Web universe, Smith said. Newspapers are operating in a severely weakened
state. Meanwhile, broadcast television and radio, he said, remain trusted sources of
“While citizens may be feeling bombarded by so much information and confused
about how to distill it — confused about finding the truth — broadcasting is giving
our communities coherence,” he said. “That’s why local radio and television stations
are more relevant, more vital and more trusted than ever before.”
Smith urged broadcasters in attendance to embrace new technologies and fresh ways
of distributing their content, such as the developing ATSC 3.0 standard for broadcast
TV, 4K Ultra HD and the NextRadio mobile app, which enables and enhances FM radio
on mobile devices.
Besides its myriad competitors, broadcast must contend with foes in Washington. The
spectrum auction, a market-driven retransmission consent framework, and what
Smith described as archaic ownership rules are key matters for television;
fighting back a performance “tax” is top of mind for radio broadcasters.
Smith mentioned NAB’s recently announced plan to move its headquarters to a more
central Washington location in 2018. “We will send a strong message to policymakers
that we are focused on the issues that impact broadcasting’s future,” said Smith,
himself a former U.S. senator.
The auction is both “exciting and daunting,” said Smith. He urged the FCC to allow
the market to determine prices. “If the commission can stay out of the way, I believe
we can have a successful incentive auction.” Tom Wheeler, chairman of the FCC, will
offer his own viewpoint on the issue Wednesday at NAB Show.
New opportunities such as Ultra HD and targeted advertising offer great potential for
broadcast, said Smith. “This is a crucial time for those in the industry to work together
to ensure that broadcast TV’s one-to-many architecture successfully extends to emerging
Broadcasters in the room took Smith’s comments to heart. “Gordon is right: If you cling
to the past, you’ll be left in the past,” said Phil Lombardo, Citadel Communications CEO
and former joint board chairman of NAB. “The industry continues to evolve, and you have to
evolve with it.”
Smith then welcomed storied entertainer
Jerry Lewis to the stage to receive the NAB’s
Distinguished Service award, and Lewis’s stroll
sparked countless cellphone camera photos.
The famed funnyman noted his 1,380 hours on
television across 61 years, and the countless
children who benefited from his beloved Jerry’s
Kids telethon that benefits the Muscular
Dystrophy Association. “If it wasn’t for you, a lot
of kids would be suffering worse,” Lewis said.
Ever the entertainer, Lewis insisted on spinning at least
one yarn before departing. He spoke of a recent subway
ride in New York, during which he interacted with a man
in head-to-toe leather and a multicolored punk hairdo,
and the witty way in which Lewis silenced the young
ruffian. The laughs came by the barrelful.
Next up was Peter Guber, founder, chairman and CEO of Mandalay Entertainment Group,
who offered a fiery address on the merits of taking risks to further the engagement and
immersion of consumers with one’s content. That includes virtual reality; Guber spoke of
that technology changing the way one consumes a professional sports event (he owns the
Golden State Warriors) and a marquee awards gala (he also chairs Dick Clark Productions,
which produces the Golden Globes telecast). “Broadcasters are in the best position to take
advantage of this opportunity,” he said. “Challenge your incumbency.”
Attendees seemed to embrace the messages conveyed from the ballroom stage, as well as the
role of new technologies that are on display in Las Vegas.
“Gordon Smith is really looking for the industry to take a serious look at next-generation
technology,” said Kevin Cuddihy, Univision Communications president of local media. “And
virtual reality is certainly a game changer, and can be a great revenue stream.”